This is my first blog of the 2013 college admissions essay season. I hope that you will find the knowledge I share and my insights on the essay writing experience worthy of your time and, ultimately, of value.
Last year, among other work, I wrote a series of blogs called, “Diary of an Application Essay,” consisting of the fictional diary entries of a high school senior as she evolved toward a completed essay. The feedback on the series was positive so this year I’m going to do two. The first is by a fictional student, highly motivated and extremely organized, who begins her Common Application essay during the summer. The second series, which will follow it, will be by a student who is less motivated, and puts off starting his essay until the last minute.
The first student is Mandy Murtaugh from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.
June 24, 2013
My week off between finishing the school year and beginning work on my college admissions essay ended today at 3 PM. So at precisely 3:01, I hung the “Do Not Disturb Under Penalty of Death” sign on my door, and began writing my Common Application essay.
The essay workshop I took at school last month reviewed the five essay prompts on the Common Application and I made a list of topics that I could use for each prompt. The one I liked the most was inspired by the prompt “Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?” I planned to write about Grandpop Walker’s place in Vermont. I was going to talk about spending time there in the summer, right on the shore of Lake Champlain, and how just looking out over the lake lets all the tension flow out of my body. That whatever I’m doing, whether I’m reading a book (or magazine although I wasn’t going to say that) or having a heart to heart talk with my younger sister (which never happens, she barely says hello anymore), it feels like the right thing at that moment. I even looked up the names of some of the birds that migrate over the lake so I could mention them and show how I’m not completely self involved even though I have never been one of those people who can remember the names of birds or trees, those things have always refused to stay in my brain. Then I was going to describe how no matter where I go in my life, I would always find a way to get back to the cabin (I was going to call it that even though it’s five bedrooms). I figured all that would add up to making me sound intelligent and sensitive, the whole package.
Then I started writing and to say things didn’t exactly flow is sort of like saying skiing the double diamonds at Whistler is “kind of tricky.” I am not exaggerating when I say that I could not write one single word! So after googling everyone I know (including my friends parents) and liking about a hundred FB posts (most of them from Ellie Mitchell, I have no idea how she has time to even bathe), I gave up. For today. Tomorrow I will start again from scratch and I will – repeat will – write a brilliant and impressive essay that will get me into Swarthmore, in spite of my scores on the SAT, which has be the stupidest test ever. I have a goal and I will reach it. It is up to me. Writing this essay