Hello rising seniors! With a few weeks left of summer vacation, now is the time to start thinking about college applications and your essay. When school starts you’ll be busy with classes, activities and impending college deadlines, so take advantage of this time to focus on your writing.
For many, the college essay brings questions. How do you get started? How do you distill who you are into just 650 words? What is the right topic to choose? As a former admission officer, and a current college counselor who’s read thousands of essays over the years, I have some advice.
Just start writing.
Whether putting pen to paper, getting your fingers moving on the keyboard, or texting/dictating ideas into the notes app on your phone - get started! Don’t overthink it, just throw ideas out there and brainstorm. Think about aspects of your life that are important to you, favorite memories, impactful people in your circle, hobbies, etc. There is no wrong idea to put on the page. Brainstorm and see where it takes you. And rest assured, there is no one “right” final topic for your college essay. Write what you know.
Resist the urge to start with a review of current Common Application essay prompts. You don’t want to limit your creative flow of ideas by trying to fit them into a specific question. Your essay can fall under the “topic of your choice” option in the application.
Once you have a topic that resonates, expand on it. Be authentic about who you are and your experiences. Be descriptive in your writing - show the reader what is happening, don’t just tell them. Your topic doesn’t have to be complicated. A simple idea, well thought out, can be a beautiful, compelling read. You have 650 words or less to tell this story, and your essay is an opportunity to share more about who you are, and how you write. Share something that they may not read about in other parts of your application.
With a solid draft complete, invite someone else to read it (teacher, counselor, parent). Ask what the piece tells them about you. Did what you were trying to share come across? Feedback is helpful as you finalize your writing, but be sure not to shop the essay around to too many people. It needs to retain your voice.
Bottom line - the first step is the hardest, but everyone has a story to share. Whatever topic you choose, NOW is the time to write. You’ve got this!
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