Where does the present fit in to your college essay?
During the application process, you need to think and talk about your past– where you came from, how you got this way– and the future– where you’re headed, what you hope for. It’s never bad to take stock like this, even if, in four years, your thinking is completely different. But the present has a very important role to play in your essay content, so read on.
Good storytelling (which you should definitely practice in your essay) allows for flexible or fluid interpretation. No one will chase you down with your college essay when you are 25 and doing something completely different from what you predicted and say, “BUT YOU SAID IT WAS LIKE THIS?! YOU SAID YOU WANTED/CARED ABOUT THIS!”
Don’t worry about reducing your future to one personal quality or goal. Instead, stay present.
What does that mean? It’s kinda simple.
You can’t just write about that important thing that happened to you and call the essay done.
Tune into yourself, and use the last third of your essay to show your reader what you’re like, now. How that important event or story relates to your current self–your actions, engagements, and mindset.
Make Your Past Relevant to the Present
Your entire past led up to this moment, this person, this character– you.
You picked just a slice of it to share with your readers, and in a well-told story you highlighted something about yourself, some personal characteristic you made real for us, worthy of our attention.
But how is that trait an important part of your life, right this very minute?
For example: were you a picky kid, who didn’t like to wear socks in the winter, or who wanted notebooks of only a certain color? Well, maybe the present you has a high tolerance for adverse weather, or loves things other people find challenging, or has a fine sense of design, or maybe you advise those other kids who never seem to know what to buy (that was me, thank you!), and that’s your form of service.
You need to talk about your past, but without a clear connection to the present, it’s just that– past, and so not relevant enough to your admissions readers, who are trying to figure out how your past helped make you you.
“Stay present.” It’s harder to see the present clearly sometimes, but make a project out of it. Watch yourself for a week, and take notes on the following questions, or generally, using your free-writing strategy: What do you do? What do you avoid? What are you like, alone or with others? What are your most positive contributions?
Got it? The last third of the essay should make me see how that trait or experience affects you NOW. Like, NOW.
Kinda curious about how to stay present, beyond your essay?
Here at Essay Intensive, we strive right along with you. After all, if one of our lives gets better, even marginally more present, the hope is all of our lives can. Contact us if you have a hunch this might be what you’re looking to gain. We believe– and know– the college essay can deliver you more than you’d even hoped.
Very basic present-moment awareness guidelines here.
And this big picture instruction from the brilliant Roshi Joan Halifax at Upaya.
And then there is always your friend– the breath. Watch that sucker go in and out, in and out, in and out. It doesn’t get more present than that.
Good you asked. Send us your questions or free-writing responses from the questions above– just copy-paste onto our contact page. We’ll get back to you with our present rates to review your work.