Today, students are applying to more and more colleges every year as acceptance rates all over the country continue to slump. As a rising senior in high school, I’m currently undergoing the admissions process. In between assignments, an internship, and ACT prep, I’m currently working on college application essays. When the CommonApp essays were released on August 1st, my parents went into attack mode.After being in the drafting process for about a month now, I have managed to learn a few things about it.
Use Your Voice
It is essential to let colleges hear your voice in your personal statement, not your resume. Your essay is in essence, a “Why me?” statement. Something about you needs to resonate with the application reader in the office. It can be your humor, literary prose, or unique fascination with the history of snails. Something has to set you apart from the pack. Talk about why you love reading poetry on a rainy day and how it makes you feel. Talk about the activities that make you whole and how they’ve helped you find what you love. Talk about something that only YOU could talk about. Make your essay about who you are and who you’ve become. Application readers should be drawn in by your essay because it’s unapologetically you.
I started working on my application essays in late August, but I wish I had started in July. It’s important to finish your personal statement or CommonApp as early as possible, by mid-September/October is ideal so you have time to work on your supplements. And if you’re like me, you have a lot of supplements to write. It’s definitely a long, stressful process but it’s important to stay motivated and determined because if you don’t, it’ll reflect in your admissions. I’ve set aside around two hours every day to work on my essays, because my best thoughts don’t come out immediately. Some people can put pen to paper and think of everything on the spot; it depends on who you are.
Brainstorming Is Essential!
Don’t draft and scrap your essays and then redraft. Every essay might not be good, but there is good in every essay. Save the drafts in separate documents in versions so you can see your previous thoughts. Glancing over the essay with fresh eyes can sometimes really help with your perspective on your writing. I have work that I thought I didn’t like when I wrote it, but I slept on it. When I woke up I reread it and realized it wasn’t great, but there were some key thoughts I could take from it.
Get a second set of eyes to read your essays, always! The counselors at school are usually a great resource to edit essays as well as English teachers, your recommenders, and parents. Take their feedback, but sometimes you’ll face so much feedback that you’ll be overwhelmed by the new stylistic change in the essay. The final say of what to incorporate into your essay is ultimately up to you. The most important thing is to not let your work lose your voice!
Finish the CommonApp First
Focus on the CommonApp first and then college-specific essays. If you really love your first-choice school, make sure the school knows that. Your college-specific essays shouldn't be something where you can change the name of the college and still apply. Visit the campus and talk about specific things you observed on your visit. Talk about what you love about the school and make sure it is specific! A supplement is not “I love you” 30 times, but specific details that lead us to love a college. My love for a college should come across through descriptive writing and sensory language.
When you write your essays, think about your activities, talents, passions, and future goals to decide what you want people to know about you. You have one true chance to make a thoughtful, profound impression on others and if you write your essay truly about who you are and what makes you unique, it won’t be wasted.