As this application year winds down, I have spent some time thinking about the hundreds of essays I have assisted students with this year. I have seen some start out rivaling an adult professional writing piece to some that looked like a 4th grade tale of an outing with friends. Believe it or not, there is a reason for this vast difference in quality and it’s not writing skills — it’s experiences.
What I want to share is, start early. Students who volunteer a lot, travel a lot (doesn’t have be costly, join clubs and build into their community learn more about themselves, develop lifelong skills and create compelling stories.
I now suggest, to the students I get prior to end of Junior year, to keep a journal and every time they volunteer or travel or life situations knock them for a loop, to write a short entry on it. Students should include what, where, when, how they feel about it and if it impacted them in any way. Lastly, if appropriate, what they did in response.
If students keep these response essays in a folder, come college application essay time senior year, they will find it much easier to have great topics and memories (with feeling attached) to pull from.