More Writing Help For College Admissions Essays

Everything Is Interesting

Yeah... but maybe not.

The college admissions essay is in many ways its own form. You are both writing about something else and trying to sell yourself as a person to someone you don't know all that well - the college admissions officer.

Your biggest challenge is to be engaging and original in a way that doesn't alienate your reader. The best way to achieve this is to write about something that you believe in wholeheartedly. Write about something you’re interested in, not something you think will interest an admissions officer. Make sure the story belongs wholly to you.

Now write the first draft with your heart, not with your head. Try a free-writing exercise. Set a timer for 20 minutes and start thinking about your topic. Once your timer starts, start typing away and don’t stop until the full 20 minutes have passed. Even if you have to write the same word over and over again to keep the momentum going, an exercise like this will free up your mind and yield some surprisingly original ideas. This is the material from which you can craft a more precise essay, but the exercise is vital - it will give you concepts and experiences you hadn't thought of, or wouldn't have been able to plan from a more rigorous outline.

Once you’re ready to try a more fully developed draft, stick to writing that is descriptive. Show, don’t tell.  Don’t write “I got wet in the rain” when you can be “weighed down with a waterlogged sweater.” This kind of evocative, sensory language can paint a picture of you for a stranger, or better yet, a college admissions officer. It’s something the reader can remember you by when the time comes to make an admissions decision.

When you’ve finished, read it aloud to yourself to get a good sense of its rhythm. Are all the sentences too short, or too long? Does it feel like it drags? Or does it sound animated or energetic? Try it. Because if you don’t like the sound of your own essay, no one else is going to either.

Above all, don't be afraid to throw away what you've written and start again. You will have learned immensely about what you are trying to say just from having done the first draft. This essay should not be something you write once. Ideally, it should be the first piece of writing you do ten drafts of. You will be amazed how much you can improve on your first draft once you've identified what it is you're really trying to say.

Then say it in as few words as possible.

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