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How to Write the Perfect College Application Essay: Tips and Advice
- Getting Started with Brainstorming
The College Application Essay – it’s one of the most important thing that can make or break a good application. You may think that it is what you do that matters, not so much how your present it. This couldn't be further from the truth.
Time yourself for five minutes and just jot down whatever comes to your mind when you think about yourself and the activities you like. And then analyze, even if you haven’t written much, what comes to your mind first. It’s most likely going to be what you consider your most significant achievement or what interests you the most. Talk to related people – and you may just have the beginning ideas of a brilliant essay.
Protip: Use The Most Dangerous Writing App to just get started with writing. If you stop for a few seconds, well....it'll just delete what you've written so far! While you should not write your final version this way, it's a good way to get over the initial hurdle of just writing down your thoughts.
Also practice describing, in a line or two, the extra-curriculars and activities you’re involved in (a lot of applications including the CommonApp ask you to do that anyway). From experience, it’s way harder to write 50 words about something that impassions you rather than 500 words about it.
"Ok now I know what to write about – how do I start writing about it?"
Most people get stuck here for so long, and it’s easy to procrastinate at this point. Here’s a strategy that a lot of writers employ to overcome the proverbial ‘writer’s block’. Write down the topic of the essay – so for example if the topic is ‘Describe the world you come from and how it has shaped your activities and interests as an individual’, start by writing ‘When I think of the world I come from and how it has shaped my activities and interests as an individual….’ and continuously keep writing furiously for three minutes, without taking your pen off the paper. You may write absolute rubbish, even include ‘blah blah I don’t know what to write here’, but eventually at this level of pressure your subconscious will take over and will automatically guide you through what you need to write next.
Once you've gone through a few iterations of your essay, it's time to collect feedback. Ask your English teacher to do a review of syntax, grammar, and make sure the essay is concise and to the point. The Hemingway Editor is a good starting point to highlight some common mistakes in writing, such as passive voice, complex sentences, etc.
Have your friends or family read it and ask them about their reaction. Did they feel the same emotions you were trying to evoke? Did they understand the central premise?