If you follow along with our Admit-It Podcast and our weekly live Q&A sessions on Facebook, you’ll know that we’ve been talking a lot lately about admissions essays. June is the start of essay season at College Dream Builder, and we’re excited to officially shift into this next phase of the journey with our rising seniors!
“How could it possibly be essay season already? I haven’t finished my college research yet!”
I hear this sentiment at least once every year when that calendar officially changes from May to June, and I like to remind my worriers not to worry. I have seniors every year who continue making changes to their final lists well into the summer and fall, but that doesn’t mean your essay has to be put on hold while you research! In fact, the earlier you begin your essay, the better.
Think of it this way. Who wants to be bogged down with writing essays when senior year begins and all you want to do is enjoy football games, homecoming dances, and fall senior celebrations?
Smart #CollegeDreamers plan ahead.
“Ok, so what is this admissions essay all about then? Why are colleges asking for it?”
Glad you asked! The admissions essay is the place on your college application to share your story. Elsewhere on your application, colleges are learning about the type of student you are, the extracurricular activities you are involved in, and the standardized tests on which you do well. The essay is valuable real estate where you should share with the colleges something about yourself that they are not already seeing on your application in another section.
I repeat: this is not the space to reiterate your long laundry list of activities or talk about how stellar of a student you are. The colleges quite literally just saw that on your transcript and in your activities section. What else should they know about you? What are your key qualities as a person? This is the fodder for your essay.
“What makes a ‘good’ essay ‘good’? Are there topics I should avoid?”
My favorite question! 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 see over and over again.
You know, the “I went on a mission trip and it changed my life” stories. Or, “I failed a test but studied hard and ended up acing the class.”
Many of my students come to me with these ideas 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 state 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.
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. Good luck.
“This all sounds great, but I’m lost and unsure how to begin. Can you help?”
You’ve come to the right place! 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.
If you choose to work with us, your counselor will talk with you at length about your ideas, giving advice on which of them will work—and which will not.
If you ask me, essay season is the best time of year, as that’s when we truly get to the bottom of who you are and why you are applying to college. It’s a great time for self-reflection and creative writing, which is not something you get to do in most of your high school classes!
Embrace the process and know that colleges can’t wait to hear your story. Neither can we!
Director of Admissions