Simplifying the College Essay Process

“I don’t have anything to write about because nothing interesting has ever happened to me.”
“What is the admissions board looking for and how can I give them what they want to read?”
“If I don’t nail this, I’m doomed. I’ll never get into my dream school.”
Talk about pressure! Writing your college essays is often one of the most challenging and stressful experiences of your senior year. You may worry that you aren’t a good enough writer or that the other applicants’ essays will be far better than yours, ruining your chances of getting into college.
We know how stressed you’re feeling right now, which is why we put together five simple steps to simplify the college essay process, relieve some of the pressure you’ve put on yourself and increase the chances that your dream school loves your essay.
Step One: Be authentic. You may think that you don’t have anything interesting to share, but trust me: being honest about your summer as a camp counselor is a far better idea than inventing a wild story about saving lives on a safari in South Africa. Remember, the admissions board spends a good portion of the year reading these essays so they are adept at sniffing out fabrications.
Step Two: Answer the prompt. One of the biggest mistakes I see students make on their college essays is going off topic. They begin their essay talking about one thing and by the end they’re talking about something else entirely. Make sure you keep a tight focus and don’t stray too far from the prompt.
Step Three: Be anabolic (positive) and avoid being catabolic (negative). People respond favorably to positivity, so make your reader feel good about you. Put a positive spin on even the most challenging situation and avoid negativity toward yourself and others.
Step Four: Keep the focus on yourself. You may think that the story about how your neighbor persevered after losing his house to Hurricane Sandy is far more impressive than the time you taught your little brother how to ride a bike, but that’s not the point. The point of your essay is to share yourself with the college admissions board, so avoid telling stories about other people.
Step Five: Address your audience. Address the specific school or program you are applying to whenever it makes sense to do so. This demonstrates your interest in the school and shows that you are not sending out cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all college essays.