My current cohort of applicants is putting the final touches on their Common App essays as I write this. There are days when I feel more like a stalker than a consultant. As I was wrapping up things with my graduating seniors this past month, many of them thanked me profusely and told me that they could not have done this without me. Meanwhile, my rising seniors do not express the same sentiment. We are in constant contact, sometimes daily, to develop and create a good piece of writing. My current kids may cringe when they see my text/email/phone call right now, but when they are done, I bet they will be happy. I am pushing them to get their Common App completed in a way that will allow them to shine and that includes a meaningful, well-written essay. Here are a few more things to think about in terms of writing and college applications:
1) Start With a Journal Entry-When a student has a topic that they would like to explore, I suggest that they write a journal entry to get started. This takes the pressure off. They do not feel like they are sitting down to write The College Essay. They can relax and just get their thoughts on paper. And I beg them to ignore the word count. Most kids’ better ideas and thoughts come out in the second half of the entry and if they stop at the word count, we never get to see the writing that jumps off the page. I feel like the first paragraph or two is like an orchestra warming up, with unorganized, discordant tones. The gems start to appear in the second half, so I always encourage them to keep going.
2) This Piece is Short!-One of my most favorite clients ever is going to be a junior at the University of Vermont and this has availed me of the opportunity to fly from Newark to Burlington. Have you ever flown this route? This is a short hop; the minute you reach cruising altitude, they announce that you need to prepare for landing. And the Common App essay is the same way. Sometimes kids have this beefy topic that they want to address and I tell them that they just don’t have room.
3) Get a Good Editor-The secret sauce in my operation is my editor. She holds a Masters Degree, she is a National Board Certified Teacher, she teaches English at a secondary school loaded with uber-achieving students, she works in the college admissions world and she is a contributor to the New York Times Learning Network. She has a deep sense of what the college essay needs to do and how to make that happen. Sometimes I send her a polished essay for a final edit. Other times I send her something in early draft mode to see if she thinks we are on the right track. Either way, she is an invaluable set of eyes. And here is the great news, she is available to help you! If you do not need my services, but think that your student might benefit from hers, get in touch with me and I will share her contact information with you.
So if you have a rising senior, the best thing that they can do it write here, write now!