Starting an essay is always the hardest part. The blessing and the curse of an admissions essay is that the topic is incredibly broad. You have to discuss your past, present, and future all in less than 650 words. Fortunately, by approaching the topic in a structured manner you can quickly determine what gets to take up precious essay real estate.
Step 1: Brainstorm your topic
– Write out your essay ideas on post it notes and then group the post it notes based on the theme of the story
– Think about which themes apply to the essay the most and then toss the rest
– Rank the stories within each theme from top to bottom
– Grab some friend, tell them the essay question and the top story to each theme and see which stories they think highlight you the best
– You have your topic/top topics!
Step 2: Figure out the flow
Sometimes, the story you thought would work so well, doesn’t work when you start detailing it. Good stories have a clear beginning, middle, and end with sign posts throughout to tell the reader where he/she is headed. To check if your story flows, write out the structure of the essay using this form.
Topic sentence 1:
Bullet points for the paragraph
Topic sentence 2:
Bullet points for the paragraph:
Step 3: Obtain peer review
Grab a different set of friends and ask them to look through the structure. The benefit of having the structure is that it’s difficult to hide a bad story without being able to use flowery language, Ask the following questions:
– Does it address the essay question?
– Does the story make sense?
– Can you see how paragraph 1 is connected to paragraph 2 and so on?
– Which sections of the story do you want to know more about?
– What is the impression you’re left with after reading this structure?
At this point, you should have a really good idea of whether or not the story you picked is suitable. If the answer is no, that’s ok. Start at step 1 again. The whole process should be a relatively quick and easy one and will save you the pain of starting fresh when you’re chest deep in to the essay.
It’s that time of the year when the heat starts to cool and the heady days of summer begin to feel like a dream. Along with the changing fall foliage come the abundance of ‘back-to-school’ guides both in print and online, bracing students, new and old, for the end of long days out in the sun and the start of longer days in the library. While no single college experience is ‘typical’, it’s sometimes comforting to have a peek of what’s to come – and this is my recollection of the first few months of college a long time ago.
I remember the excitement. There is definitely a genuine pleasure in physically being in the school you worked so hard to be part of. Getting off the bus being greeted by the ever-smiling volunteers, it almost felt like all those hours of anxiety and uncertainty and inadequacy were finally banished – that I have indeed arrived. That smugness wore off very quickly once lectures started, but let yourself bask in that warm glow of achievement, you worked for this and you deserve every bit of excitement those first few days.
More than the fear of not doing well in college, I think the fear of not making friends was another preoccupation. After travelling thousands of miles to a city many of us have only been in for a few hours (if at all), making new friends seemed almost impossible at first. But I think it’s worth remembering that almost everyone there is new: just like you, they have been uprooted from a life they know well into a new one and they too are looking to share their experience with new friends and acquaintances. Cast away the insecurity; smile and just say hello – I found that there was only one secret to making friends; being friendly yourself.
For all the guides and tips that one can read, there is certainly no fool-proof, sure-fire manual to enjoy starting college. I was lucky enough to have exceedingly supportive friends and family who reminded me that the transition to college life was a big one and it was okay to be insecure and unsure of what to expect. Looking back, those days of being home-sick, of feeling alone while being in crowds, the crippling fear that I didn’t deserve my spot – these were the same emotions that help us all grow and feel comfortable in our own skin.
But more than anything else trust me on this...the good times, they will be awesome.
College, Graduate School, and Career Coaching.