Common Application essay advice

Drew Now that the October SAT testing date has passed, for high school seniors, there is little left to do in the college process.  That is either a great relief or quite scary.

But you’re not done just yet.  That big Goodyear blimp hanging above your head is the Common Application essay and for many of the students that I’m meeting on the road, it keeps releasing parachuting boxes of doubt on their head:

What do I want to write about?

What do colleges want me to write about?

How long is too long?

How do I make my essay stand out?

It goes without saying that all of this doubt is not conducive to creating a quality essay and there’s nary enough room on this little computer screen to answer all those questions, so let me leave you with just a few pieces of advice.

Students, proved by the questions above, tend to be riddled with anxiety about their essay and they grip too tightly.  Just relax.  Your essay is a sparrow.  If your grip on it is too tight, you’ll squeeze the life out of it.  If your grip is too loose, it will fly away.  Hold it just tight enough that it won’t fly away but not so tight that you suffocate it.

We really do look forward to reading your essay and we’re not expecting to read something profound nor do we expect you to summarize your entire life in 500 words.  We just want to read what you want to write.  It’s that simple.

So don’t worry about those questions above, just write what you want to write.

One final thought: inspiration can come when you least expect it.  I was inspired today by a few thoughtful students (you know who you are!) and it came in the form of a bottle of Mountain Dew and a box of Pop-tarts.  So if you’re still stuck, go buy those two things, sit down at your computer and listen to your sparrow.

Andrew N Carter
Associate Director of Admissions

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