Nothing makes me cringe more than when a student sends me a “cookie cutter” essay.

No, this is not an essay written about the act of baking cookies (though admittedly I have seen some of those from students in the past, and boy were they fun to read!). Rather, these are the essays that I have seen time and time again.

You know, the “I went on a mission trip and it changed my life” stories. Or the “I failed a test but studied hard and ended up acing the class” examples.

Many of my students come to me with these ideas simply because they feel it’s what they have to write about in an essay. They’ve heard the stories about admissions counselors who penalize applicants because their essays don’t explicitly show how the student will contribute to the school by reiterating their strong grades or extracurricular activities. And while the ultimate goal of the essay is to do just that—show these colleges how you will strengthen their overall community—there are so many ways you can do this that go beyond the traditional cookie-cutter topic!

One of my favorite things to do with students is help them brainstorm for their essays. There’s nothing quite like peeling back the layers and learning more about what makes each individual unique.

Reader be warned: if you come to me during a brainstorming meeting and tell me you have a cookie cutter essay, the only way I’ll let you write about that topic is if it’s about actual cookie cutters and you have some crazy analogy for what they say about you as a person.

Until next time,

Molly Monet, PES Student Services Consultant

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