Tips for Conquering the Toughest Part of Your College Essay- Getting Started

The myOptions Team

Crafting the perfect college essay can be one of the most daunting tasks of your application, but it shouldn’t be.

Your test scores and GPA provide little indication of your true character, so the essay is your time to shine and tell your story. Many students find themselves lacking inspiration and at a loss for where to begin. To overcome that hurdle, we have provided some tips to get your creative juices flowing.

Get inspired.

Pick up a book or read some blogs. Highlight lines that resonate with you and jot down a few ideas behind why they resonated with you. Reading someone else’s stories can spark your own ideas and imagination. It can also help reaffirm the basics of good writing and provide you some style inspiration. If reading isn't your thing, browse Ted Talks for some inspo.

Write (or review) your resume.

Your resume should be an autobiography of all of your accomplishments, so take some time to either review or create your resume. This will allow you to recall all of the awesome experiences you have - whether it be employment, extracurricular, or academic. As you assess your achievements, you may even come across an experience that can serve as the foundation of a great essay. Plus, it’s really important to always have a well-written and up-to-date resume so this can be a win-win.

Check out sample essays.

Often times, it’s useful to see how other individuals approached a task you’re struggling with. Their execution can certainly inspire your own. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should adapt an existing essay to meet your needs. Many admissions offices do use to ensure your submission is truly YOUR masterpiece.

Make a list!

Make a list of your strengths, unique life experiences, places you’ve traveled, and things you love. This is a great self-discovery activity to show you your own uniqueness and give you tidbits to incorporate into your essay to ensure its’ authenticity. Experiment with how you record your ideas, try hand-writing this list, typing it, or even using voice to text to see which method helps the ideas flow most naturally for you.

Try free association.

Free association is a fantastic brainstorming exercise because it really allows you to tap into your unconscious. Begin with any random word and just see where your train of thought takes you. Don’t fret over spelling or whether you’re choosing the “right” word. Simply let yourself write. You’ll likely start to notice some recurring themes. Be open because these premises might just lead you somewhere.

Keep on, keepin' on.

Don’t kill your own vibe by censoring yourself. Every idea is valid and can be tweaked to perfection. If you continually judge and doubt your work, you’ll quickly end up derailed. Allow yourself to simply write. Openness and relaxation will lead to insight.

Step away from your essay.

Yep, you heard that right. Staring at a blank screen or page isn’t helpful for your essay progress or your eyes for that matter. Writer’s block is real; check out tips for conquering it here. Don’t just sit at your desk letting the stress build, get up and move around. Tackle some other homework, go for a walk, chat with a friend. Time away from your beloved essay allows for a mental reboot. You’ll return feeling refreshed and ready to own your essay.

Two or more heads are better than one.

Once you have an initial draft of your essay, get feedback. If you have teachers who offer help with college essays-take it! Another idea a myOptions user suggested is to create a Facebook group or utilize google drive to share your essays with a few trusted friends for review so you can get feedback from multiple perspectives.

Your college essay will always be a work in progress. There will be countless revisions and versions that it will take. Be open to the possibility of new ideas and perspectives that may come to you several drafts in. You have been gathering the content for this your whole life, so remember the story is already there and ready to be written. Take these tips and enjoy the process of bringing your amazing story to life. Happy writing!

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