The starter pistol sounded when the Common Application essay prompts were released a few weeks ago. High School juniors all over the county have begun straining their brains in an attempt to write the perfect essay. That’s the first mistake. There is no perfect essay because there is no way to know who will evaluate the application file. What may be perfection for one admission counselor may fall flat with another.
Instead of pursuing perfection, deliver what the prompt asks of you. Just about every prompt I have seen over the past 11 years has multiple parts. First, seek to understand. That is good advice whether you are arguing with someone or preparing to write a college application essay. Once you get a clear picture of the question, your response can be given with confidence.
“But I don’t know what to write…” Wait a minute, this is an essay asking your opinion about something in your life. If not you, who would know what to write? This is a symptom of anxiety because the stakes seem so high. Bring it down a notch and breathe. If I ask you to tell me your favorite color an image would immediately spring to mind. My answer to that question would be blue. Of course there are all kinds of blue. If someone wanted more detailed information about my favorite blue, the conversation would likely turn to descriptions of blue instead of industry approved names – because I don’t know those names.
You essay writers need to follow a course of action that is just this simple. “What was the environment in which you were raised?” Many essay prompts have some form of this question. Don’t tell me you don’t know anything about the environment around you. What about this environment has caused you to form some of the opinions you have about life? Don’t sit there staring at your computer screen like you have been hit over the head with a mallet. What comes to mind when you think about your environment? Home life, school, work, activities (school, community, family), church, friends – all of these things influence you. Just start jotting down anything that comes to mind. Once those flashes of memory about these things starts to slow down, pick a few of the most memorable ones out and see how well they fit with the rest of the prompt. Now, you have your topic and the stress has eased a bit. It’s really not rocket science, just write…