College application season is upon us. With the official launch of the new version of The Common Application (CA4) in August and many colleges and universities rolling out their own applications for the Class of 2104 comes an increased level of anxiety in our college-bound high school seniors. One reason for this apprehension in the students is the fear of the “dreaded” college essay. For some students this is the first time they are asked to write a creative essay, in their own voice, about themselves. It is the only piece of the college application over which the student has total control, which can be a scary proposition in itself. The essay serves two purposes: to give the college admissions committee a window into who the student is and what is important to them, and to demonstrate their writing ability.
Going into the college application season it is important to know that not every college requires an essay and some may put little emphasis on it as part of the total application. However there are colleges that will require multiple essays which could prove the tipping point in an application. For these colleges consider that each essay is an opportunity to tell the college something different about the student that is not demonstrated elsewhere in the application. Multiple essays can create a total package that helps develop the whole picture of the student.
Though the application process is competitive students shouldn’t compare their essays to those of their friends. Why? Because the application essay should be a story that can only be told by that particular student – it is unique to their life experience. Students should use the essay as an opportunity to show rather than tell those particular qualities that they want the college admission committee to know about themselves; however it is better to go deep into one topic rather than trying to put too many ideas into one essay.
Some additional tips for writing the college essay:
· Start early to allow plenty of time for reflection, writing, editing and rewriting.
· Create an overall strategy for your writing plan.
· Review essay prompts and understand the different types of applications and essay requirements for the various applications.
· Figure out what qualities you want to get across in your essays.
· Brainstorm meaningful memories, people and life events that might illustrate those qualities.
· For the first several drafts don’t worry about essay length or structure. It may take several versions before the true story emerges and then you can distill it to word length requirements.
Editing and rewriting are important components of the essay process. Allow time between drafts to disengage emotionally and then come back to the essay with fresh eyes. Have a parent, friend or trusted adult read your essay to let you know if it sounds like you. There are many more tips for essay writing on various websites but the important thing to remember is that the application essay is the student’s opportunity to tell a piece of their life story and express what is meaningful to them. How they tell their story is up to them. There is no right or wrong here and there will be no grades given. Think of the essay as a creative exercise and have fun with it. By giving extra time to play around with ideas and write multiple drafts the students can take some of the stress out of the process and may even enjoy it!