So this summer is the time for you to kick back and relax in anticipation of it all, right? Well, yes and no.
No one expects you to spend all day at the computer, researching colleges, prepping for tests and searching for scholarships. Do some of that . . . but also lay the groundwork for your all-important college essays.
My recommendation for the best way to ease your way into the sometimes-stressful process of writing your essay? Take it step-by-step:
- Review the Common App and The Coalition for College essay prompts for 2018-19. Common App is reviewing its questions every-other year, so this year's essay questions are the same as 2017-18. Read through them, think about how you can relate to each question (and how each applies to you) and what kind of examples and life experiences you can talk about through the lens of each question.
- Don't be a slave to your essay. It's still summer vacation, and you deserve your time off. But get into a routine where you're sitting down to write for 15-20 minutes each day. Don't stress about perfect writing, style and sentence structure. Just ramble some of your thoughts onto the screen. Don't worry about tying them together, either,
- By the end of the summer, you'll have lots of short snippets, but nothing cohesive. But then you can start tying them together into an essay that flows and tells the story you want colleges to see.
- You'll have a draft that's 80 percent done. Then -- hopefully with someone who's your editor -- you can work to cut the length if necessary, polish your essay and end up with something that tells YOUR story . . . something you're really proud of.
"The truth is, most essays are typical. Many are boring. Some are just plain bad."
OK, that's blunt. But it's true. But in delivering that blunt that assessment, The New York Times offers some simple but oh-so-important advice: Choose a topic that you care about. If that topic doesn’t matter to you, it won’t matter to the reader.
Writing in The Times, Rachel Toor, a creative-writing professor at Eastern Washington University, offers a list of 10 things to avoid when writing your college essay. Here are a couple to help plot your way through the writing process:
Avoid clichés. If there's a good way to make that admissions officer's eyes roll back in her head, it's offering up that worn-out phrase she's already seen 25 times that day.
Don't repeat the prompt. Don't waste 12 words out of your 500 by starting with "The event in my life that made me a better person was . . . " Get right to it and say what you want to say.
Use past tense when writing about past events. Present tense, Toor says, doesn't allow for reflection.
Arnie Rosenberg is the founder of The Center for Essay Excellence. He writes regularly about college essays and their importance to the college-admission process. Contact him at Arnie.Rosenberg.Editor@gmail.com.