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Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Why Writing an Admission Essay is So Hard
For young high school students, the hardest part of the personal statement is coming up with material to include in it. Young people worry that they lack the life experience necessary to sell themselves in an admission essay. Not necessarily true. The personal statement does not need to be stuffed full of accomplishments. The best admission essay is simple but introspective. This piece of advice sounds self-evident, but it is exceedingly difficult. Here's why.
Students struggling with their admission essay know that they are competing against thousands of other students with the same goal. It follows that their admission essay has to stand out from the rest. In the mind of a nervous college applicant, standing out becomes synonymous with being the best/fastest/smartest/first/most unique and so on. So desperate are they to stand out, that they'll share their misfortunes-again hoping to be the most perseverant and so on. The fact is, in the race of life, there will always be some people ahead of us and some behind us. To an admissions officer, a self-congratulatory press release or a maudlin sob story starts to seem beside the point.
The admission essay prompt will essentially ask you what you want to do and why. Try turning this around on yourself, by saying, 'what will happen if I don't achieve this goal, and why?' Ask yourself questions like these: When was I last really sad? Scared? Angry? Confused? Excited? Hopeful? Think about who you are really setting your goals for and why. Then be honest. Maybe you want to make lots of money. Maybe you're trying to keep someone else happy. Maybe you're not sure.
Try giving up on the idea of handing the admissions officer the answer they are looking for. They aren't looking for you to figure them out. They're looking for you to figure yourself out. That is what makes an admission essay hard to write and the only way to start it is to take a hard look at the person staring back at you in the mirror.
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