Four Step Methodology
With college costs increasingly becoming one of the most expensive investments (sometimes even more than a house), it is important for the student’s essay to break through the clutter and differentiate the student from other applicants. I have developed a step-by-step process that helps to effectively manage the creative development of the writing process.
Piece of Paper
The blank sheet of paper with a question asks you to write something interesting about yourself.
How do you feel about getting started to write your college essay? Is this an opportunity to reflect your creativity and shine, or a dreaded chore? The truth is, the essay represents your last chance to significantly improve your chances of getting into your first-choice school. By now, the numeric portion of your application, the GPA, SAT, AP scores, class rank, community service hours etc. are unlikely to budge much. The essay is your chance to differentiate yourself, share something meaningful to a college admissions officer as to what makes you special and how you will make a difference to their campus.
College essay questions tend to be very broad and difficult to tackle. Getting started is the biggest challenge. In deciding how to best discuss an essay topic, it is essential that you not only answer the question, but illustrate your thoughts with an engaging and personal style.
Your essay will help colleges learn insights about you—what makes you tick, how your experiences make you interesting, what are your hopes and dreams, and who has made an impact on your life. Your essay should reflect how these experiences have influenced your ideas, decisions, and choices in how you view your future. Most importantly, the essay will demonstrate how you think. Your essay allows colleges to connect with you, which can help you have a greater likelihood of being considered for admission. Your essay is your opportunity to reflect your unique style, personality, and goals.
In working with your College Essay Coach, I will provide you with clear, one-on-one direction and a fresh perspective as to how to convey your ideas within a structural process. I will give you feedback as to how to improve your writing style and tailor your story within specific word count requirements. Tackling the college essay process will give you the tools to build your confidence in putting your thoughts on paper and in making that blank sheet of paper become a canvas for your ideas.
The Big Idea
When you go to a restaurant and the menu has too many choices, do you become overwhelmed and tend to order exactly what you selected before (“I’ll have the usual”), or do you pause and think about something that captures your attention and try something new? Similarly, when selecting a topic to write about, think of it as your chance to illustrate a BIG idea. Your choice should not be a predictable formula; rather, it should allow for creative thought and memorable insight as to what is important to you.
Deciding what topic to write about can be the most difficult aspect of getting started. Your BIG idea should be interesting so that you can write about it an active and personal voice. Think of the BIG idea as your opportunity to share something meaningful about yourself and how this experience makes you special. This is your chance to have a conversation with the Admissions committee to get to know your current interests and how you will engage on campus.
How can you pick just one thing that explains your entire life or defines your ideas? Remember, every college applicant is in the same boat. In meeting with your College Essay Coach, I will listen to you share about what most interests you and the words that you use to best describe that experience. Our conversations are a combination of talking and writing. I will provide feedback that will help point you to a topic that is the basis of your BIG idea, so that you can write with personal involvement and flair. Think of this as an ongoing conversation on paper between you and the reader.
Developing the outline for your essay helps you organize your ideas to tell a story. The outline is a fast and easy way to get your thoughts on paper. It is important for you to feel that you are starting to make immediate progress towards writing your essay. Your outline is like a billboard that you see when you are driving in the car-- listening to music, talking on the phone, and reading street signs-- where the most your mind can read is 7 words or less. Thus, the outline content should have short headlines or phrases. In fact, I refer to the outline as "talking points" that intersect talking and writing.
An outline involves three parts: 1) introduction, 2) supporting facts, 3) conclusion. Developing your outline is like building a house-- without a solid foundation or BIG idea, the walls will cave in. Your introduction needs to be connected to your personal BIG idea that best explains the essay topic. The supporting facts should explain a logical flow of information that collectively supports your BIG idea. The conclusion is your opportunity to reflect on your personal thoughts, share insights and create images that illustrate how the BIG idea is meaningful to you.
The outline allows you to give structure around your ideas.
Your essay needs to be organized with a logical flow-- in chronological order or to build up the excitement in presenting your conclusion within specific word count limitations. Each point is like connecting the dots so that your outline does not get off-topic. Less is more. The points in your outline will be further elaborated upon with your essay writing, in adding description, personality, and tone around these main points.
Writing your essay helps you give personality and meaning to your BIG idea, which answers the essay question. However, your BIG idea can not stand alone without a structure that supports the main purpose. All supporting elements should be persuasive and focused in illustrating your thoughts.
Your writing style helps your essay come to life by infusing energy and commitment to your ideas. Without your unique style, your essay will be dull, boring and run-of-the-mill-- which will NOT differentiate you among the other applicants. Rather, your essay should be convincing, not only in the strength of each point, but in the tone, manner and images that your create with your writing style. As your coach, it is essential to trust in the BIG idea and not oversell with distracting tangencies or undersell with the bare bones.
When reading a story, think of the elements you enjoy – setting the stage to describe the environment, listening to the colloquial dialogue between the characters, and creating humor, action and suspense. What happens next?!? How the story ends is your conclusion. Your writing style helps your essay flow naturally (with a sequence of events or examples) and reinforces your BIG idea with personality and intimacy.