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How can a current junior start preparing to write college essays?

maashamaasha Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
As someone who is pretty bad at reflective writing and personal narratives, is there anything I can do to prepare for writing college essays? Any books, websites, activities that might help?

Replies to: How can a current junior start preparing to write college essays?

  • shoot4moonshoot4moon Registered User Posts: 1,265 Senior Member
    Have you started making an informal list of schools that are intriguing? Large public schools tend to not have many essay requirements, but public schools do not. You could consider opening up a common app account now, and reviewing what the essays might look like. Most schools have a “why this school”essay, if you write down thoughts before and after a visit, you will on your way on these. It also helps you remember details of each one. If you apply to a variety of private schools, you will do one Common App essay that is submitted to all of them. You should be able to see the prompts for this year now, with next year’s showing up in July or August. Hope this is helpful!!!
  • ninakatarinaninakatarina Registered User Posts: 1,411 Senior Member
    There are two possible reasons you might not be good at reflective writing. Either you're bad at writing, or you haven't reflected enough.

    There's an old joke in New York - a tourist asks, how do you get to Carnegie Hall? The passer-by says, practice!

    The way to become good at writing personal narrative is to practice. Keep a journal. Follow shoot4moon's advice and write some essays for colleges following this year's prompts.

    If you have trouble getting started, here's a method I've recommended. Sit down at your computer, open a word processing program, and just write. Don't worry about flow or narrative or grammar or paragraphs or keeping to a single thought, just write something stream of consciousness about yourself and don't stop until you've filled up at least a couple of pages. Set a timer if you have to, and tell yourself that you're going to keep typing no matter what.

    Once you're done with the exercise, put that document away, then go back to it a few days later and edit it down.

    Being good at personal narrative is a skill, and it is one that can be developed with practice. The trick is to shut down your internal editor who sits over your shoulder and tells you what you are writing is crap, or what you are writing isn't what the audience wants to hear. Find a way to make the editor shut up - give yourself permission to write crap because you have to get the crap out of the way before you get to the good stuff.

    A famous author once said that you have to write a million words of crap before you write your first good book, and the secret to creating publishable material is to get that crap out of the way quickly. So be prepared to review some of your writing practices and say that there's nothing worth salvaging in there. It's fine, you've gotten that crap out of the way, you can move on.

    If you are a good writer but you don't think that there's anything interesting you can say about yourself, you need to practice reflection. Create some time and space in your life to do some deep reflection. Meditation is good for some people, for others a hiking trip with companions who aren't chatty might work, for others yoga or walking through the neighborhood could work. Usually you want to have some mild repetitive physical activity and you don't want the distractions of other minds. Ask yourself who you are, keep asking. Ask yourself what you want, and keep asking why you want that.

    And be honest. You can't write a good personal essay about why you want to go to Stanford if the only reason you're applying is to make your mom happy and you'd really be happier at a tiny college in the woods. You won't be happy at a place that's famous for its laid-back vibe if what really makes you happy is competing and winning. Once you know these things about yourself, solidly, then it becomes easier to write them. And nothing sells like sincerity.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 9,851 Senior Member
    You are a junior. I would say not to worry about this yet. You can write your essays next fall. By all means work hard at writing in your classes, in order to learn for life not for admissions essays- and as the months go by certain topics may occur to you. I promise you some of the best topics are about very ordinary things. They can be simple and straightforward. And in the end the essays aren't always that important in admissions overall. By next fall you will be more mature and have more to say...so try to enjoy junior year!!
  • rickle1rickle1 Registered User Posts: 1,266 Senior Member
    @ninakatrina, has great ideas!. You need to just "empty your bucket" without concern of structure, grades, criticism, etc. Free form equals free flow. Just let it pour out. You'll find it's actually fun to do that and you'll likely gain energy once you get started (starting is the hardest part).

    When it's time to edit, EDIT ( not just words and sentences, ideas. Don 't be married to anything)

    If your school has an AP Lang class, they may help you practice college essays. If not, ask an English teacher if s/he can review things for you form time to time. Good ones will appreciate your interest in their world.
  • AroundHereAroundHere Registered User Posts: 3,590 Senior Member
    Keep a diary-- write a paragraph or two about a slice of your life each day.

    Once every couple months, go back and flag the days where something important or impactful happened that might be good for an essay.
  • SoybalzSoybalz Registered User Posts: 22 Junior Member
    Three things that will help. One is to set up a test account for the Common App (commonapp.org). This will help you understand what colleges are looking for. You can add colleges to your app and they will list what your essay options are. Another thing I would do is to google successful essay samples. There are thousands out there that can help you understand how applicants approached their essay. Lastly, you must send your essay to strong writers that you know for their editing. You do not want to send in an essay that is weak or full of grammatical and spelling errors.
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