I get a lot of students with my college application essay tutoring who fall into the “math/science” end of the learning spectrum.

In general, that means that classes such as Algebra II and Chemistry come relatively easy to them, and English and other humanities not so much.

Many think they are not strong writers and are mortified that their college application essay could pull so much weight in where they get into college.

This just doesn’t seem fair, especially when many of these students have off the charts test scores.

If it helps, I like to think that colleges understand this discrepancy and take the larger picture into consideration when deciding who to accept.

If nothing else, you math/science students should view your essay as a chance to set yourself apart from the pack, and also showcase your balanced personality at the same time.

(I don’t mean to stereotype, but math/science whiz kids sometimes get pegged as not as social or well-rounded as other students. You know, it’s that annoying nerd or geek thing.)

Well, I have great news for you.

After working with hundreds of students over the last six years, I have discovered that the math/science students who claim they can’t write well often churn out the best essays.

Once they get over their aversion to the process, most of them come up with unique topics and write them in a straight forward, engaging style.

Ironically, some of the students from the other side of the divide, especially those who say they want to become writers, struggle much harder and don’t always end up with the best pieces.

Here’s what happens.

Some of those star English students get the wrong idea about “good writing” along the way in high school and believe that they need to write intense, formal academic style essays or super descriptive, flowery essays and forget to just tell their stories in a clear, narrative style.

Most are very bright, talented, motivated and creative students; they just weren’t given the best direction on what makes an effective personal statement.

Once they understand how to think about writing a slice-of-life essay, and let go of some of the old habits, they also produce great essays. (And many will go onto be writers!)

What surprises me is how well the math/science students do.

I think the trick is that they don’t try too hard on their essays, and once they seize upon an idea or story to tell, they just get it out on paper and write more like they talk.

Finally, they let go of their spelling challenges, and don’t worry about working in colorful language, and simply recount what happened to them, and then go onto to explain how they felt, what they thought and what they learned.

The beauty is they can always go back and fix those misspelled words, or add a little color or description.

But they got the meat of the story out on paper, and that’s the hardest part.


Here are some tips if you fall into that math/science category:

  • Don’t be your own worst enemy and shut down on the essay part of your application. Stay positive and work on telling yourself that you will write a great essay.
  • Remember that this essay is your chance to showcase a part of yourself the colleges would not know from the rest of your application. Shoot for projecting balance.
  • If you want to go into a specific field, think of what qualities/strengths you have that you could highlight in your essay, and find a story that shows this quality in action. (If you want to be an engineer, was there a “time” you could recount when you put your logic, or problem-solving or resourcefulness skills into action?)
  • If you can’t think of a good topic–especially one that would showcase how you are a well-balanced individual–read some sample essays. This is the best way to get ideas for both what to write about and how to write it.
  • When you write about anything in the realm of math or science, keep in mind that the person reading your essay most likely will not have the same level of knowledge about your subject (especially it’s technical or highly specialized). So after you pound out a rough draft, go back and make sure you keep your explanation simple and clear, and stay away from a lot of lingo or technical language. If something is technical or complicated, try to explain it in the most basic way you can.
  • Let your logical brain work for you. Writing is a logical process–it’s really thinking on paper–so approach it that way. Take it step by step. Pick a topic. Map out a simple plan. 

Ready to start? Read How to Write a College Application Essay in 3 Steps, and you will be on your way!

Writing these essays is a more level playing field than you think.
As far as I can tell, no one has a huge advantage when it comes to writing a powerful college admissions essay.
Success amounts to spending some time finding a great topic, and then writing your piece in an engaging, narrative (story-telling) style.
The ability to write well is not a gift; it is a skill that just takes determination, time and energy.
Same goes with college application essays.