College applications are hard enough, but the kicker is the personal essay. Carol Barash, founder of STUDY2, is helping all students, and especially those living in poverty, to get those applications done. One key to college admission is the college essay. It brings all the other parts together. But, the essay does not have to be a stopper. It does not have to be a great specimen of academic writing. Colleges are really looking for a student’s voice and personality. They are looking for authenticity, and that can help you get into college no matter where you went to high school or how average your scores and grades are. The best way to get that essay done and do it well is to tell your story.
Here are some suggestions that Barash makes to students she is helping. Perhaps they can help you too.
1. Take time to reflect about who you are. Yes, take the time.
2. Consider changes in your life and pinpoint the specific moment or moments of that change.
3. Focus on one.
4. Don’t analysis it; it’s too distancing.
5. Write the essence of this moment(s) in 140 characters for a tweet. This will help you know where you are going with your experience and idea.
6. Then actually tell the story of what happened. Tell it aloud and record it. Tell it with as many sensory details you can use: smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing.
7. Once you have recorded you story, take time to write out your story using the recording as a framework. The ending should not have to explain what you’re showing about yourself (Keep away from analysis.). The essay, standing by itself, should demonstrate what/who you are.
8. Don’t think a first draft is adequate. Give your first writing time. Read it to yourself, aloud, and to others. Then revise it and hone it. Make sure it sounds like you are talking, as in your recording.
With these steps, maybe you can get started and get a sense of how to let admissions people know who you are. That person could be someone they really want on their campus, in their dorms, and in their classrooms.
You can go to the Washington Post article about Barash to read some college essays she shares as good examples.