While some high school seniors begin to obsess over their college essay, others fail to see the importance of it. In some cases, these 600 words determine an acceptance or a rejection. Right now is the time of year when self-reflection and talking about yourself is acceptable. This is one of the only times when people are specifically paid to hear you boast about yourself in a productive way; instead of annoying your peers with your awkward quirks on social media, direct them in an essay for your admissions counselor.
As a student with above average grades, yet occasional academic slip-ups, my college essay ensured my spot at a few colleges to which I applied. However, last October, I was extremely confused; I had no clue what to discuss, and I did not see how a short prompt could be a defining part of my application. Fortunately, I only had to write two pieces (some students write/rewrite pieces more than six times). My first draft was a mess -- it was a forced sob story. My second was interesting and innovative; it was a story about the first time I dressed up as a drag queen. It was received well by many, and a few admissions counselors told me that it helped them put a personality to my application. Creating the college essay is supposed to be a fun, and exciting task. It is a process of self-discovery.
Some helpful tips:
1. HAVE FUN!
When you get frustrated, it reflects in your work. Relax, breathe and realize that this is the time to expose a side of you that a transcript cannot.
2. Don't settle for basic -- be creative!
The worst thing you can do is pick an over-played topic. Stay away from volunteer work and how it changed your life, your dead dog, how much of a "strong" person you are and vacations. These topics are generally over exaggerated, and the writers usually sound like they're trying too hard. Admission counselors see thousands of essays a month; make sure your essay is distinct to your experience and personality. Do not focus on what you think they want you to write, but what is actually significant to you.
3. Don't try to make yourself a victim.
Although it is effective to appeal to the emotions of an admissions counselor, I do not recommend writing an essay about wallowing in sadness. Self-pity can be irritating, and most admissions counselors do not want that to be their first impression of you. The only exception to this is if you have an inspiring struggle that you overcame; make sure that the story is focused on your growth, and not on the issue/struggle.
4. Your essay is not a longer version of your resume.
If you sent in a resume or an extracurricular activities sheet, there is absolutely no need to re-state what is on your sheet. Many students feel obligated to brag about how much they do. It is amazing that you are involved, but admissions counselors do only want to hear about how much you do, especially if they already see this on your resume; they want to see aspects of you that can not be shown on a resume.
Some possible essay topics for you:
1. An interesting aspect of your personality and/or a character trait (an obnoxious laugh, eyebrow shape, cynical thoughts).
2. A narrative through the voice of an object of yours (yours hands, a mirror, hair, a golf club).
3. A comedic story about something negative (a broken bone, a broken tooth, a minor accident).
4. You've just reached 100,000 followers on Twitter, what for?
Just make sure that whatever you write about is a reflection of you in one way or another.
Good luck on your college essay, and have fun being narcissistic and looking into the puddle of self-reflection!