College application essays can seem really freaky and daunting.
If you’re nervous to write your essay, that’s good! That means you care! But, hopefully I’ve got some helpful, very unofficial tips here to make you feel a little more confident in writing this future masterpiece.
To clarify again: I’m just a shmuck. I have no say in the admissions process, and if I had the key to writing the perfect college essay, I would be a rich man sitting in a hot tub in Monaco. I am a shmuck. But I am a shmuck here for you.
Because people like to emphasize how much academics, extracurricular activities, teacher recommendations, and the interview matter in the application process, the personal essay tends to be undervalued. But it is mucho importante (see, I took Spanish)! And you’re going to nail it! Here are my best tips:
MAKE IT UNIQUELY YOU
The personal essay is the only place in your entire application where the admissions officers have the ability to hear your own voice. While a lot of applications have similar academics or extracurricular activities in them, none of them of them have you in them. So, make yourself shine out through your essay.
Now, that doesn’t mean your essay has to be about how you’re going to end world hunger but if you are, that’s cool. What that does mean is that if someone was holding a stack of 1000 nameless college essays and dropped them in your school or at your house, that each of your friends, teachers, and family members would be able to pick out your essay. Your personal essay is also not Mrs. Smith’s English paper on Hamlet. Write your personal essay in your regular, every day voice. Your instinct might tell you to make this seem proper and elevated, and that instinct is baloney. So, keep that in mind when you…
PICK A TOPIC WHICH MATTERS TO YOU
Now, that doesn’t mean it has to be something really sad or emotional like when your bunny got hit by a car :(. And that doesn’t mean it has to be about something impressive about yourself like if you made your own jetpack and went to the moon. For the most part, the admissions officers can glean “impressive” information from your resume and academics, so I wouldn’t try to “impress” them here. But then again, the essay shouldn’t be prescriptive in topic. You can write about your mom, you can write about the time you went to McDonalds with your friends, you can write about anything. Brainstorm a ton of ideas! But try to write about something which really brings out your stellar personality. And write about something which you won’t get bored about because this essay is your baby and you’ll be dealing with it for a while.
There’s nothing worse than staring at a blank screen or paper. Inevitably, you’re going to go on Facebook or doze off and you won’t get anything accomplished. Just start writing. Once you get some words down on the page, you’ll get more ideas, and you’ll feel good.
Even if what you have on the page at first is stinky, the essay will at least start to take a shape.
WRITE A LOT
Write as much as you can about your topic. Even if it doesn’t really make sense, just pour those ideas down on the page. And then, when you’ve written everything you can possibly write down about your topic, it’s time to whittle that novel down into 650 words. For every sentence that gets into your essay, there’s probably going to be four that don’t. But that’s completely okay! You just gotta trim that fat. Of the essay I mean, although beach season is almost upon us.
And after you got that, there’s your essay. But you ain’t done yet!
REWRITE, REWRITE, REWRITE
The Great Gatsby wasn’t written in one draft. And neither was the Declaration of Independence I’m pretty sure. If you’re going to write a masterpiece (and you will), you have to revise and rewrite. Read your essay out loud. Does it sound weird? Fix that. Is it boring? Jazz it up a little. Then, rewrite it again to tell your story in the best way possible. Maybe for Mrs. Smith’s English paper, you could write in one draft and be fine with it. But with this, scary enough, a lot more people will read it, and these people don’t really know you. So, keep rewriting it until you’re proud of it. Or even when you’re not proud of it yet…
SHOW IT TO OTHER PEOPLE
Let your mom read it. Show it to your teacher. Show it to the milkman if you have one of those. People will love to read your essay.
As awkward as it is having other people read your essay, it’s necessary to get different pairs of eyes and perspectives on your essay. If they give criticism which you think rings true, great! If they give advice which you don’t agree with, great you don’t have to take it! Showing your essay to a bunch of people will inevitably make it stronger, but you just have to get over the initial awkwardness. Keep rewriting it and revising it and showing it to other people until…
ARE YOU PROUD OF IT?
If no, then keep rewriting. Or start from scratch if you think that’s best. Or pick a different topic, and write about that. Sometimes your essay can be like overcooked cookies, you can try to make them taste better by adding frosting or sprinkles or something but it might be better just to start over again. And that’s completely fine! Don’t get stuck in negativity, and also, don’t freak out.
If you are proud of it, well done. You’ve written your college essay, and I’m sure it’s awesome.