12/20/2012 10:18 am ET Updated Feb 19, 2013

The Write Stuff

Essays: The one thing on college applications that everyone, including me, loves to hate. I hate the number of drafts it takes to make them perfect. I hate the length. I hate the questions. Almost every essay you write for college applications requires you to talk about yourself and this has been challenging for me. I have had a hard time figuring out what I want to say about myself that I haven't already said in the application. After brainstorming with the help of my mentors, I found out I could talk about many things I hadn't thought about before. In the end, I decided to write about the summer I spent in Peru helping with service projects, such as building a bathroom for a disabled girl and leveling a field for a center for young mothers. Through this experience, I became more open around people and more comfortable working as part of a team.

Though it's hard to figure out what to write, it's even more difficult to go through all the rewrites it takes to perfect an essay. I did five or six revisions, but it felt like 100! It helped that my mentors were there to read my essays and give me feedback, but any teacher -- preferably an English teacher -- can do this for you. It is amazing how completely different my first and final drafts were. While my first draft was just a jumbled mess of everything I wanted to say, my final draft was more structured and had a better flow. The feedback I got from my mentors ranged from helping me fix simple grammatical mistakes to suggesting that I expand a thought or further explain a point. I knew that making these revisions would help me get my point across more clearly, but it was overwhelming to review the same essay so many times. I kept thinking it would never get better. Working on the same essay for so long also made me start to hate it. Just thinking about it would make my stomach churn with loathing. Eventually, I got so fed up that I decided to take a couple of days away from the essay to straighten my thoughts out. Three days later, I went back to it, made a few more revisions, and then sent it to my mentors for feedback. When they told me how much better it was, and I felt really good. I was so happy when they said the essay was ready for me to submit.

Even if you start to get sick of your personal statement like I did, you will definitely learn a lot about yourself. By writing about my everyday actions in Peru, I realized how well I work as part of a team, even though in the past I've always been more of a solitary worker. Because of this, I have become more involved in activities at my school, such as serving on the prom committee and taking on a leadership role on my cross-country team.