Summertime and the livin’ is easy. Especially chill if you don’t have a parental unit, best bud, or compulsive self-monitor messing with your good time. Suggesting you end your Game of Thrones’ marathon, open up your laptop and start drafting your college essays.
Yes, my little GoT geeks, I get it. Your habit, like mine, for putting off until tomorrow what could be done much easier today is as epic as Hamlet’s. (Hamlet. You remember him, right? The Danish dude with the procrastination problem?) But really, isn’t deciding whether to be or not to be writing a mind-blowing personal essay - one that could be your ticket into the university of your choice - easier than determining when, and if, you should off a smarmy uncle? I think so.
What I’ve learned from a lifetime spent playing deadline roulette is this: that annoying little early bird does catch the worm—without stomach cramps, elaborate excuses or pissing off the basketball coach. Right now, today, this wily bird is taking quill in talon and crafting a pretty darn good college essay. Doing it before the Thanksgiving tryptophan lulls, the beer commercials distract, and Uncle Buck’s terrible jokes make you wish you were already ensconced in a college far, far away.
Here’s the deal. Beginning your college applications essays now gives you the opportunity to:
- Have the process over and done with so you can take advantage of the freedoms afforded seniors. Campus is yours. Unless, you’re bogged down by college essay writing woes.
- Familiarize yourself with the personal essay form by reading some sublime first person narratives. Try David Sedaris' essays and these Modern Love pieces from the New York Times. These writers didn’t discover their voice over night and neither will you. But they, I can guarantee, came early and stayed late when it came to writing these stories.
- Make a list of all the possible ways you might answer the prompts. Be daring. Be outrageous. Be honest. Be humble. Readability trumps polysyllabic braggadocio. A tome, both conversational and genuine, is the way to go.
- Study the prompts. Don’t curtail your responses because you believe you are going to be judged on how closely you adhere to what’s being asked. You won’t be. The crafters of these prompts want their cues to set you free so they can get a sense of who you are and how well you will fit into their school community.
- Relax. Take a deep breath. Recall (or create) specific details and sensory images. Powerful, exacting, confident writing will enrich your essays. Admission officers will take notice. Pen one evocative scene and you’ll be remembered amidst the sea of hopefuls.
- Draft. Proofread. Rewrite. Edit. Rewrite. Draft. Proofread. Rewrite. Edit.
- Invite a couple of informed readers to take a look at your work. They will ask questions and see pitfalls you won’t. Don’t ignore them. If they are confused, your ultimate audience will be too. Be patient with yourself and your readers. It’s a process. Honor it.
- Let it sit. This is possibly the greatest gift ‘doing it ahead of time’ gives the early bird writer. A finished essay, returned to after two weeks or so, will have aged. When read again after this dormant period, it will tell you what tweaks and seasonings it still needs.
- Get help if you want or need it. Writing tutors and coaches like me do not hand you magic beans, send you home to plant them and have you pull up ripe, pest-free essays in a few days time. We work beside you, pointing you toward your authentic voice so you can pen well-considered, evocative personal stories. Essays that will impress college admission officers and surprise you.
It’s summertime and the essay writing is easy. Forget about “Hodor" for a minute and dive in. Get started with the common app prompts here.