Writing is a process -
commit to your vision.
Do you have a core idea and write with a vision?
Writing is a process. Each time you work on a draft, decide what you want to accomplish.
Example: On this pass, I want to focus on the way this experience changed me.
Write expansively on that idea. Don't. Hold. Back.
Think Like a Storyteller
Stories are about something. What's your story about? If you can write it in a sentence, you'll avoid a major pitfall: including too much information in your essay.
Have some fun exploring your story's focus. Remember, you are the protagonist.
Directions. In one sentence, tell us what your story is about.
Athletic competitor with an artistic soul
Trendsetter with a passion for business
Deep-thinker on a quest to understand the mysteries of the universe
Rebel with a cause
Teen with a dream
First generation college student trailblazing a creative future
Storyteller with a funny bone and a YouTube channel
Caring helper destined to become a child psychologist
Community advocate with ambition to run for office
Stories have their own logic. Details. Revelations. Trust the images, words and phrases that are natural to you.
This is not an essay for English class. It’s not for a grade, and you don't get bonus points for using a thesaurus. It has a completely different purpose. You're helping colleges get to know you as a person, and not just as a high school student. Think: conversational, not formal.
Personality and Voice
Does your story sync up with the personal qualities you want to convey? For example, there's a fine line between demonstrating passion for a project and bragging about your role in it. But you can also underplay your part, too. The creative challenge is to strike the right balance.
Sometimes students tap into their truths, write a raw confessional and declare they are ready to submit. Keep in mind, first drafts are not final drafts. (You already knew that, right?)
Clichés – Don't Go There
There are some stories that are overdone. You can probably guess that an essay about a privileged teen who learns to appreciate poverty on a service trip is not a good idea. Or that a story about an athlete who kicks the winning goal after years of challenges will evoke groans.
Here's the thing – clichéd writing is the result of generalized thinking. Honest introspection and thoughtful expression are key to this process.
The Comparison Trap
By now, you've probably read sample college essays, whether in English class, online, or from your one friend who is destined to become a professional writer. Initially, it's helpful to be exposed to a range of styles and approaches. But there is a potential downside, too. You can end up feeling disempowered.
Comparing yourself to someone else's journey will often leave you stranded. Don't let that happen. Your experiences and perspective belong to you. Own them, cherish them. Tune into them as you write.
Your life has been turned upside-down by the pandemic. Nothing is the same. You aren't the same. There is a separate question on the Common App for that topic. Don't write about your experience with the pandemic in your main essay.
Review. Personal statements allow you to be reflective, thoughtful and inspired about the direction of your life. Commit to the vision you want to share and enjoy the process of self-discovery.