Let’s Finish That College Essay



By Marcia Cowan, Essay Guru and overall exceptional writer, lawyer, college coach, and renaissance woman.

Lee Norwood is the Director of Student Success and always adds a dose of humor and reality to this otherwise stressful endeavor.

It is time to get your Personal Statement for your college applications behind you! We can help you kick out interesting, unique, highly readable essays sure to get an extended look from college admissions officers. More information on ACC’s essay services follows this blog post. In the meantime, here are some of our most common FAQs regarding college essays.

Does it matter which prompt I use?

Many essays will easily fit into more than one prompt. But what’s more important is to read the prompt carefully to be sure you understand what the college is asking for in terms of content. That said, it doesn’t matter which prompt you use. LEE’S TIP: DON’T REPEAT THE PROMPT- JUMP IN AND GO

I’m only 17. I haven’t had any earth-shattering events happen in my life. How do I figure out what to write about?

Schools don’t expect you to write about events of global importance. But they do want to learn about such things as how you view the world, the values that you cherish, and how you deal with challenges. We use a variety of brainstorming techniques to help our students come up with a topic. You could do this on your own by writing a list of your values and beliefs, identifying the most important keepsakes in your bedrooms, or making a list of challenges you’ve faced and how you solved them. Undertaking these brainstorming techniques can help you have an “aha!” moment when you find and focus on a topic that’s meaningful to you. LEE’S TIP- WHAT COOL TRAITS OR ADVOCACY OR IDEAS ARE YOU PLANNING TO BRING TO THE SCHOOL

Are there any subjects I shouldn’t write about?

Some college counselors will urge you not to write about issues that can provoke negative feelings in the reader, such as death, mental illness, or physical frailties. But if handled carefully and sensitively, and with a positive tone, such topics can have a strong impact on the reader. This is particularly true if you can show what you learned from these challenges. LEE’S TIP: IF YOU ARE GOING TO WRITE ABOUT A SETBACK OR SAD STORY- IT BETTER BE SOMETHING I HAVE NEVER READ BEFORE.

What am I supposed to be showing colleges in my essays?

The college essay is an opportunity to differentiate yourself from other candidates. If you’re applying to selective schools, it’s the one thing that will make you stand out from others. Don’t write about something that will otherwise be in your college application, such as your clubs or leadership roles, unless you have a hook to make that topic vastly more illuminating about yourself. And colleges also want to know you write well, so make sure your essay is well-organized, interesting, and error-free. LEE’S TIP: YOU HAVE 20 SECONDS TO TELL ME 3 COMPELLING THINGS ABOUT YOU- GO…DO THEY MAKE YOU STAND OUT FROM THE OTHERS I WILL SEE TODAY?

Should I use the entire 650-word limit for the Common App?

Yes. Why not? When you are passionate about something, you most likely cannot shut up.  This is one of the few opportunities you will have to “wow” the college admission counselors. Most colleges aren’t conducting interviews these days, and many of your peers will have comparable GPAs and scores to yours. Use every available word to make yourself stand out from the crowd! LEE’S TIP- THIS IS SOMETHING TO BE EXCITED ABOUT. IF YOUR ESSAY TOPIC DOES NOT EXCITE YOU, WRITE THE SUPPLEMENTALS FIRST AND SEE IF YOUR BRAIN LOOSENS UP A BIT.

Annapolis College Consulting has an expert Essay Resource Team that can help you develop Personal Statements and Essays that will make you stand out. We offer half-day clinics, and hourly and comprehensive essay packages. Click here for our Essay Guide. Click here for more information on our essay offerings.