It’s true that, as colleges are focusing less on standardized tests (ACT and SAT) to influence admission decisions, they are focusing more on subjective things like the activity resume, recommendations and essays. You can find more information about the resume here, and more information about recommendations here.
However, the importance of the college essay can lead some students to become nearly paralyzed when trying to write it. They often feel like they have to get in front of a computer and, in one sitting, write the best essay they have ever written. Talk about pressure! That would be nearly impossible for anyone to do.
The most common advice I give students about the college essay is to “just write.” If students have a topic or two in mind, they should start writing about them as if it was a journal entry, or story they were telling someone. Getting anything down on paper (or computer) is a good start.
Edit, edit, edit
The reason we don’t expect students to sit down and write a perfect essay is because it can take many, many revisions and edits to make it great. Even a student who presents our Essay Specialists with a “finished” college essay, are likely to get some tips and pointers from our experts about how to make it even better. So if a student is having trouble getting started, jot down some ideas in bullet form, write a few sentences… anything… and your counselor can start the editing process.
What to write about
The answer to this is often what stifles students. The answer is “anything!” The college essay can literally be about anything. Of course, there are topics we feel are better and more appropriate than others, but the open-ended nature of the college essay can lead students to feel paralyzed. Students can start with the optional prompts provided on the Common Application and answer those. They can also answer the question, “What else do I want colleges to know about me?” For more inspiration, check out this previous blog post with 20 leading questions.
The main point here is… just write! No essay is going to be perfect on the first attempt. Get anything down on paper and your Campus Bound Counselor and Essay Specialist will help you work it over and over again until it’s amazing! We are here to help. We also love brainstorming topics with students. So call us (888-843-5560) or write us (firstname.lastname@example.org) today if you feel that a college counselor can help.