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Words (600 or Less) To The Wise

There Is Nothing To Fear. Not Even The College Essay!
There Is Nothing To Fear. Not Even The College Essay!
With the release of Common App's new essay prompts comes the opportunity for high school Juniors to begin thinking about their college application personal statement and assorted (or was that, sordid?) essays. [Note that we said, "thinking about," not stressing over.]

As we've suggested, quite strongly, in past posts, the essay is your opportunity -- perhaps the best opportunity -- to truly set yourself apart from the legion of college applicants soon to join you on the front lines of college admissions.

Perhaps a snippet from our past post, The College Essay: Striving To Distance Yourself From The Madding Crowd, is in order here:

So, what makes for a winning essay?

Length? Ahh. Brevity is still the soul of wit. And pity the poor admissions officer who, reading your essay at 4:45 PM, had to digest some 100 other "My Experience As A Camp Counselor" or "Building A Habitat for Humanity in Honduras" writings before yours. Indeed, go for more than the minimum of 250 words suggested by the Common App, but please, no War and Peace treatise. [No longer an issue on the Common App, the new platform setting a strict minimum of 250 words and a maximum of 600 words.]

Depth? Who wouldn't want to read about obscure theories in astrophysics or the intricacies of foreign affairs that only a policy wonk could appreciate? [Then again, if you are applying for a specialized program that calls for a recitation of such knowledge, or you can otherwise make an essay about nanoparticles hurtling through an accelerator a fascinating read, hey, go for it.]

Keep it simple, so even the likes of The College Whisperer could understand. Keep it real. Write about what you know and who you are. Incorporate and elaborate upon your own life experiences and passions. What will you bring to campus (aside from your entire wardrobe and a high def TV to be named later)? Why are you the perfect match for this college?

Add a touch of humor (shying away from the stand-up routine for which you are known in high school lunch rooms, far and wide), and a tad of pathos. Humble yet confident. Assured but not a braggart.

Show the world who you are, and who you hope to become as you go through your college career. Tell your story.

What to write about? No idea how to get started? Well, the topic can be about almost anything and practically everything (within the rather broad limits of the prompt). [The College Whisperer wonders whether Jerry Seinfeld's application -- to Queens College -- contained an essay, like his television show, about nothing?] As long as the focus is you, your accomplishments, your goals, and the means you choose to take you from here to there.

Think of this as your JFK moment. Ask not what the college experience can do for you, but what together, you can do for the college community, both on and off campus.

One last thought (for now). Always keep in mind that's it's not only what you say that matters, but also, how you say it!

Be bold. Be creative. Above all, be yourself.

Plan. Prepare. Prevail!


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The College Whisperer. Who knows what peril lurks in the college application and admissions process? The College Whisperer knows. . .
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