September is here, and with that comes the annual tradition of high school seniors hammering away at college applications. From picking the right schools, thinking ahead about costs, and sorting out transcripts, there’s a lot on students’ minds when it comes to applying for college. However, the part of the application process most either struggle with or tend to stress about the most is the “college essay” and the challenges that come with it. But before digging into tips, it’s best to establish what exactly a college essay is asking for.
While most students are deathly familiar with the concept of a five paragraph essay and other informative writing techniques, a college essay generally asks for a very different approach: Creative writing. Specifically, presenting an experience of your own, in a creative, unique manner. This mainly exists as a way to give a college admissions counselor a taste of you, divorced from just numbers and statistics on a transcript. This is the reason an essay can make or break a college application, solely because it sets an applicant apart from the others more than any other datapoint will.
The Loveland Roar had the opportunity to gather the thoughts of multiple English teachers who have plenty of experience with this particular subject and gave their insight on multiple aspects of the essay-writing process. Starting with the first major aspect of writing an essay, choosing the prompt you will write about in the first place and what experience you have that will fit. One teacher told The Roar, “Make a list of your best character traits. Then, consider what the non-essay portion of your application already tells the college admission officer.” Giving the example that “if you have had high grades consistently through high school, focusing on the fact that you are a hard worker in the essay isn't going to tell the colleges anything more about you than the grades already did.”
However, once you have a personal experience picked out based on a prompt, how will you actually answer it? According to Loveland's own experts, understanding a prompt is a multi-step process, but the first step is to give one readthrough of it looking for a general meaning, but the next step gets more detailed. Another teacher commented that, “I make sure to bracket off all the questions it asks of you. Use a checklist to help yourself.” Generally prompts can be broken down into three distinct portions, which is a useful tip to keep in mind.
Finally, the most difficult part of writing a college essay is, well, the writing itself. The best way to get this done actually refers back to the previous point of bracketing off the prompt. As one teacher advised, “Think about what each paragraph will be about before you write the essay.” They also suggested writing everything as it comes to you when you can, because a long essay can always be trimmed, but a short one is hard to fluff up. This ties into what another teacher mentions, that “the best essays will not be written in a single draft, so you want to give yourself time to write and revise.” Knowing these tips, good luck in the college application season!