Write Here, Write Now! (Part 1)

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I am slipping this post under the wire. My goal is to write a minimum of once a month and June ran away from me, in part because I have been working hard with my rising seniors on their applications.

The essay is a critical part of any application and also one of the most intimidating steps to take. So if you are applying to colleges, how do you start to break the process down into manageable pieces? Here are three things to do that will help you get started:

  1. Read Other Essays, Part A-One of the exercises I do is to have students read an essay and I time them while they read it. It typically takes around two minutes and thirty seconds or so. And when my client has finished and I announce the time, I tell them that they have about two minutes to tell the admissions committee something about themselves so what do they think they should write about? Teenagers are always surprised at the brief amount of time it takes to read the essay. The truth is that 650 words are just not that long.

2. Read Other Essays, Part B-Grab a book from your local library that contains multiple college essays. I give all my full package clients 50 Successful Harvard Application Essays so that they have something to work with. Sit for 20-40 minutes and read essay after essay, until you feel like you have a sense of pace, scope and an idea of what you would like to write about.

3. Start Writing!-I tell my students that once they have an idea, they should start writing. The truth is, that most kids have great instincts and they usually suggest a topic that works. The first step is to start a journal style piece about their story and what they want an admissions office to know in the two minutes or so (see #1) that they will read the essay. I remind them to pay no heed to the word limit at this point (I will explain why in Part 2).

Once a rising senior takes these steps, the essay is underway and they have punctured the balloon of procrastination/overwhelmed/scared or whatever they are feeling as they go through this process. Every kid feels relief and excitement that their essay has started to take shape. If you know a rising senior, I hope these steps help. Stay tuned for Part 2!

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