Advice on Writing a College Essay

Eric Hsieh, Editor-In-Chief

I sit hunched over my desk and stare at a blank Google doc. The blinking cursor and desolate white screen taunt me as I try in vain to come up with some ideas for my personal statement. Luckily, after days and days of constant deliberation, I finally knew what I was going to write about, an essay about the influence of my culture on my biggest passion: soccer.

The personal statement is 650 word essay with the purpose of showing the college admissions committee who you are as a person. People are more than just numbers. Test scores and GPA are important, but they don’t reveal much about who you are as a person. So, the personal statement is your chance to stand out and share your unique perspective of the world.

Although writing this may seem like a daunting challenge, at Delbarton, there are a multitude of resources to help guide you. By far one of the most important is Mr. Currie, an English teacher who teaches AP Literature to seniors and is the appointed teacher to help with any kind of writing for college. I was fortunate to be able to interview Mr. Currie during this “crunch” period, and he shared some very helpful advice that I summarized in five main points.

(1) Pick the right topic

You should think deeply and reflect on your own life experiences. You also shouldn’t be afraid to write about things that have been challenging and have taken you outside of your comfort zone. Most importantly, be genuine.

(2) Use the right style

Unlike history or English papers, you should be more personal in this essay. This includes first and second person, contractions, and switching between the past and present.

(3) Have a good structure

Think of this essay as a story. A good structure many students use is starting off in the present tense, switching back into the past, and then bookending the narrative with the present again.

(4) Share your essay with other people (but not too many)

Oftentimes, we do not catch our own mistakes, whether they be grammatical or thematic. You should have two to three people read the essay, not including the college guidance counselors. However, if too many people read the essay, then there might be confusion and contradicting advice.

(5) Start early

In our conversation, Mr. Currie stressed this the most. The earlier you can start the better. You should not wait until September of your senior year to begin writing, but rather, take a few minutes every day of the summer break to chip away at it.

Now seems the most apt time than ever for me to write this article. Almost the entire senior class is on edge, eagerly awaiting early decision and/or early action decisions to come back mid-December. While it is certainly good to get into a top college, it’s not the end all be all. No one can control the future, but we can ready ourselves for success.