The College Essay: Tips to Build the Best “Story of You”
Got writer’s block? Tips for writing your best college essay.
For some students it’s the college interview that makes them the most nervous. For others, it’s the essay. The good news is by doing the work ahead of time, you can nail both (for interview tips, be sure to read The College Interview: Questions, Tips and How to Prepare).
The essay is an excellent opportunity for you to show who you are beyond your transcript and test scores. And if you plan properly, you can pull together an outline, work through drafts and submit an essay you can be truly confident in. There’s bound to be a hurdle or two as you work through “the story of you,” but we’re here to help! Use these tips to get started:
- Be you: No matter the topic you choose, remember that it’s important for you to be authentic and allow your unique voice to shine through.
- Be succinct: Take the time to hone in on your story in 650 words. While it may sound daunting, the most powerful essays get to the heart of the story by staying on course, using words and phrases that illicit emotion, and steering clear of unnecessary information. In the end, the process of simplifying will help you craft a genuine and compelling essay.
Break through the block: Don’t let a case of writer’s block get you down. Here are a few remedies:
- Take a break: Go for a walk, listen to your favorite song or do whatever takes your mind to a different place. Our best ideas often come to us when we make the time to step away.
- Get a healthy dose of positivity: Talk with a parent, friend or mentor who can work through things with you. Share what you’re struggling with and let them help. Also remember to be kind to yourself. This is an important moment in your life, so show yourself grace and compassion. You’re going to do great!
- Reflect on triumphs and special moments: Whether it was cooking a traditional family meal with a grandparent that helped shape your identity, going on a life changing service trip or even something more personal like working through the loss of a loved one, write these moments down. Take notes and add some bullets about the feelings and memories tied to those moments. Once you have them on paper, you may be surprised at just how easy it is to connect all the pieces into an incredible essay.
If you’re looking for more ideas, The Common App has a great list of essay prompts. Be sure to check them out!