Over the years, I’ve heard almost every imaginable complaint and concern about writing college application essays.
Like most common fears, they are almost all in your head.
That doesn’t mean they don’t feel real.
But if you can realize that a lot of your success will depend on not psyching yourself out, and staying calm and focused, you can then get to work.
Map out a writing plan.
Pound out a rough draft.
Before you know it, you will have a knock-out essay!
If it helps, here are the top five essay fears, phobias and concerns I’ve encountered in the seven years I’ve been working with students.
And you know what, they were all proven wrong!
1. I will never think of anything interesting enough to write about that will make my essay stand out and help me get into my dream school.
Truth: You will think of something interesting to write about. But you need to spend some time brainstorming.
I can’t tell you how many students have told me these exact words, and every one of them wrote great essays.
I doubt you will be the first exception. Start brainstorming.
2. There’s nothing impressive about me. I’m just a basic kid who works hard in school and does the same type of activities as everyone else.
Truth: First, you are impressive just because you are a basic kid who works hard in school and participates in activities.
Second, you don’t need to impress anyone with these essays.
Third, the best essays don’t involve “impressive” topics at all. In fact, everyday topics often work the best.
Learn about Mundane Topics.
3. I’m no good at writing.
Truth: There are few students (and even not that many adults) who are good at writing.
Writing is not a gift.
It is a learned skill.
And the reality is that most high school students have had little instruction in writing, especially the type of narrative (storytelling style) essays that work best for college admissions.
So chances are you have as good a chance as almost all other students at writing a terrific essay.
4. I don’t know how to start.
Truth: Yes, you do know how to start. Let me help you.
First, read some sample essays and see what other students have written about. This will give you an idea of possible topics, and how to write in a narrative style. There, you have officially started.
(Note: my new ebook collection of real student college app essays, Heavenly Essays, is available for 99 cents for a limited time, if you want more examples of inspiring narrative essays. See right sidebar.)
5. I mean, I don’t know how to start the actual writing part of my essay.
Truth: That is one of the hardest parts–for ALMOST EVERYBODY on the planet who ever needs to write anything–but not impossible. Writing takes work, and it’s natural to avoid it as long as possible.
This is where you break down the process into doable steps, and don’t focus on the entire undertaking. Just take them one at a time.
First you need to pick a great topic.
I direct my students to find a defining quality and then look for real-life examples (anecdotes) that they can use to illustrate that quality. If this approach appeals to you, try my Jumpstart Guide to get started.
Once you find a topic you are excited about, it won’t be that hard to pick a time to sit down and pound out a rough draft. Just give yourself a half hour to work on it at a time.
A couple sessions and you will be on your way, and possibly done! That’s how you start!
And before you know it, you will be FINISHED with your college application essay!!