Be Yourself on Paper-The College Essay

Guest Post by Lucia Tyler,  Ph.D., Tyler Admissions Consulting

Dr. Lucia Tyler

Dr. Lucia Tyler (photo credit-Jim Mason)

Students dread the college essay. Why?  Often they have not reflected on their life or practiced writing about it.  This is the perfect opportunity to show a college who you are beyond the numbers—beyond the test scores and the GPA. In a way, it’s like a one question interview on paper. This is an opportunity to show the human side of your application.  The object is not to impress but to be memorable.  Think about the stories in your family that are repeatedly told.  In my family, they are either usually funny, sad, or scary. For instance, there was the time that my son tried to rewire the TV set….. at age 10.

Getting started is often the hardest part.  Story-telling is key to the process.  It can be helpful to review meaningful incidents in your life and relate them to a family member. “Remember the time that I got separated from the family on vacation in Mexico and found my way back to the hotel alone with my minimal Spanish?”  You might ask a friend or family member to tell a memorable story about you if you can’t think of one.  Sometimes it even helps to record these stories or write notes about them.

Reading essays that Ivy League students have written for publication in a book of winning essays may be discouraging and actually delay you from beginning your essay.  How can you compete with a Harvard student who graduated with honors while living with drug addicted parents?  This is your story to tell and that’s what colleges want to hear.

The Common Application has a general essay that is submitted to all schools.  You need to relate your essay to one of the prompts provided.  If you choose a topic describing an environment where you feel comfortable and then talk about how your sister loves to go rock-climbing with her friends, the reader will note that you didn’t respond to the prompt.

Key points to remember about the essay are to tell your story, use a conversational style, answer the prompt, and proofread the essay carefully for errors.

I'm always willing to consider guest posts related to writing for my blog. I'm also interested in posting about writing issues on your blogs. Either way-feel free to get in touch!

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