writing-828911_1920I hope you enjoyed reading Ms. Stinson’s essay. The title of the Business Insider article where it appeared is: This Essay Got a High School Senior Into 5 Ivy League Schools and Stanford.  Definitely an attention grabbing headline, but again, please realize that the essay is one of the five major criteria for college acceptance.

So, with that point made, allow me to present a template to help your teen create an incredible essay.

  1. DISPLAY YOUR AUTHENTIC, ORIGINAL VOICE. The admissions officer reading your essay wants to know who you are and “what it would be like to have a conversation with you”. Too many essays are written in a very detached style – even disconnected from the person they are writing about. The reader wants to be affected by what he reads as it is one of the only chances for a student to speak as his or her true self and spotlight something they are passionate about. In other words, realize that there is no other candidate like you applying with your passions, attributes, strengths, and yes, challenges. One of the closing lines from the Costco essay: “Costco fuels my insatiability and cultivates curiosity within me as a cellular level.”
  1. TALK IN SPECIFICS AND WITH PRECISION OF EXPRESSION. For an artist to create a painting that gets noticed, she relies on many shades and hues – each one conveying a different tone, a different feeling. The same holds true in writing. To affirm that the college admissions officer knows who you are – you must be specific and not reticent about employing figurative language. Writing in this manner creates a story that will be felt and reveal a person with a soul. The English language is abundant with words that generally mean the same, but convey a different shade of meaning. From the Costco essay: . . .”the cinnamonsugar rocket gracefully sliced its way through the air . .
  1. TRUST YOUR GUT. Don’t try to copy what you believe to be a perfect essay, whether it’s the Costco essay or the essay written by one of my students. Both essays paint a vivid picture of real people with a unique set of strengths and challenges as yours should.

The sample essay from my student is simply titled, Pho. He emigrated to the US when he was ten and always loved the pho his grandmother prepared in Vietnam. He desperately wanted to replicate that same soup here in the United States.

My initial meeting with this student involved reading his essay. All I can say now is that he had me at the opening line, “The frog frolicked in the pond in front of the window. . .”

After thoroughly relishing his writing (and developing a craving for pho) I learned so much about him: He was loving, patient, creative, persistent and undaunted. Did I know this because he said that he was any of the above? No. He showed me through his exquisitely crafted, soulful essay about his quest to learn how to prepare pho. What a gift it was to work with such a unique, gifted young man.


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