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What’s Your College Essay Workout?

What makes a college essay stand out


Get a Head Start on your College Application Process…By Practicing Your Writing Before Senior Year

You wouldn’t wait until the playoffs to learn to pitch, or take your first piano lesson the day of your recital. So why wait until you’re writing your applications to practice writing your college essay?

It’s a unique skill—a very different kind of essay than you are typically asked to write in high school. But with a little bit of planning, you can show up to the application process ready to knock your college essays out of the park.

Here are three suggestions for anyone looking to improve your writing above and beyond the work you are doing in class. Investing a little time in any or all of these activities will prepare you to write more compelling college applications; it might also bring up your essay grades along the way!

Start a College Essay Journal

This is, hands down, the easiest and best way to prep for college essay writing. One of the biggest challenges of the essays you will write for college applications is how personal they need to be. Keeping a journal with this in mind is a fantastic way to get used to writing about yourself, for others. From “bullet journaling” to the wide range of journal apps available for your phones, there are many quick and convenient ways to add this to your weekly or daily repertoire.

This isn’t a diary, which is meant for your eyes only. But make it personal: finding even a few minutes a week to jot down any reflection on what motivates you, what goals you imagine for yourself, and any anecdote that features you in action will help you build your college essay muscles. A journal like this will also be a treasure trove when it’s time to brainstorm your application essays!

Use Social Media with Purpose

Yes, Instagram and Snapchat are fantastic for sharing cute kitten videos and funny gifs. But getting serious—at least some of the time—on social media helps build a solid foundation for college essays.

Consider dedicating some time online to promoting a cause that is important to you. This not only requires you to reflect on what you care about (which can make all the difference in your college search and applications), it also means writing concisely and persuasively about what interests you and why (which can make all the difference when writing your college essays).

Take a Summer Writing Class

Each year, we work with many students who are looking for more thorough feedback on their writing than they get at school. One great option for anyone looking for more substantial writing advice is a dedicated summer writing class. If you live in a metropolitan area, there are likely several local high schools and other organizations offering writing classes through their summer programs. Quality will vary, so seek out advice on any program of interest.

A summer class focusing on academic essays or creative writing can be a valuable experience. But classes specifically geared toward the personal essay are becoming more common, and offer the most relevant prep for the college application process. Keep your eye out for one of these!

Additionally, many colleges offer summer programs in personal essay writing. These can be good options, too, but keep in mind that they tend to be expensive, and attending a paid summer program on a college campus won’t help you get in to that particular school.

Whatever your approach, the most important thing is to keep practicing. The more you get used to writing about yourself, the better prepared you’ll be when it comes time to apply!

For more information on college essay writing or college admission counseling, contact us!



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