There are two common mistakes that students often make with college essays. Mistake 1: writing about how a situation defined them rather than how they defined a situation. Mistake 2: writing a strong statement in and of itself that fails to effectively show the purpose and meaning of their accomplishments—that is, the “why” and “how” behind the “what.” For us, strong college essays aren’t just moving personal memoirs or ambitious statements of intent.
They’re both, and they’re something more as well: frameworks to understand the underlying narrative of the rest of the application in terms of what a student has done, is doing, and will do at college and in life. We’re always glad to work with and defer to outside college consultants who can support students in finding and pursuing their own narratives throughout high school. If you are not working with a college consultant, however, we can help with the essay process to effectively frame your narrative through the personal statement and supplements.
A Guide to the Common App College Essay
College essays should be three things: memorable, relevant, and personal. Here’s how.
College Essays: Choosing a Topic
How to pick a topic based on the narrative you can tell — and the narrative the essay tells about you.
College Essay: Framing Your Topic
5 rules to follow to ensure your college essay is framing the rest of your application effectively.
College Essays: Structuring the Essay
A strong college essay will typically have four narrative pivot points. These are the four — with options for organizing them.
College Essay: Key Writing Techniques
Four literary techniques your college essay should employ to condense language and tell your story through a few, spare details.