A Different Approach to the College Admissions Essay

 

Ah, September. Here in Southern California the beginning of fall brings with it some good things (kids back in school! finally!!). And some weird things —hotter days, for example.

But most important for the high school student applying to college, the beginning of September marks a sudden inextricable realization that application deadlines are really, truly real.

This kind of anxiety isn’t necessarily a good thing. Stress can make students reach for the familiar, the safe—and the bland. And if nothing else, the college admissions essay is not a place for bland.

Reading a great admissions essay is like that moment at a party when you say something vulnerable to a boy or girl you secretly like, decide with a momentary rush of shame that god, why am I being weird again, and then notice, amazingly, how their eyes widen with sudden recognition…

Recognition, connection.

Intuitively, students know this. That’s why they're drawn to the books they like. But when it comes to their own writing, they get shy. One of the best things an adviser or coach can do is simply create some space for students to talk about the things that really matter to them, and to reinforce those that make they different, interesting, unique.