As I remember back to the summer before my senior year of high school and the thought of college essays, I felt much like the dog pictured above. College applications and essays can be quite daunting. It always helped me to remember a quote from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.” A compelling college essay will illuminate you as an individual and add a unique dimension to your test scores, recommendations, class rank, and grade point average.
I suggest starting to carry a writing journal in your backpack and jotting down notes of inspiration throughout the rest of the summer. You become a better writer with the practice of reading and writing. Practice writing out goals for the future, write about an interesting article you’ve read in the New York Times, or just write out questions and insights you have. Don’t worry about making these writing journal entries perfect – just write something every day. You’ll start to get a better sense of your writing voice and your unique insights and how you view your world. I promise this will be helpful in drafting your college essays.
When starting to think about topics for your essay, remember this is a personal essay and not an academic essay. Don’t try to sound like someone you’re not. Don’t write about what you think people want to hear about rather than what you want to write about. Write with your authentic, unique voice and point of view. The people on the board of college admissions are pretty bright and they will be able to spot inauthenticity. Try to write about something that can’t be gleaned from your resume and create a three-dimensional personal narrative.
Assignment for the coming weeks: Here are the Common Application Essay 2016 Prompts. Start Brainstorming and Free Write a paragraph for each of the prompts:
- Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
- The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
- Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
- Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
- Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
I’ll check back in a few weeks with more ideas on how to develop these essays.
*Ivy Global also offers Essay review and consultation for those of you having a hard time getting started or facing challenges with the revising and editing process: http://www.ivyglobal.com/essays/