As a college freshman, I remember how stressful this time of the year was for me last September when I was swamped with all the college essays. As intimidating as this time seems, it will pass, and you might actually miss the craziness of it later. I have compiled a short list to help any senior who is clueless on how to go about the whole essay part. While there are many more things to remember, the following is just a start:

1. Have a Creative Approach

There are thousands and thousands of students writing on the same prompt, and the college admission staff has to read through all of them. Make sure your essay stands out, and this can usually be done through a good introduction. Also, keep in mind that while being creative is important, it should also answer the topic. Don’t get too carried away with trying to be different that you completely ignore what the prompt is asking of you.

2. Be Yourself

As cheesy as it sounds, just be yourself. At the end of the day, your essay should reflect your personality and your story. No matter how mundane or average your life seems, there are always some experiences that are unique to you or that helped shape the person you are today. They don’t necessarily have to be big life altering events; they can be small interactions or instances of observation that taught you something you didn’t know. You will be surprised how much better you will know yourself once you finish this essay writing process.

3. Be Honest

Honesty is a crucial part of the essay. You owe it to yourself to accurately represent your four years in high school without any embellishment. It is completely fine if you did not have tons of extracurricular activities or internships that you could write about. Choose a topic that focuses on something other than those things, something that you actually have experience with. It is more than likely that the person reading your essay can easily tell whether you’re lying or not. It is better that you talk about your vulnerabilities than exaggerating about an instance that did not happen.

4. Keep It Concise

I can say without a doubt, this was personally the biggest issue for me while writing my college essay. When you first start writing, it feels like you don’t have enough to say, but once you get in the flow, it seems impossible to fit all of it in the given word limit. To show your entire complex personality in only 500-800 words is a daunting task. And that’s the purpose of it. Colleges want to see how well you can use the power of diction to accurately paint a picture of yourself in the most succinct way possible. You don’t have to use thesaurus for everything, but please don’t be redundant. Make every single word count.

5. Stay on Topic

For some reason, many students tend to forget what they wanted to convey in the beginning of their essay and end up going completely off topic. Don’t get carried away telling your life story that strays from what the prompt is asking of you. It helps to choose a small event and then expand on that rather than choosing a larger event and starting an “and then” train.

6. Write First, Edit Later

Please don’t edit as you write, just don’t. Editing as you write completely kills your train of thought and causes you to digress from topic. Think about the word limit, but don’t let that be the only thing that’s driving what you write next. Get everything you want to say out from your brain, including a couple of non-important sentences here and there because they will help you understand the context of your work. Once you are done with your first draft, return to the top and go ham with the editing.

These are just a few of the many things to focus on as you are writing your college essays. Remember to enjoy this process because as I have said before, you will learn so much about yourself that you hadn’t really thought of before. Don’t stress too much if you can’t write the perfect essay because it doesn’t exist. As long as your essay represents your individuality, you will be fine. Good luck!