The hardest task of any high school senior is sitting down to write that important college admissions essay. So, as you have started countless essays in the past, you sit down at the computer where you stare at the screen for hours. The cursor blinks at you waiting for you to fill the screen with captivating words that not only paint a picture of your personality and accomplishments, but also dazzle the admission committee. The cursor seems to beat faster as you start writing your first few words. As you keep typing, and then deleting that first sentence you wonder if there is an easier way to write your college essay. I have good news for you, not only is there an easier way, but you can write your essay in ten easy steps. Get comfortable and get ready to follow these easy steps.
Step One: Stop thinking about writing an essay! You are not writing an essay as you have for countless English classes; instead, you are writing a statement about yourself. This is your one opportunity to tell the admissions committee who you are and where you came from. So, now I want you to answer a few questions just to yourself. Who are you? What made you who you are today? How did you get this far? Don’t spend too much time on this step, but the goal is to realize that the answers to these questions are the words that the admission committee is looking to hear.
Step Two: Now I want you to pretend that your life is being made into a movie. Take a few minutes to think about the opening scene. What song is playing the background? Are you dancing? Are you looking at a computer screen? This opening scene is the first paragraph of your essay. For example, if you see the opening scene of your own personal movie as investigating a crime scene then you should open your essay in the same way. College admission committees love creativity and the ability to think out of the box. Now that you have your opening scene, get ready for the easy part!
Step Three: Write down what you see in your movie. If you see a crime scene, then describe what you see such as in the following: The chalk outline of the body was drawn out on the floor, as I searched for clues. Okay I know it seems corny, but you are making a start. You are showing the admissions committee what you see. So, continue the story. Explain how you became that investigator, why you wanted to be that investigator, and what college experiences brought you to that point in your life.
Side Note: Some people imagine their opening scene in the movie as something in their childhood. For example, some may see problems that they had overcome. If this is the case, open with your childhood memory. For example, if you had a childhood memory of taking care of a sick grandparent you may write: I stood their watching the grave look on my grandfather’s face, and I knew he didn’t have long.
Still can’t find your opening scene? Try thinking of a trip you went on that changed your life. For example, if you went to Japan, describe the smells, the foods, and the atmosphere. The goal is to make your reader a part of your movie.
Step Four: At this point, you should have a page written out just describing the movie that you saw in your mind. Now comes the hard part! Read through what you have written so far and look for negative statements. Anywhere that you see words like never, can’t, or will not, you need to go through and change. The admission committee wants to see perseverance. So, what you need to show them is how you overcame any issue. The main key in this step is to think positive. If you have to, read your statement with a smile. If you find your smile is turning upside down, then you might have to turn your statement around!
Step Five: Now that you have a positive statement about yourself, go through and add any details that you feel are important. Make sure to read your statement aloud to a family member or a friend who knows your triumphs. Your friends and family will give you great things to add about yourself and things you have accomplished. Make sure to fit these into your essay as well.
Step Six: By this time you might have about two pages, which is perfect. Now it is time to complete your first draft. Make sure you go through and add a conclusion, fix grammar mistakes, and make sure you have good transitions between paragraphs. Make sure you check commonly misspelled words. A big mistake most students make is using the word apart instead of the words a part. Admission committees do not overlook such mistakes, but rather consider it as evidence that you are not that interested in attending the school.
Step Seven: Congratulations! You are done with your first draft. Now it is time to show your essay to other people. I always recommend showing your essay to your English teacher at least twice (your first draft and your final draft) to check for spelling and grammar mistakes. Do not forget to show your essay to your friends though, they know you personally and can make sure that your essay sounds like you and contains your accomplishments.
Step Eight: Now it is time to take all those corrections and revise your draft. The biggest mistake students make in their college essays are taking personal tips they do not agree with. If your mom wants you to mention a time when you were really sick or your dad wants you to talk about a specific vacation, and you don’t’ want to talk about either one, then do not write about that topic. This statement is about you and what you want the admissions committee to know about your life.
Step Nine: This is the most important step. Make sure to step back from your statement for at least a few days. Try not to read it again or even think about it. The reason for this is to give you a chance to take a deep breath from this daunting task and know that it is complete. Then, when you go back to it, you are reading it the same way the admission committee is going to read your essay.
Step Ten: After your break from your essay, read the essay one last time and make sure everything flows. Once you are done reading, go ahead and send out your statement and don’t think about it again!
Congratulations you are done! Writing a college essay is not that hard now that you know the secret. Just remember, do not use huge words unless you speak that way in everyday life. The admissions committee knows how smart you are, they can see your grades and your SAT scores; therefore, do not try to impress them with fancy words. Remember to check the spelling of all words and even make sure that you didn’t make any common spelling mistakes that the computer does not always pick up. Most importantly, remember to have fun making your movie about your life.