The Common Application launched yesterday, allowing hundreds of thousands of students to create their accounts and begin applying to colleges around the country. The essay portion of the Common App requires the most planning, the deepest thought, and the hardest work. But before you start drafting your essays, it can be helpful to take a step back and reflect on who you are, what you care about, and the message you want to send to the admission officers who will read your essay.
I always tell my students that their essay topic must be internally motivated: it should be something you write for yourself, not something you manufacture for the sake of your dream school. If your approach is to try and figure out what a student who gets accepted to College X would write, you’ve defeated the purpose of the college essay. I just want to get to know you, not some fictitious person. And considering that during an admissions period I might read up to 5,000 essays (and then multiply this number by 28 years), I have learned to easily spot an essay that is not sincere, that is not a passionate topic for the student, or that isn’t something that truly defines the individual.