Step 1: Get Started.
Preparing the essay is one of the most time-consuming steps aside from actually writing it. A good deal of research, mapping, and picking and choosing events, achievements, struggles, and experiences have to go into this construction prior to writing it. When developing the content, you will need to spend a good amount of time preparing, brainstorming, mapping, and finalizing the approach and content before even writing the essay. While this planning process may take some time, it is still worth the effort, and, in the end, will save you a lot of time from potentially re-drafting, even scrapping and restarting, your essay.
So, let's get you started. Often, that initial start is the hardest step itself. You have all this advice, all these guides and books for reference, friends and family also giving you information. Now, where to go with all that? This is why so many guides state to allot yourself plenty of time to prepare. It's the initial steps and drafts that take the longest amount of time. Your mind may be on overload, or it may be totally blank. That's okay. Close your eyes, you have a blank canvas that belongs completely to you. A blank canvas is just that, free of any clutter, markings or input from any other source. Now, begin envisioning a picture of yourself, your skills, your talents, your achievements on that canvas.
How will you manifest that picture of yourself into reality? Here's how:
The best way to start is to keep a journal from the beginning of high school onwards. A personal journal that captures your experiences, achievements, struggles and challenges will save you a ton of time and energy when you need all that information now. Through time, you may have forgotten details, emotions, images, sensations--so keeping a journal and writing these down when they are fresh is the best way to get yourself started.
Didn't start a journal? That's okay- you can begin now. This is why time is needed to prepare this essay and application. More time is needed in prepping, gathering, picking and choosing experiences and achievements, consolidating, capturing emotions and images, than writing the final draft of the essay itself!
When you begin this personal journal, start by jotting down some key experiences and challenges. Work your way backwards in time, start with the freshest, most recent experiences. Capture and jot down images, emotions, struggles, challenges, failures, frustrations, major highs, and explain how they may connect with or trigger your own desires, passions, and personality. Keep this journal handy because spurts of memory will come to you when you least expect it. Jot it down as soon as possible. Even use your phone and voice record or type your thoughts so you can put them into the journal later.
When you're actually ready to prepare the first draft, go back to this journal and start looking for patterns in your experiences and achievements, in your passions and personality. Pick, consolidate, and choose what to include for a start. You can always pick other points later.
- Be Yourself. Don't Force It.
Thousands of students are writing their college admissions and supplemental essays; all of you are competing with each other to stand out and win the acceptance to the college of your choice. Naturally, the temptation to create a running list of your achievements is great. But this is a pitfall. To do so would risk creating a boastful, arrogant tone and approach and, what I call, a Resume Narrative design. This will cast your essay into the mediocre pile. To stand out involves revealing yourself--stressing on the word 'reveal'. Don't force yourself on to the admissions officer, be natural, be yourself, with your trials, tribulations, flaws, quirks, and maybe even offbeat quirks.
Step 2: Refine the Focus.
Now that you have hopefully taken the time to review your personal journal and you’ve created some columns with jotted notes about the experiences you wish to include, focus on the prompt. You will have several prompts to choose from and your mind will race with ideas and thoughts to determine which prompt you will ultimately address. So make sure to schedule a good deal of time and effort into this process because writing it will move faster than if you didn't. If you don't, you will find yourself backtracking a lot, losing and wasting time, procrastinating, and pressurizing yourself to the final days to meet the submission deadline.
First you must look at the prompt and dissect it. Determine what they are looking for. But remember, no matter the prompt, the ultimate purpose is showcase yourself, your personality, your passions, and, through that, your achievements and growth.
Before you begin your first draft, following these steps and the exercises that follow later in the book will help.
Prompts can usually be broken down into specific categories. Such prompts will usually focus on:
o Your background, talent, or interest
o Your accomplishment, event, or key moment/epiphany/realization
o Solving a problem
o Lessons learned from obstacles or failures
o Your belief or idea that was challenged or met with obstacles or resistance
o Your passion
o A topic that captivates you, engulfs and engrosses you to the point of searching for more, learning more, devoting yourself wholly to it.
o Anything you want
In all these types of prompts, there are two things admissions officers are looking for: what was the outcome and how did you grow from it?