More and more college essay prompts are digging deep to learn what they can about a student's character. Numbers are easy to see and evaluate; however, measuring character is not quite as easy. Essay prompts are geared toward having students become self reflective and critically think about their personal experience(s). Students tell us that they are often told not to write in the first person. High school and many college assignments are geared toward third person writing and students tend to be conditioned as such. In addition, teens can be self-conscious about writing about themselves in that they are growing from adolescence both physically and emotionally.
Summer should be a time of freedom where students can find the space and quiet to just write. This is not an assignment nor will it be graded. The idea is to get comfortable writing in the first person. This is not an easy thing to do and summertime is the best because there are few distractions and generally, is a more relaxed period of time.
Reflecting on experiences and writing about its impact personally can make great college essays. The essay prompts on the Common Application ask students to select one of five prompts. The intent of these prompts is for admission officers to gain more insight about the authenticity and sincerity of the applicant. The Common Application essay prompts ask students to reflect on their backgrounds, a meaningful incident, challenges, or something that marked transition to adulthood. Any of these would require thoughtful contemplation, discussion and some free writing.
The college essay is an opportunity for the student to stand out and tell their unique story. Simple slice of life stories are often the most compelling. It's important for students to discuss their passions, how they have applied what they have learned and what they hope to accomplish.
It's essential to start as early as possible. Perhaps making some journal entries, doing some free writing or brainstorming topic ideas may help begin the writing process. Students should use their voice and not try to impress by using multi-syllabic words they would not use in conversation. If students do choose to write about something from their activity resume, they need to go into depth and present the essay with someone whether parent, counselor or friend. Additional input can be valuable. Do read some sample essays but do not use any topic from previous years, originality is key. Try to enjoy writing and include your sense of humor. Admission officers like to see a social and academic balance. They need to know you can adapt well, live with people and be a team player on campus. Make editing the last stop before the final draft. Do not repeat what is elsewhere on the application.
So, over the summer, find that comfortable, undisturbed spot and let ideas flow. All the revisions, editing and proofreading can come later.
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