Summer is here, and the livin' is easy...
If you are a high school senior planning to apply to college this fall, summer is the time to get your essays started because the living is easy–or at least easier.
College application essays provide your greatest opportunity to show your readiness for college to college admissions officers. Certainly these people can discern a good deal about you from your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and letters of recommendation, but they best grasp who you uniquely are when you address them in your own voice about topics you care about. The essays are your opportunity to speak directly to those making admission decisions.
The word "uniquely" above does not imply that you tell a story with an unusual topic, especially a gimmicky one. While it is a trend in college application essays for people to dig ever deeper and reveal more challenging, and often more private, information to get the attention of admissions officers, the sensational aspect of an event or quality should never be the focus of your essay. Instead focus on what an experience means to you or what it reveals about you. Being genuine and conveying something real about yourself is useful to admissions officers seeking to find students who are a good fit for their schools. Your unique qualities are not those that reveal how different you are compared to others but those that arise from forming your own perspective and your own understanding of our world. You already are unique; you simply need to find the “you” in yourself, and then express it.
Summer is a great time to start writing your essays, especially if you have some free time around your internship, family vacations, and college visits. Reflecting on your qualities and writing a thoughtful and telling essay, something you most definitely want to do, takes time–and failed attempts–to accomplish. Waiting for school to start again to tackle your essays will shorten the time you have to climb to a comfortable cruising altitude in your writing. We've all traveled in airplanes, and hearing the increased stress of take-off, wondered if the plane was actually going to make the leap into the sky. It always does, and then we can relax into the relative calm of level flight. If you take advantage of your time now, you can be relaxed, at cruising altitude, with much of the stress behind you when school starts.
Being genuine in your essay is your primary goal, so aim to speak in your own voice to reveal a glimpse of the qualities that make you a good fit for your top-choice schools. If you have a BFF, then you know that person has qualities that make him or her, not some random person, your BFF. Analogously, you have qualities that make you a Best College Applicant for the right schools. You want to take the time now to know those qualities and choose which ones to focus on.
You may need to engage in brainstorming and listing activities to assess your qualities and topics. You may need to scribble down or type in several drafts which no one else will ever see. You may want to talk with someone else to get additional perspectives on your important qualities and behaviors. Be open to all of these possibilities, and use anything that helps you make progress. But make progress.
No one else has lived your life. Only you know what is most important to you. You may not know what to say right away, but with time, effort, and perhaps a little guidance, you can begin to take off and find your voice. Take advantage of summer’s relative leisure and start your essays while you have a greater abundance of time.