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A Winter of Writing

Whether you celebrate or not, festivity is in the air as we approach the new year! For all prospective Class of '28s, I'm sure that this year's winter break will be a little more busy than previous years as you approach deadlines for your high school applications. No matter where you are in the process, I encourage you to take some time out of the next few weeks to review your essays and short answers- here are some tips to make them the best they can be!

Understand the Prompt

The first step to crafting a good essay is correctly answering the question being asked- what's more, understanding what the school is trying to find out about you through the question, and providing the information! Are they asking about the communities you're a part of? Unique aspects of your identity? An intellectual interest or extracurricular close to your heart? Make sure you've identified this to avoid writing an essay that is off-topic or doesn't say enough.

Tell Your Story

All of these schools use a holistic admissions process. This means that beyond the activities and academic achievements listed on your transcript and application, they want to know about who you are as a person and how you became who you are. So don't shy away from including experiences, passions, and values that changed your perspective. Let your personality shine through your writing- the more colorful you appear, the easier they can envision you at their school!

Show, Don't Tell

Make your essay more compelling and demonstrate your ability as a writer by using descriptive language to allow readers to experience the narrative instead of just being told about it. The easiest way to do this is by telling anecdotes and giving specific examples that demonstrate your qualities or that fit within your extracurriculars. Fill these with specific details (think sensory imagery,) dialogue, and figurative language. For example:

Showing: Music has been an important part of my life since I was little.

Telling: As a child, I'd huddle in the corner of the living room, listening to my grandmother's scratchy vinyl records...etc.

Highlight Your Fit

While it's true the essay is mostly about you, remember that you're not writing in a void. Your goal is to show the school why you think you would be a great addition to their community. So, mention unique aspects of the school's curriculum, extracurricular activities, or values that align with your goals and aspirations. Admissions committees appreciate students who have done their research and can articulate why they are drawn to that particular institution. Take care to integrate this into your essay so it doesn't seem tacked onto the larger story.

Embrace Adversity/Challenges

If you've faced challenges or setbacks, don't shy away from discussing them. Honesty and resilience are valuable character traits, and your experiences can lend a unique perspective to the school community. Discuss how you've overcome obstacles and, most importantly, grown as a person: this last part is critical as it emphasizes your ability to adapt and learn. If you show that you are a self-aware, changing person, you also show that you will continue to improve at their institution.

Be Authentic

A lot of students write in an uncharacteristic tone of voice or try to present themselves the way they think the school wants them to in order to seem more intelligent, quirky, etc. In reality, admissions officers are really looking for the strength of your voice, for genuine enthusiasm. Don't be afraid to lean into your own writing style!

Revise, Revise, Revise

Writing is an iterative process- the only way to grow is through repetition. No matter where you are in the process, take the time to revise and edit. consider seeking feedback or even rewriting something if you aren't too fond about the way it portrays you. This will help ensure your essay is free from grammatical errors or awkward sentence structures, but most importantly, that it is the best work you can do. Just be wary of asking for too much help or editing too many times- as they say, too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the soup.


As always, feel free to contact us if you have questions about anything or would like general guidance. I know it can be a stressful process, but take pride in the fact that you've come this far- the finish line is coming soon! It's been a pleasure working with you all this year, and I can't wait to see what good news the new year brings.


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