By: Emma E., Teen Blogger
If you are one of the millions of American teenagers entering their senior year, you are likely stressing about college applications. And if you are anything like me, the most intimidating part of a very intimidating process is the essay. With three years of grades logged, standardized tests taken, and extracurricular activities participated in, the essay stands out as a new challenge for students to tackle. The most personal part of the admissions process, the essay can make or break an application, and because it’s within your control, here are some tips for wherever you are in the process.
Because it can seem daunting, starting your essay is often the hardest part. However, the advantages to starting early are numerous. Just free writing a rough draft will get you thinking about what’s important to you and thus what you want to include. By starting early, you maximize brainstorming time, so you can pick the best topic for you. You also give yourself more time to edit and proofread, creating a better, mistake-free essay. Finally, many colleges have supplemental essays on top of the usual one-page personal statement, so an early start leaves plenty of time to respond to every question clearly and thoughtfully. Even if you are feeling overwhelmed, starting will take some of the stress out of the process.
Write about genuine interests
You don’t have to cure cancer or solve world hunger to get into college. Instead of dwelling on how you should have spent your free time, consider what you did do, and choose a topic that highlights your unique experience. Rather than writing what you think an admissions officer wants to hear, a topic that you find interesting will make the entire process easier, and allow your passion and personality to show.
Avoid generic essays
The essay is one of the most personal parts of your application, and sheds a lot more light on your character than your GPA or ACT scores. Use this opportunity to offer a fuller picture of yourself and your world view by sharing personal thoughts and creatively displays parts of yourself that can’t be found elsewhere in the application. Avoid cliché statements, and do your best to show, not tell, by describing specific details or events.
Don’t try to jam your biography into 500 words. Instead, answer the question, and stick to a single story, theme, or topic. Some essays try to cover too much, and end up reading as a superficial description rather than personal one.
Have a parent, friend, or sibling proofread your work. Sharing your essay and getting fresh input can help you work through writer’s block. It can also help prevent simple mistakes that will leave a bad impression on an otherwise stellar essay. Just make sure that the finished product is your own words, not someone else’s.
Obviously, there’s no simple trick or formula for the perfect essay. Instead, focus on what you are passionate about and stay personal. Don’t stress out too much, and get writing!