When applying to college, every student must complete an application, and included in that application is, of course, an essay. Though writing a college essay can seem daunting, there are many ways to make it a relatively easy and stress-free process.
Students should begin constructing their essays early—about a month before the deadline, so that they have plenty of time to perfect it. Pushing it off until the week before the deadline could potentially be disastrous, and, as the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) remarks, “all that pressure is likely to give you writer’s block…Start early. The more time you have, the less stress you’ll have.”
However, deciding to begin writing the essay immediately is not enough to ensure that it will turn out to be exceptional. Once a prompt has been chosen, the NACAC says to “write anything that comes to mind about your topic.” On the first draft, don’t worry too much about grammar or punctuation. Mattie Shook, a Hooch alumni, says to focus more on “coming up with a unique answer to the prompt that will make your essay stand out and will make your application memorable,” rather than obsessing over minute details. Make sure the overall feel/message of the essay is well-developed. Don’t try too hard to be impressive; don’t use unnecessarily big words. “Adding in experiences about your extracurricular activities is a great idea, as long as it isn’t forced,” says Shook. Paige Carlotti of USA Today states that “using ‘SAT words’ in your personal statement sounds unnatural and distances the reader from you.” Colleges are reading these essays to figure out who the applicant really is inside, therefore a clear voice should be maintained throughout the essay.
Stand out. Shook recalls that, while applying to UNC, she “chose the topic ‘What is your favorite comfort food and why?’ because it was a unique and unusual question that gave [her] the opportunity to stand out since [she] knew not many people would choose to write on it.”
Proofread. Make sure that the essay is polished and clear; the NACAC recommends getting a second opinion on your essay. Adrianna Spence, a senior at Chattahoochee, recommends getting your English teacher to look over it and help you make it the best that it can be. Edit out parts that are unnecessary; make it concise and to the point. Avoid unnecessary fluff.
“Make your essay as well-written as you can, but don’t put so much pressure on yourself that the rest of the application fades in importance,” says the NACAC. Remember that, though the application essay is essential, it’s not the only deciding factor.