Writing A College Admissions Essay

Too many college applicants wait until the last minute, then dash off an ill-considered, wordy essay that fails to represent their best work.

Here's a seven-day plan that allows you to think, reflect, write, then polish. It shouldn't take much more than 30 minutes each day. You may find, however, that you'll want to spend more time with your essay because you'll enjoy the process more.

Sunday: Peruse the family albums. Reflect on the special moments in your life.

Monday: Interview family members. Ask them: If Hollywood were doing a movie about my life, who would play me? What scenes would they use? What are your parents' favorite stories about you? What characteristics best define you both early and later in life -- persistent, unconventional, orderly, caring?

Tuesday: Get yourself in the mood to write. Watch a favorite video, play your favorite CDs, visit the art museum. What do these works say to you?

Talk to a friend or family member about an episode or two from your life that you might use in the essay. Watch their eyes. When do they light up? When do they glaze over?

Wednesday: Start writing. Get at least ten paragraphs down on paper. Don't be too concerned if your piece sounds dumb. You can work with it tomorrow.

Thursday: Finish your first draft. Refine it. Then sleep on it.

Friday: Does your piece sound like you? Read it aloud. Can you get through each sentence without stumbling?

Saturday: Show your piece to a family member and a friend. Avoid asking them for a general evaluation. Ask them which parts they liked best. Why? Which parts seemed to drag? Adjust accordingly. But don't do it to please them. Please yourself.

Writer's Block? Click here.