Ivy League Admissions: Essay Writing Advice

Multitasking Master!

When writing your personal essay, we’ve already covered what my topic was. Lessons to be learned:

1. Do not put off your essay for the last minute. The sooner you get some version of it on paper, the sooner you can rewrite and rework it. You chill out, think it over, discover new thoughts etc.

2. Write your truth. When writing, I question the validity of all my statements or what others will think of them. This leads me to diminish my own life story. Would my brother tell it the same way? Is my truth valid? I feel sometimes like I could be lying or someone might have a different view. To all of this, I say, so what? It’s your truth and your account. Be accurate and don’t lie. Aside from that, don’t discredit yourself and don’t think that your version of the story is less than.

3. When writing your autobiography, think about what sets you apart or think of a new take on something you’ve encountered in your life. The key here is: DO NOT PUT THE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS COUNSELOR TO SLEEP. Pivotal- entertain them and grab them with your first sentence. These people read hundreds of files- STAND OUT. If you’re of the privileged variety- make sure you do NOT come off as a snob. No matter what your particular walk of life- they have seen it ALL. Stand out for the right reasons. Don’t write about that one time you volunteered in the soup kitchen because you had nothing better to do. Write about what sets you on FIRE. What’s your passion? What’s your life story? How do you kill it? What’s amazing and kick *ss about you? If they believe in your story, if they bought into what you sold them (and we are ALL selling- you best believe that), they will go to bat for you in committee (or whatever their process is).

4. Don’t be afraid to tell your “secret”. Go to that place of discomfort and bask in it. Analyze it and don’t be afraid to dig deeper. If nothing comes to mind, evaluate that silence- why is it there? Is there something that you refuse to admit or face? This is the moment to ask those hard questions.

5. Do not be too clinical… PULL at those heart strings. Show some emotion in your writing. Yes, you spent four years in high school and you did a lot- but give me something that makes me connect with you.

6. A plus to getting things done early: HAVE PEOPLE REVIEW IT. Show it to your parents, your teachers, your counselor, have your friends review it (if they are trustworthy- don’t have them steal your essay! Oh, am I being paranoid? haha!) Get as much help as you can!

7. Make sure your essay flows nicely. Re-reading my essay I found it a bit choppy and difficult to read. It jumps in time periods and does not have great transitions.

8. Flesh out your concept. Try to stick to one specific topic. I feel like the topic I picked may have been better served if I focused on one aspect of it vs. running with one theme over a span of 17 years. It was a difficult topic to cover and I definitely picked a few stories to tell but I should have approached it from  a more curated and concise angle.

9. Have a great ending. My ending was sort of pieced together and not well thought through. It was more for drama than it was a well thought analysis. You should dive in deeper.

10. Search for inspiration. BUT remember, in the end, you only have yourself and your experiences for guidance. I did a quick google search on essays and found The Daily Beast’s How to Write a Winning Ivy League Essay.

11. Whatever the question may be- remember, YOU CAN COLOR OUTSIDE THE LINES. Make the topic your own, you can always refute or reject the topic presented. Just make sure your work is stellar, thought through and beyond creative.

My Credentials: ZERO- I give myself permission to be the Authority! Just kidding! I have some- I was a financial aid student worker for a couple of years so I understand the inner workings and admissions process. I was a first generation college student so I navigated the entire process with zero help from my mother (maybe not zero- I needed my mom’s signature on forms and her tax returns). After college, I worked as an assistant and helped out with recruiting. I saw the selection process first hand. I also dated an admissions person who worked for a prestigious (non-Ivy) University. I got to witness some of the process first hand and I didn’t sign any confidentiality agreements :p. I also love to give advice, therefore, I appoint myself college admissions guru.

In all seriousness, I wish I had a source or knew of the process before actually diving into it. Sometimes all you need is a gentle nudge (or shove) in the right direction. I am beyond grateful to have had friends,   a high school counselor and teachers that were beyond supportive throughout this hectic process. If you are reading this whilst in the thick of the college process- best of luck.

Oh and STOP READING AND GO WRITE!

Now for all the rest of you left here… Let’s think on next steps.

Have a great one! 

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2 thoughts on “Ivy League Admissions: Essay Writing Advice

  1. Coincidence? I was trying to remember what my college essay was, I wish I saved it. I have been in the habit of wiping my computer clean to start all over… several times. I prob wrote on being a kid translator for my mom- and recently wondered if I had cheapened the immigrant experience by flaunting it like an admission ticket. Then again, there's no “blank” experience without someone writing about it.

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  2. I think at some point… the things that were a disadvantage or a mark of difference should be rewritten and used to further ourselves. It's not flaunting, I don't think. It's about appropriating, digesting those things and using them as fuel for our next step.

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