Hello, seniors (and anyone else reading). It’s that time of the year. If you haven’t, you should be starting to tackle that dreaded college essay. You know, that thing that’s nagging at the back of your mind even more than that summer reading book you haven’t touched? Usually working off the common app, there are 5 prompts you can choose from. This is what they look like:
“1. 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.
2. 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?
3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
4. 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.
5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.”
The first time I looked at these, I was thinking something along the lines of I have no idea what I’m going to write but I am a writer so I should probably be able to pull this off. That was early December in my junior year. Then time passed. And more time passed. And I got my license, and I got a job, and I started making more friends, and soccer preseason started… and then it was August and I still had no essay written down and I started to get nervous.
My problem was simple: writer’s block. Because I really, truly was driven to write the essay–I was motivated, I wanted to get it completed. Every time I tried to, however, I was staring at a blank Microsoft Word screen, wondering why I couldn’t even form a sentence.
Then, upon participating in a college tour, I realized I was overthinking it. The admissions counselor, after listening to a single conversation with me, asked why I didn’t write about the one thing I kept bugging him about. And then I thought to myself, I’m such an idiot. This should’ve been the focus of my essay all along.
Your essay should be about something your passionate about. For me personally, option 1 was the best way to go. But originally, I thought my essay would be about my writing experiences and rejection… so I was inclined to option 2. When option 2 didn’t work out, I then converted to option 1 in which I believed I’d write about being a writer, and how I see the world in two different viewpoints: reality, and then the imaginative aspect in which I thrive from. I thought I’d use a lot of fancy wording and similes and metaphors… and it just felt forced. Then, the admissions counselor opened my eyes, and told me I should write about something that I’m angry about.
That’s the secret. Write your essay from passion. For me, most my passion comes from anger. That sounds weird, but when I’m angry about something or trying to prove someone wrong, I will literally go on and on and on and dissect every viewpoint and reason possible. And you are supposed to be selling yourself to a college, so you need something heavily thought out.
Another tip is to not think too much into it. Be conscious of time, but don’t date yourself… By this, I mean do not force yourself to sit down in front of your computer for an hour every other day to try and come up with something. Chances are, you’ll wander onto the weird section of Youtube and an hour later, still have no essay written. For me, I wrote mine at 1 in the morning. I couldn’t exactly sleep, and I was listening to music, and then I started thinking of the essay and sentences started flowing through my mind and I whipped open my laptop and began pouring words onto the screen. A half an hour later, I had a rough draft completed.
Your essay should be something unique. Don’t write about how much your mom inspired you, or how much you love your cat, or why soccer is your favorite sport. Think really hard about what sets you from the rest–think really hard about your personality, and your characteristics, and defining moments that truly make you YOU. Then, after brainstorming, build from there.
Good luck to everyone writing their essays! Try and get it done before summer ends so you can get a guidance counselor and teachers to look it over for you and help it reach its best potential.