Introducing a New Live Admissions Essay Online Workshop!

Introducing a New Live Admissions Essay Online Workshop!

I try to help every student who reaches out to me, but I’m a one-woman business and have to limit who I work with to make sure everyone gets the most personalized attention. But all that changes next month because...

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I’m introducing two affordable live classes this summer! Best part? I will cater to your schedules, so please let me know your timing preferences in the Google Form below.

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4 Writing Tips I Used For My Business Insider Essay

The Hollywood cheating scandal has caused widespread outrage—and for good reason. I wrote about the issues inherent in the college-industrial complex for Business Insider, from my perspective as both an admissions essay guru and as a senior who went through the application process myself. 

Though my essay is more op-ed than personal statement, I thought it would still be helpful to share the writing techniques I used to help you with your personal essay:

1) Set A Time Limit For Your First Draft

When the article was originally assigned to me, the editor gave me a strict deadline: 4 pm that day. The problem? It was already 12:30 pm. Normally, I would procrastinate until the last hour, but surprisingly, the rush nature actually helped me. After breaking out in a cold sweat, I started writing immediately. I actually wasn’t able to procrastinate because there wasn’t any time to. I knew the more I put it off, the worse off I would be since the best writing needs time for revisions. I also stuck by my motto that has been with me since senior year of high school: Write now. Revise later. Fun fact: my original opening was rewritten four times. I came up with a more personal intro at first and had no way of knowing how to connect it to the greater cheating story, but sometimes you have to start writing to figure out where the story will take you. Create this same time crunch for yourself - set an alarm for an hour and see what happens. Remember that it will be a rushed rough draft and that’s ok: that’s the whole point. You need a starting point that you can edit later.

2) Try Writing On Something Other Than Your Laptop

Real talk: I didn’t start the assignment on my laptop or even using my standing desk. I took out my phone, opened my Notes app, and started typing the story on the couch. There was something freeing about using this informal medium that allowed me to keep writing and prevented me from descending into a writer’s block of anxiety. I highly recommend starting your essay informally, whatever that means to you: maybe you write an unpublished post on your Instagram or use pen and paper in the back of your geometry notebook. Either way works because the informal nature of both tricks your brain into thinking this is no big deal and you don’t go into stress overdrive. 

3) Put It Away For a Few Days (At Least)

Spoiler alert: the 4pm deadline came and went as I was frantically editing my draft that was literally double the word count he gave me. (Yes, even professional writers struggle with these things!). I ended up turning it in too late for it to run that day, but that ended up being a blessing since I had the weekend to keep working on it. So did I write and rewrite for three days straight? Nope. That doesn’t really help, actually. You need to give yourself a break from your draft in order to edit the essay with fresh eyes. I knew I would see the piece in a new light if I took a few days away from it, so I spent most of my weekend thinking of everything but the essay. 

4) Ask No More Than 3 Trusted People to Edit It  

After taking my scheduled quarantine from the essay, I began to revise it. The few days away helped me brainstorm solutions to what wasn’t working since I had a fresh perspective on the piece. Once I got it to the best place I thought I could take it, I shared it with a few key writers who I trusted for feedback. Keep in mind that I built in time for addressing these concerns and making sure they had enough time to review it. There is such a thing as “too many cooks” with writing, so really be thoughtful about who you share your draft with. Getting too many edits from different sources can paralyze you and make you feel like the essay can’t be fixed. 

Your Admissions Essay Winter Break Reading List

Calling all juniors (and precocious sophomores)! Now that you’re done with class and homework and finals and extracurriculars, this weeklong break is your perfect opportunity to prep for your admissions essay. The personal statement is incredibly difficult to master, especially since most schools don’t emphasize creative writing in their curriculums. The best way for you to learn a brand new way of writing is to read the best examples of that writing. Consider the below your personal essay master class.

 1) Bossypants by Tina Fey

If memoirs aren’t really your thing, try a humor memoir. This New York Times bestseller by the former Saturday Night Live head writer is one of my all time faves! Other hilarious humor essayists to check out are Nora Ephron, David Sedaris, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Jess Klein, and more. If your friends would describe you as funny, you should try a draft that takes a humorous approach. Even one self-deprecating line can do a lot in making you seem more approachable and likable, which is personal essay gold.

2) The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

After discovering your inner humorist, you should take a look at the classic memoir genre. One of the most important aspects of a personal essay is the self-reflection and that’s what a memoir is all about. If you’re not sure what you like, go to your local bookstore and check out the memoir section and browse until you find something interesting. The New York Times bestseller list is a great place to discover those too. 

3) Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott

This is both a beautiful memoir and a great intro to writing that professional writers swear by. This book is a go-to for when you’re stuck with writer’s block. It is one of the most quotable and memorable books for a reason! 

4) On Writing The College Application Essay by Harry Bauld 

My English teacher introduced this gem to me in high school and it was a game changer. Written by a former admissions officer and English teacher, this book is what gave me the writing mantra I still swear by today. Full of great example essays, the book also breaks down the all the elements of a standout essay. I swear by this! If you do one thing, get this book.