College applications sometimes require an essay submission, which may at first seem intimidating, but there is no need to let that stop you. As an applicant to several schools in the University of California system, I was only required to write a single essay that is known as a “personal statement”. The topic was pretty generic and actually very similar to what all my graduate school applications asked as well – essentially, “tell me about yourself and the experiences that have shaped you”. The best essays are the ones that are authentic and from the heart. Don’t try to tell them the story that you think they want to hear; tell them the story about you. And lest you think you’re not very interesting, trust me – you are. Everyone is unique and has unique experiences and the essays are the perfect opportunity for you to share yours.
My nephew Dan, now a freshman at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, said that this advice helped him the most: prepare for your essays by making a list of all the precise moments in your life that reflect a characteristic of yourself or your character.
When I was applying for college, each application asked for between one and three essays, which at first seemed like a lot of work. But as I looked closer, I noticed some very similar themes in the essay questions, so I ended up writing three basic essays. I spent a lot of time on these three essays, and had both my mom and my English teacher review them with me. Once these three essays were as well-crafted as I could make them, I re-read the application questions, selected the appropriate essay, and made minor adjustments to customize it to that school’s application. This process worked so well for me that I got in to every school I applied to—plus a few that I didn’t! (Unbeknownst to me, my mom sent off applications with these same essays to two local colleges, in hopes of keeping me closer to home). By giving myself just a few essays that I could really focus on, I found it much easier to write them well and never made the mistake of sending off a first draft at the last minute just to get something in.
College admission was a lifetime ago for me. That being said, I find that it always helps to be authentic no matter the topic at hand. Good luck!