College-essay advising

Writing is hard, especially when you think your future depends on it.

That’s probably why so many students fill their college essays with important-sounding statements they think will impress admissions people: big, vague declarations (“I want to solve global problems”); discoveries of social conscience (“I learned on my trip to Ethiopia that not everyone is as fortunate as I”); and earnest clichés (“I resolved to be the best that I can be”).

Some students take the opposite tack and end up with what I call the quirk overload. You know, the student who invented an app that tells you how many red M&Ms there are in each packet, or the one who offers a tour of her night table drawer as a map of what matters to her.

My goal is to steer kids around these potential pitfalls by helping them discover their own, unique voice. I believe that getting into college is the hoped-for outcome of a more important process—learning to write authentically, conversationally, and engagingly—and that once kids relax about the ultimate goal, writing college essays doesn’t have to be torture. It might even help them identify a passion they never realized they had, or decide that being pre-med isn’t what they want after all.

If nothing else, at least our future leaders will know how to express a coherent thought and use a comma correctly!

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