Essay Writing is Hard – Compared to Playing Video Games

Consider all the things you have read, all the assignments you have done and all the places you have seen in the last ten years or so. What if you had written all those things down? The paper would fill a closet. So you are telling me that you can’t come up with 650 words to respond to a general prompt about something in your life… Tell that to someone more gullible than me because my response is “bull”.

All the research tells us that teens need more sleep than any other age group. Some teens will stay in bed until afternoon if no one complains loudly enough. But tell that same teen that the family is leaving for Disney Land in the morning and they will wake up the roosters the next day. We make time for the things that are important to us and we work hard at the things we like. Even if we don’t like to write, most people enjoy talking about themselves. The majority of individuals will even embellish their stories in order to appear a little larger than life. So why is the essay portion of college applications a major sticking point? After watching this scenario repeat itself for some 15 years, I believe that it has to do with fear of the unknown and how much students hate to make mistakes. Competitive students who are college-bound are used to being right. They often have a chance to consult reference materials, friends, family and teachers to make sure that they have all their ducks in a row. The college essay is an unknown. No one has given them instruction or provided an evaluation so that they can measure their capability for success at this new task; an obscure list of prompts is dropped in front of them with a one-word instruction. “Write.”

My advice is, don’t overthink the essay. Read the prompt carefully, select one circumstance that is an appropriate response and begin writing. Consider the one thing you want the admissions committee to remember about you once they finish your essay and tell them a good story about that thing. It’s OK to use supporting information but don’t stray too far from the focus of your essay. Also, abandon the thesis statement and formal conclusion. Start in the middle of your story and bring the reader up to speed as you go. Your conclusion is how you will use the things you learned in college and in your career. Happy writing…

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