Feb   2020

Mon

10

Now Is the Time to Start Your College Essay

by
President, Wow Writing Workshop

This time of year, high school juniors (and even sophomores) start to get nervous. Seniors are either done or nearly done applying to college; some have been admitted to their dream schools, and others have been deferred or outright rejected. College talk is all the rage. It can be overwhelming, confusing, and distressing. But there’s no need to panic. You can get through this process with minimal stress.

Related: Top College Admission Essay Myths Debunked

The biggest tip you need

Here’s the #1 tip to help guide you as you start preparing for the application journey: writing a college essay is all about reflection, and right now is a good time to learn how to reflect.

Despite what you may have heard, writing is not the most challenging part of the college essay. The tough part is the beginning before you even write one word, when you have to ask: What matters to you and why? It’s a tough question. You might hear, “What’s important?” and think sleep, friends, where the next party is, Netflix, making the varsity team, summer vacation¾you know, normal stuff

To make it even harder, you have to ask yourself why these things are important. That’s what colleges want to know! It’s a lot to ask of yourself, but you really do need to do it because writing your essay will be easier for you if you do.

Related: College Application Essays: What to Know

The other question you have to ask

Once you’ve answered those questions, ask yourself this: what do I want colleges to know about me apart from grades, test scores, activities, and jobs? You might be thinking about all of the great things you’ve done, but please don’t create a list detailing a bunch of experiences, accomplishments, and awards. 

Instead, to answer this critical question, make a list of traits and characteristics that define you. Are you insightful? Resourceful? Funny? Creative? Kind? Compassionate? Outgoing? Shy? Funny? Colleges want to know what makes you tick, not detailed accounts of your experiences or stuff that’ll already be on your application.

If you’re unsure what traits to write about, ask a parent or friend what characteristics they like about you. And here’s the great part: you get to decide which traits are important to you in the end, not them.

Once you can answer this question with specific characteristics, you’ll be better prepared to write your college essays this spring and summer.

Go get started

To stand out in your college essay, you need to write something meaningful that highlights a positive trait and personalizes your application. It can be hard to write about yourself, especially when the stakes seem so high, but you can do it.  

Need more application essay advice? Check out our College Admission section, and sign up for Wow Writing Workshop’s free college essay webinars! 

Note: Did you know you could win a $10,000 scholarship for college or grad school just by registering on CollegeXpress? This is one of the quickest, easiest scholarships you’ll ever apply for. Register Now »

About Kim Lifton

Kim Lifton

Kim Lifton is President and Cofounder of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication company specializing in college admission and grad school application essay writing and professional training. She leads a team of writers and teachers who understand the writing process inside and out. Wow’s team teaches students how to write application essays, and provides expert training on their unique approach to professionals who want to improve their essay coaching practices. Kim blogs regularly about the college essay’s role in the admission process for multiple industry publications and websites. In 2019, she was named a LinkedIn Top Voice in Education.

Before co-founding Wow, Kim worked as a reporter and communication consultant. Highlights include: Co-producing a PBS documentary about teens and depression, No Ordinary Joe: Erasing the Stigma of Mental Illness; writing “First Class,” a weekly lifestyle column about the area’s most successful businessmen and women for the Detroit Free Press; creating “A Small Business Adventure,” a 12-part monthly series about the perils and pitfalls of running a small business for the Detroiter Magazine; supervising a public relations campaign and accompanying print materials that attracted local and national print, radio, and TV media coverage for the National Council of Jewish Women’s annual convention in celebrating its 100th anniversary.

 
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