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College Essay? What Do I Write?

Fear not, college-bound seniors: approach your application and college essay with your personal voice and show them what you've got!

Summer is coming to a close and the school year beckons. And so do college applications for you incoming high school seniors. One of the many perks of being a Writopia Lab instructor is that I get to be a part of this life-affirming process.

Wait, did she say life-affirming?

I did. Striving for a goal is life-affirming. Figuring out who you are is life-affirming, and there is nowhere else you have to fine-tune your essence so carefully as in the personal essay. You can either love it or hate it, but everyone's got to do it, and one thing each college applicant has to make sure of is that their personal essay is... personal. Yep, that it reflects you and how you've come to view the world.

Despite their reputation, by definition personal essays should not bore the reader. YOU are not boring. You have something to say, something to offer, and something to learn. You may have way too much to say and you may start to panic and worry that your essay will never fit into the 500 word limit on the Common Application. But you'll choose your words carefully and it will fit.

Colleges are looking for four simple things from students and their essays: curiosity, humility, honesty, and self-reflection. You can write about anything, as long as it has these qualities and it is in your own voice. You can even go over the word limit - the admissions officer won't be counting if every word matters and you keep their attention.

Curiosity, humility, honesty and self-reflection. Those are worthy goals for ourselves and our relationships, so it's no surprise that it's what the colleges want from you, the applicant. Let your essay show that your intellect, emotions, and spirit  are ready to be fully engaged.

Affirm your life and let them know who you are!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lisa Gentes-Hunt (Editor) August 27, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Some great advice for high school seniors! Thanks for sharing!
Léna Roy August 27, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Thanks Lisa!
Aidan August 28, 2012 at 12:32 AM
Here's a great resource ... written by a local teacher ... full of great essay guidelines. "Writing a Successful College Application Essay" by George Ehrenhaft ... available @ Amazon for a few bucks. It works ... and it'll relieve some of that anxiety.
Wendy Gurian Segal August 28, 2012 at 03:29 AM
As a college advisor for the past 26 years, I strong advise AGAINST exceeding the 500 word limit. Admissions officers know well what 500 words looks like, and going over merely tells them you don't know how to follow directions, or even worse that you consider what you have to say more worthy of their time than what someone else has to say. There's no reason to annoy the very person who is deciding whether you will get into that college.
Léna Roy August 28, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Thanks for pointing that out Wendy - I certainly don't mean for anyone to go overboard! But having 525 words isn't going to seem obnoxious, and may relieve some of the stress. Wording in essays must be as economical as possible -less is more. (But that is another blog post!) Here I am just trying to motivate. Thanks again!
Forelle Sudata August 28, 2012 at 09:56 PM
You could write something original, in depth, that demonstrates independant, critical thinking. Creative thought matters, and you won't find that by reading the above mentioned book, nor by attending good, competitive schools. You will only develop creative thought by being a non-conformist. In fact, the memorization tasks in good schools suppress creative thought and diminish many students real potentials. School is not the best way to a good education-good parenting is a better way-and with parents having too many children, their attention is scattered and the children don't benefit enough from parents these days. Parents with 4 kids often end up stressed and the kids take care of each other, while parents with only one child often give focused attention, which results in a broader, deeper education about life, as well as school. If your parents go to museums, you will. If they go to loud rock concerts, then you will too, and you will adopt their way of thinking, often sub-concsciously. If your parents use birth control responsibly, you will. If they spill out 18 babies like the Duggars, then you are more likely to be as irresponsible about keeping your offspring within the limits of what the Earth can sustain. At 7 Billion, the Earth is dieing.
Heron August 28, 2012 at 10:23 PM
I'm having a good time reading this.
Aidan August 28, 2012 at 11:20 PM
"If they go to loud rock concerts, then you will too, and you will adopt their way of thinking, often sub-concsciously." Yup. Those concerts ruined my kids. Thanks for pointing out my stupidity.
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