Think carefully about what you want to say. This can be one of the most challenging tasks in the essay writing process. The Common Application is used by many colleges and many require you to write both long and short answer essays as part of the application. Some colleges will give you specific prompts to which you must respond while others will simply ask you to give them the opportunity to get to know you better. Two months before you plan on completing and submitting your essay, start writing down concepts you may want to include in it. At first, it’s like having someone ask you what you want for your birthday; you’ll draw a blank even though you know you have a mental list somewhere in your head. Be patient, your brain will slowly come back and slowly reveal its secrets to you. Create headings to help you organize these thoughts. This is a brain storming activity so don’t worry about the quality of your concepts – just write them all down.
Seek feedback regarding what you are considering writing. Talk to everyone about what you should include in your admissions essay. Talk to your mom, your neighbor, your dog, your college admissions counselor, and your best friend. Watch for interest and engagement for any certain topics during these conversations and, if they generate any new ideas write them down. Be sure you are also writing down your hobbies, interests, and talents. Write down any profound sayings you have heard, as well as anything you really hate to do. The trick here is to develop a frame for your paper that will quickly engage the reader and organize everything you want to share.
Write a really bad college entrance essay. We all do it. It’s the beginning of a really good essay! Write an essay trying to encapsulate everything included in the prompt. This is actually a pretty good tool to use when forced to write about yourself. Once you have written that awkward “I am special” draft, you can edit and edit until you have crafted the perfect admissions essay. Read the essay to anyone who will listen and ask them for input as you look for your frame.
Discover your frame and develop it. Think about hobbies, likes and dislikes, etc. and how they might be used to frame your essay. For example, one student wrote her really bad essay and was struggling to find that common thread that could engage the admissions essay reader. Together, we found a way to emphasize a favorite hobby as the frame for her essay; “I am an old patchwork quilt, comfortable with myself despite the fragments of me I’ve had re-stitched by those who love and cherish me despite my wear...” Another student was given a prompt asking her to discuss how her favorite book had impacted her life. After writing her really bad essay, we looked for a common theme (family aspiration) and matched it to one of the books on her short list of favorites (Little Women). Having the really bad essay in hand really helps you identify common themes; I highly encourage you let it help you find your frame. If you are lucky enough to have a college admissions counselor, ask for help with this step.
Polish your essay to perfection. Your introductory sentences should introduce your frame and quickly engage the reader. Once that is accomplished, your essay usually comes together very quickly; leaving you time to edit and re-edit. This step takes time and patience. That’s why you have given yourself 2 months for the entire process. Don’t despair if you can’t use everything you have worked on, you still have a lot of writing to do if you are completing the Common App. Anything you haven’t used in this admissions essay will most likely be used somewhere else within the application.
A college admissions counselor can help you with the writing process. You will still be doing your writing but will be relying on the counselor’s expertise in helping you link what makes you unique to a frame that is uniquely you. Forward Motion has talented college admissions counselors on hand who are happy to help you craft your college entrance essay.