writenowcollege

How do YOU define yourself?

Bold and brave is the only way to describe Lizzie Velasquez. Born with a rare, rare syndrome (only she and another person today have it) that prevents any fat from building up in her body, she has unbounded confidence and courage. When she discovered an 8-second video online proclaiming her the ugliest woman in the world along with thousands of nasty, snarky messages she was understandably crushed–for a moment. She dug in and turned her anger and sorrow into a fierce, focused determination to define herself by her achievements, not her appearance. A college degree, four books and career as a motivational speaker are just the start. Her TED Austin Women talk is inspiring. Take a listen to Lizzie’s inspiring TEDx Austin Women talk, then ask: How do You define yourself?

Get Focused

You can’t rush great writing. That’s when work gets sloppy and trade-offs are made. Like every other creative endeavor, focus and planning can make the whole process smoother. Here are some tips:

  • If you plan to apply to 7 – 12 schools (the average range), you should plan on investing 90 -100 hours total time to complete your applications.
  • Applying to more schools? Add more time to the block.
  • Fewer schools? Reduce the estimate a bit, but there’s no simple math for calculating the average time per application.
  • While some of the essays can be used for multiple schools, a good chunk of your time will be spent gathering school-specific information and brainstorming ideas.
  • Avoid the temptation to start writing and get the whole thing over with. One of the best ways to save time in the long-run is to invest a bit of time upfront to explore ideas and topics.
  • Most candidates invest about 10% of their total application time on upfront items like identifying a topic or story for their long essay and making some rough notes and 90% on the actual writing and editing. Increasing your PREP work by a factor of 3x will make your writing and editing process more efficient and effective.

 

Want more advice? Check out Write Now! Essential Tips for Standout College Essays.


 

Take a Hike

If you’re in a funk and your writing is stuck, take a break and move. Time away and increasing your heart rate will help reinvigorate your writing. Steve Jobs held walking meetings; Mark Zuckerburg at Facebook does, too. Henry Thoreau, author of Walden, claimed his thoughts—and writing— began to flow “the moment my legs began…

Discovery is Key

To standout, your essay—your story—should be anchored by an element of self discovery. Change needs to happen, action taken, conflicts resolved, lessons learned, all with you at the center of it. It’s the action, emotion and element of surprise that draws the reader in, fires up the brain and forges a connection with you, the story teller.

Personal narrative may be a new writing style for you. Think of the essay like a conversation with a new friend. It’s a good way to get started with the right voice—your voice.

Write Now! Tips

> Conflict in life can be troubling, something we try to avoid. In a personal narrative, it’s conflict—or discovery—that propels the reader forward. Embrace it.

> Share the highs and lows, what you learned, how and why you were disappointed, moments of tension—and resolution.

> Go beyond surface details. Your essays need to be uniquely yours.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 1.37.51 PMA book on punctuation on the NYTimes best seller list? Believe it, the book is that good. If you need a go-to reference book on all things commas, periods and semi-colons, Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynn Truss is your guide. As you’re proofing your essays, double checking grammar, punctuation (and more) is a must. The only downside–it’s hardcopy only, no e-book version available.

 

Own It

By definition, the personal essay is your story, not your counselor’s, your parents’ or your teachers’; it’s yours to own. Admissions officers are smart. Many read thousands of essays each year. Because your writing skills and style come through in other parts of your application, including your grades and test scores, they’re highly tuned to when…

What’s Your Story?

blossoming pink sacura tree isolated on white backgroundTo standout, your essay—your story—should be anchored by an element of self discovery. Change needs to happen, action taken, conflicts resolved, lessons learned, all with you at the center of it. It’s the action, emotion and element of surprise that draws the reader in, fires up the brain and forges a connection with you, the story teller. In fact, it’s the details and how you choose to convey them that makes the narrative uniquely yours. If another candidate can share the same experience, thoughts and feelings, you haven’t revealed enough about yourself. Awkward as it may feel, you need to go deeper.

Write Now! Tips

> Conflict in life can be troubling, something we try to avoid. In a personal narrative, it’s conflict—or discovery—that propels the reader forward. Embrace it. Share the highs and lows, what you learned, how and why you were disappointed, moments of tension—and resolution.

> Go beyond surface details. A good litmus test: If another applicant could share the same story, rework your writing and add in more detail and personal feelings.

> Think of the essay like a conversation with a new friend. It’s a good way to get started with the right voice—your voice.