Signed, Sealed, Submitted: A College Application Memoir
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Signed, Sealed, Submitted: A College Application Memoir

Five tips on writing your college essays

Signed, Sealed, Submitted: A College Application Memoir

Lots of us have been through the dreaded college essay writing process, and some of us survived better than others. So, here are five tips from my own experiences of having to write essays twice (as a regular applicant and as a transfer applicant), and my thoughts on college applications in general:

1. Be 100%, without a doubt yourself.

Ladies and gentlemen, oh my goodness. I cannot stress this enough. Be yourself in your essay. Do not try to use a bunch of flowery words that you don't even understand or tell a fake story or try to be someone you are not. The sooner you realize that when you get to college, you can be whoever you want to be - starting with your applications - the more you will enjoy college overall. People say you have to be someone you're not in high school to fit in, which for some may be true and if it is, now's the time to hang it up and be who you are, but really and truly, always be who you are. If you haven't been, though, college is a great time to start.

2. Don't just tell or summarize a story. Show who you are, what you think and why you're telling that particular story. What did you learn? How did you change? What do you think and why? Why are you a different person because of it?

When I decided to transfer February of 2016 as a first-year, I already knew how important the essay portion of a college application was because I'd written them my senior year of high school. I was lucky in that I applied to three schools and got into all three of them, and my test scores were average (not amazing) and I knew I could shine in my essays if I took the time and dedication to do so.

However, when you transfer, I personally believe that colleges are looking more at how you performed at the college or university that you were transferring from rather than your high school ACT or SAT scores, but I could be wrong (I'm no expert on the matter).

Anyway, I went on the cookie-cutter college tour of the school I wanted to go (shout out to UNC-Chapel Hill), and it was not cookie-cutter at all. We started out the same way as most tours do - watching an informational video or listening to someone talk from Admissions, the latter in this case - and she told us that we needed to write what we thought for our college essay.

I distinctly remember the Admissions advisor saying that in high school, students don't get that many chances to say what they think without scrutiny or backlash, so they don't even consider taking the chance to do so when they're applying to college because they've rarely, if ever, done it.

But your essays on your college applications are a chance to say why you want to go into journalism - whether it be because you want to write and expose why companies historically pay women less than men or because you've read magazines all of your life after your bedtime with a flashlight and you want to be that writer for someone else.

Say what you need to say to convince them that you won't waste yours and their time as a student at that school; say what you need to say to show them that you will be a contributing member of the student body in your four or more years at that university. Take full advantage of the essay's ability to make you stand out to the people who have your future in their hands, my friends. Say what you think about the mission trip that changed your life not a summary of what you did on that mission trip.

3. Let several people that you trust read over your essay(s) to see what they think and listen to them when they give you advice.

No, seriously listen. I know your essays are your babies and you want them to be perfect by your standards, but I'm a control freak and an overthinker and I let my mom read over them, several of my best friends, my roommate, my boyfriend and one of my English teachers during both of my application experiences.

My mom was biased but honest; my best friends and roommate were super supportive and helpful; my boyfriend was a great listener. My English teacher was picky about my word and grammar usage and unbiased in telling me what I needed to fix and what was right on target.

When you let other people read your essays, even if they're just generic essays, it gives you a new perspective and a fresh set of eyes to fix any mistakes or clear up any confusion

4. Save every essay in a Word document or in your Google Drive.

If you don't try and save it, no one will, and if you're like me, you overthink everything. And if you overthink everything, at some point, you just want to delete something and start all over - which is fine, but proceed with caution when writing your college essays.

I put all of mine in a Word document in its first, most bare draft and then proceeded to copy and paste it before anyone, including myself, touched it so I could go back to square one if I needed to (which I did several times).

5. Don't procrastinate or overthink it, but do double check it.

You know when the application is due (I mean I had it on post it note on my laptop, in my phone's calendar, and as a high priority on my reminders list), so don't even try to wait until the last day to write your essay - it will not work in your favor. This is serious business so get it done ASAP.

Also, you're going to dread, and I mean really dread, pushing the 'apply' button when it's all said and done. You're going to have a meltdown about how bad your essay is, and your mom is going to talk you off the ledge and tell you that everything is going to be OK - and she would be right.

Do not stress yourself to pieces about every single word, do not make every word into a big one because it'll make you sound ingenuous in the long run, and do not doubt yourself once you've written a bomb essay. However, do be smart by not plagiarizing, double checking your spelling, usage rules, grammar and to make sure it makes sense. Then, read over it one last time, press the button, drop the mic and walk away.

My Final Thoughts:

Be yourself, write your best and have no regrets. If you're transferring, do not bash your first school, but do be honest about why you're leaving and your experiences if that's what you choose to write about. And even if you don't get into your dream school, stand by your written words and just wait for the next acceptance letter to come in the mail because they all feel sweet.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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