How To Keep Your Voice In Your College Essay

Cyndy McDonald

Cyndy McDonald from

Today's guest post is from Cyndy McDonald at

I have been assisting students with brainstorming college essay topics and reviewing college essays for almost twenty years. I have watched many students learn and grow from that process. One of the most important parts of the college essay process is for you to keep your voice. I have developed three tips to assist you in this process:

1. Limit the number of people who will review your personal statement. Having lots of people read your essay will give you lots of suggestions as to how to make it better. Often you can get too many suggestions. One person’s advice will contradict another. Select only 2 people, 3 at the most, to review your essay. This helps you to keep your voice in your essay clear and distinct.

2. Explain to parents this essay is hands off. I recall one distinct experience with this. I was working with a student in the final phases of his college essay. I was reviewing what was supposed to be his final draft. It was filled with words and phrases that did not fit. As I circled the phrases, the student started grinning. The more I circled, the more he grinned. That is not the usual response I get from a student when he is submitting a final draft and I am telling him to go back and redo it one more time. Finally, I asked him, "Why are you grinning?  I was expecting a frown, not smiles.” He responded, “Everything you have circled, my dad told me to put in.”  “Go tell your dad you are taking these parts out. They are not you. It does not fit and does not have your voice.” Parents mean well but are not the best sources to turn to when it comes to writing in your own voice. It is best if they take a hands off approach to this process.

3. Be true to yourself. The college essay is your opportunity to tell the college anything you want about yourself. It is not the time to try to impress them with an intellectual dissertation. Be true to who you are. If you ask a friend to read your essay, ask them “Does this sound like me?”. If the answer is “No,” then start again and write until the answer is “Yes”. The passion and sincerity of who you are needs to shine through your essay.

Using College Essay Organizer will help you to understand what you are writing about, and help you find your voice in your essays. It gives you a clear writing plan that you can use in the process.

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