Here are seven common college application essay pitfalls, misconceptions that prevent you from writing a great essay. Change your view to find your voice and bust through writer’s block.
1. I have nothing to say.
Right. This is only true as long as you keep insisting on it. Were you born? Have you been alive a little while, maybe 16 years plus? Then you have something to say.
2. I can only convey my true feelings by using curse words.
Point f-in taken. A well-placed curse-word, when that’s the only word that will convey the intensity, is an art. You can use it if the rest of the writing calls for it. Otherwise, learn to put the expletives in the subtext and “curse between the lines.” The impact will be felt.
3. Nothing exciting happens to me.
Oh? When was the last time your heart-raced? You were totally exhausted? You were shocked? You couldn’t believe your eyes? Exciting is relative.
If you’ve been to the moon, definitely write about it. Otherwise, admissions officers are just people too, and nothing exciting is happening to them either. Are you kidding me? They are holed up in an office reading your personal statements! Your writing does not have to be about EXCITING THINGS. It has to be about what you’re excited to write about, and what moves you.
4. I can’t make it sound on the page like it sounds in my head.
Maybe your head is in the way? Welcome to the writing life. The page is a trickier place by far. Fantasy and reality (versions) are often in this kind of standoff. Reality doesn’t have to lose, though. It’s your job to get in the middle and be a great relay person. Flex your pen.
5. It’s too hard to write about myself as an awesome candidate without either bragging or lying.
Your only job is to talk naturally and with your best words about the topic you know the most about: You. Your life, not your candidacy (for anywhere or anything) is the subject. You’re holding up a mirror to yourself, not creating a bloated, superlative-soaked resume. Where’s the lie? Where’s the brag?
6. I have to use big vocabulary words to impress colleges.
Colleges are not impressed by big vocabulary binges nor by an essay that hits every SAT word you studied; they are impressed by honest personal writing which uses appropriate vocabulary and diction. Hamlet said an awful lot with “To be or not to be.” He wasn’t using his iPhone thesaurus to squeak that out.
7. Agh! It’s all just a pile of
Here’s what Hemingway (apparently) confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald: [evidence]“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of s#@t. I try to put the s#@t in the wastebasket.”[/evidence]
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