The application essay can leave you both daunted and stumped. We’ve been trained to write essays almost since we first began school. The formula has been ingrained into our minds and we know exactly how to write a proper topic sentence, body and ending paragraph. However, we’ve never quite had to write about ourselves for homework. When faced with the question(s) on the application essay you may not know where to start; I know I didn’t. And when the essay is usually such an important part of the college application that can be terrifying, not to mention stressful.
So here’s a few of the strategies I used to write mine.
Talk to your family and friends, maybe even your teachers. Ask them for some of your personality traits. Make a list and see which descriptions come up the most. You don’t have to incorporate them into your essay but it might help to get you started on a topic.
Write down what you think your best traits are. Compare it to the previous list. Are there any that stand out to you or that you agree with? If so, do you think it’s important for the admissions staff to know about those trait(s)?
Brainstorm some topic ideas. Depending on the college you’re applying to you might have a set topic that you have to write about, or you might have the freedom to write anything; either way you should try writing a few beginning sentences to see what works or might have some potential.
Dive into it. Once you’ve chosen your topic/topic sentence, go for it. Write and see where it takes you. Don’t worry if you go over the word count because chances are you’ll be revising and editing your essay enough that you’ll dip back below it. The first draft won’t be your first; and you don’t even have to stick with it to be your final. You may decide on a completely different topic by the end of it but that’s okay. Practice makes perfect after all and practice is all too important when it comes to the application essay.
Edit. When you’ve written an essay you wish to stick with, read it over. Highlight the parts you’re hesitant about. Rework the paragraphs and try taking out some sentences and putting in new ones. You may decide that some information doesn’t need to be in there and can be taken out so it doesn’t distract from the topic.
Have someone read it. It’s important to have others read your essay over, but it’s also important to not let them revise it so much that it’s no longer in your voice. I had around five people read over mine with at least three re-reads on my part before I was satisfied and it really helped to make my essay the best it could be.
Send it. You may be tempted to change things that you otherwise said were okay but it’s important not to over-edit. Once you think you have it don’t linger over what-ifs and maybes; otherwise you may never submit it in time.
And most importantly: don’t over-stress. The essay is an important part of the application, yes, but it’s not everything. Not everyone is a perfect writer and the admissions counselors know that. Sof take a deep breath, relax, and go for it. You’ll do fine. 🙂