I’ve tried, I swear. I’ve written two full blogs and started parts of others and nothing was coming out right, so I scrapped them all. After writing the hard-hitting piece on Tommaso, I thought I would have smooth sailing in writing for our blog, but no such luck. I’m going to blame Hannah. Because she’s our best writer, I make sure she edits all my work (she actually proof reads my texts before I hit send. That’s normal, right?). So, when she said that the piece on Tommaso was the best blog I had written, I froze up. How would I top something like that? Finally, the other day, I started to think about what it would be like if I had to go back and write college essays and still had all of this writer’s block. My usual advice for students is to just start writing something. Anything to loosen your mind up a little bit and avoid this:
Ultimately, I have decided to embrace my writing slump and let you know that those of us on the Admission side of the college search understand what you have to go through. We know that there is a lot of pressure on you to perform academically, to get involved outside the classroom, and to write a great essay as part of your application for all of the schools you are applying to. On our side, we are looking to learn a few things in the essay:
- How strong a writer you are up to this point in your educational career
- How effectively you can communicate your thoughts
- How you fit in with the goals and values of the institution
For students who will be applying to colleges starting next fall, The Common Application has updated the essay prompts. Ultimately, applicants can still take their essay and write about almost anything, as long as they are within the broad boundaries of the topic. I always urge students to not only make sure their essay is proofread by someone they trust in the college process, like a family member, teacher, or counselor, but to also give the reader some insight into what makes them tick. Colleges will obviously look at objective information like grades, classes, and standardized test scores, but they will also be sure to review your writing ability and try to get to know you as a person through the essay. Here are the 2013-2014 Common App essay prompts:
- Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
- Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
- Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
- Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there and why is it meaningful to you?
- Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
My advice for students is to start working on these early, ideally the summer before senior year, and try each topic; that way, the students will be able to see which essay is the best fit for them. Also, students should think about how they work best. Would a few minutes of writing everyday be best or do they need to sit down and commit bigger chunks of time less often?
Here at Babson, we are also kicking around the idea of rewriting our supplemental essay prompt. For quite a while, our supplemental prompt has been:
“Write a letter to your first-year roommate at Babson. Tell him or her what it will be like to live with you, why you chose Babson, and what you are looking forward to the most in college.”
Not bad, right? However, what’s the one glaring problem? Who writes letters anymore? How many students in our applicant pool have actually set a pen to paper, written a letter, and then mailed it? My guess would be that Twitter is just a bit more popular these days (According to the USPS, 160 billion pieces of mail were processed in 2012 and according to The Washington Post, there are approximately 400 million tweets sent per day, so roughly 146 billion. Is that right? That’s math talking right there, but I have no idea if I proved my point).
So, if you have a suggestion on how we can tweak our supplement, let us know! Head over to our Facebook page and give us suggestions. For example, you could suggest this: “James Dewey-Rosenfeld works at Babson College and is so cool (see image below submitted by a coworker’s daughter). What can you contribute to the Babson community to be as cool as him?” That’s just one of what I hope will be many great suggestions.