I have been knee deep in college essays for the past two weeks. My cohort of rising seniors is coming down the home stretch and putting the final touches on their writing. As we embarked on this journey, I was struck by the adjectives that I heard them use to present their ideas after a brainstorming session. The truth of the matter is that most teenagers have excellent instincts about what they should use as their topic. I tell them that their first idea is often the best one. This application round, when I asked students what they wanted to share about themselves with colleges, I heard statements like these:
“Well, I might have an idea…”
“I have a small idea…”
“I was thinking about this, but I am not sure…”
“I have one thought but I don’t know…”
And after these timid statements they would share an idea that was so personal and meaningful that there is no way it would not be a great essay. When I told them that, they were surprised and relieved.
The truth of the matter, is that they are not confident. My take is that they are intimidated to write THE COLLEGE ESSAY and I say nonsense. If you are a senior or have one in your life, here are a few tips to break this down to size and go tell your story with heart and confidence:
- This is not really an essay. It is a personal statement.
- The personal statement is 650 words. This equates to one page, single spaced.
- Use this exercised to think about what you want to tell them: Imagine you step on to an elevator and there is one other person in it. They are wearing a name tag that identifies them as a director of admissions at a school you would like to attend. You have a ninety second elevator ride to tell them something about yourself. What would you share?
- An authentic statement told from the heart usually resonates.
- Make sure the writing focuses on you.
I tell my kids that you can pay now or pay later but you are going to have to do this so you might as well do it now. There are thousands of test-optional colleges but hardly any are essay-optional, so get write here, write now! I hope you enjoyed your July 4th weekend.