When I was starting the process of completing my college applications, the concept of writing a “general essay” about myself seemed incredibly daunting. With just one essay, I had to present a picture of myself to every single school I applied to. I initially had no idea where to start, but I learned some tips and tricks throughout the process that I want to share with you today!
- Don’t be afraid to think outside the box! This tip is what really helped me come up with my topic. The goal of this essay is to represent multiple parts of yourself in one essay, so sometimes you need to think outside the box a little bit. When I first started, I had absolutely no ideas, so my friend told me to make a list of important events in my life and a list of traits about myself. She said that the events could be anything from big events, to specific memories I had. This led me to include things like a road trip with my family, to a murder mystery party I had for my birthday. Looking through the list of traits I made, I saw two that tied into the murder mystery party: my love of acting and my ability to embody alter egos (think character voices for jokes). All of this together became my college essay. I would have never thought to include something like my birthday party, but this method really let me play around with multiple ideas.
- Start the essay early! Many parts of the application process should be started ahead of time, but this is the most important to start early in my opinion. If you are applying to college this fall and haven’t begun writing your essay yet, now is a good time to get started! When I was writing my essay, I had to complete multiple drafts before I even started to like my concept. I could not figure out how to correctly execute my idea with a tone of voice that would be appropriate for a college essay. This is why starting early can really help. You will be able to spend more time thinking about how to accomplish your goals for your essay!
- Have the right people review it! Having reviews on your drafts will be critical in helping you figure out the direction you want to take your essay. I had one of my teachers review my essay. Having someone at your school review your essay can be really helpful because they’ll know both you and the process. Other people you can consider to help you review your essays are schools counselors or postsecondary coaches, an IB coordinator, or a mentor at a community-based organization. In my case, having my essay reviewed helped me shift the tone to bolster myself more. This is another reason why starting early is important: you’ll have more time to get thoughtful responses from the people who help you edit!
- Take breaks! Nothing will be achieved by powering through without a break. Make sure that you are taking time for yourself and to think about something other than your college application. It is still your senior year of high school, and you should be enjoying yourself! Giving yourself a moment to take a break will make you much more focused and motivated when you do start working on your application. Talk to your friends, eat food, take a bath, let yourself unwind! This is another reason why tip number two is so important—it gives you time to do all of these things.
- Write something you believe in! This is by far the most important tip I can give. Write something you believe in, not what you think the school will most like to see! I cannot reiterate this enough: if you do not believe in the essay you are writing, nobody will. It is abundantly clear when somebody is writing simply to show off their accomplishments. It is not nearly as compelling as writing an essay that you are excited about writing. It is possible to show off your accomplishments and highlight yourself in a way that doesn’t focus on a laundry list of aspects about yourself that you want to highlight. Showcase something about yourself that the admissions officer reading your essay might not be able to find elsewhere in your application.
Those are all the tips I have for you! Just remember that the college application process is a very subjective thing. These are the methods I used to help overcome my mental block, but feel free to experiment with other methods and find out what works for you. I know you all can do it! Good luck!