College Deadlines Approaching? Start Here, with the Writing Center
Updated: Oct 20
Once again, to the absolute despair of the newly-minted seniors, it’s college application season. Between letters of recommendation, the endless forms asking for everything from your social security number to how many siblings you have, the ACTs and SATs, campus visits and early action and supplementals and the Common App and figuring out how to finagle SchooLinks into working in a post-Naviance world, the beginning of senior year is as overwhelming as it is terrifying. Hanging above it all, like a nightmarish symbol of everything a senior wants to run away from, is the penultimate obstacle, second only to actually getting into college: the dreaded college essay. The personal statement. The only chance you have to distill your personality into a 250 to 500 word piece that could determine your entire future.
Terrifying. Good thing the Lane Tech Writing Center is here to help!
First off, a list of what to never, ever, ever, ever do. If you do, than the ghosts of every college applicant will rise from their eternal slumber and chase you down until your final days.
Never write about winning “the big game.”
Never write about how playing with LEGO made you creative.
Never write about how cool your family or friends are— it says nothing about you.
You probably shouldn’t write about your struggles with mental health. This is a bit of a cynical point, but colleges don’t want to hear about things that might limit your capabilities as a graduate. Unless you’re describing your journey to overcome a struggle— that can work. Sometimes.
Never write about the time your ex broke up with you, the time your dog got hit by a car, or how much you love Michael Jordan.
Never lie. They will know.
Instead, here are some things you should do.
Always make it about you (your personality, work ethic, interests, etc.)
Always write about your traits that make you appealing to schools. You don’t need to be a wunderkind neurosurgeon: you just need to be someone that will make them look good once you graduate.
Always make it about your hard work. That is the most attractive part of an applicant: Not their GPA or achievements, but about their willingness to put in the work to become someone that the school can point at and go “yeah, they went here, isn’t that awesome?”
Keeping these things in mind when writing your college essay or picking your topic can boost your essay from “pretty good, I guess” to “oh, that’s interesting.” Colleges want to find people who are extraordinary. Everyone (yes, even you!) is extraordinary: Just be sure to show it.