The essay or “personal statement” is just one component of the college application. But the essay is unique in that it allows the student to demonstrate that they are more than the sum of their grades and ACT scores. That can be alot of pressure! Here are some tips to make your essay sing:
1. Start with your core qualities. What do you want the college to know about you that they can’t see from your grades and extracurricular activities? Ask family, friends, and mentors to brainstorm the “3 adjectives” that describe you.
2. Tell a story. Start with a story or anecdote to grab your reader’s attention. Stories are much more interesting than lectures. Show, don’t tell about your core qualities.
3. Be specific. Most essays are limited to 500-600 words, which is not a lot! In your stories you will need to be very specific. Instead of describing an entire 2 weeks at camp, zoom into one meal or activity.
4. Use your own voice. Don’t try to impress the reader with big words or a formal style of writing. Read your draft out loud and ask yourself, do I talk like this?
5. Start early and iterate. Start early so you can plan on multiple drafts – at least 4 drafts over 2-3 weeks. Start by getting your thoughts down with no regard for spelling, grammar, or number of words. Just write! Then, edit for structure and flow. Use the third draft to focus on style and voice. And finally, the last draft corrects punctuation, spelling, and grammar.
Writing a personal statement can be the most challenging aspect of applying for college. But it doesn’t have to be. If you are stuck coming up with ideas for the essay, contact me today to schedule a free 30 minute brainstorming session.