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The College Series: The Essay


Written by Eric

Because I’m embarking on the great quest to get into any college…I’m going to blog about my experiences on the road to college. The point of this is to document what I’ve been going through, and to analyze what I have done. Right now, I’m working on the essay part of the application trying to get it out so I can send it out for my early application sometime soon.

The College Essay

Yes, the infamous college essay. What exactly do colleges want you to write on these things? Frankly, I have a better idea now after listening to tons of advice from mentors, my parents, and others…but there are so many ways to go astray when writing this essay. There are so many different needs that you need to fill when writing this essay, such as who your really writing for, and what they really care about. Does the admissions person whose reading your essay really care about how your dog died and what you did about it?

Not the Normal Essay

After all, all I’ve been trained to do is write traditional essays over and over again in English class. How should I know to write or not write that way?

Well, I started off on the wrong foot when writing this essay and I still don’t have it all figured out yet. But, I do have a better idea. However, I started writing how I would normally write any other essay…the five paragraph structures comes to mind here. After all, all I’ve been trained to do is write traditional essays over and over again in English class. How should I know to write or not write that way?

What I did Instead

So after finishing two drafts, which mostly consisted of brainstorming material, in that format…I was still confused as to exactly how I would write this essay. Then, I began to look at examples and what the college’s “wanted” you to write. I put the “wanted” in quotes because that’s the info I got from their websites, and other “promo” material…that really doesn’t necessarily indicate exactly what in your essay.

After all, colleges want to hear about what you like about their school. They don’t see the relation between taking care of your elderly grandmother and academics, and neither do I. So it’s ironic to me to see all of the “published” material on the Internet and elsewhere pushing me to write about those topics. And so I did, my third attempt told a “story” of a project where I had to deal with a client who was unclear on what she wanted almost causing me to lose the deal altogether. I thought it was a great deal better than my first two attempts as it wasn’t just self-reflective things I threw together…I actually told a true, and important event where I learned an important trait to have in my business. But, like I said…my story had nothing to do with academics!

The Right Way?

That they are compassionate about animals? Who cares, and why does that matter to me?

So what is the right way to write this essay then? Well, I know for sure it isn’t to do what everyone tells you to do…so contrary to popular opinion, telling stories about your compassion for animals isn’t the best thing to tell colleges. After all, if I were to put myself in the essay reader’s shoes…what does that story tell me about the essay writer? That they are compassionate about animals? Who cares, and why does that matter to me?

I’m almost sure now that colleges just want to hear the lowdown on what you like in their school, and what you can do with it if you were to get in. After all, who doesn’t like to hear praise about how X, Y, and Z are awesome programs, and if that person was to get in they would do A, B, and C. And so, I’m more or less convinced to write basically what seems to be a paragraph version of my resume, or my CV in this case. That may not be a bad thing anyway. I mean, when you apply for a real job, does your employer want to hear about how you jumped into the pool to save your drunk, drowning friend in college?

Of course, there is no right or wrong way to approach this. On reflecting on this piece, it really depends on the individual writing the essay that dictates exactly which approach that person should take. And in my situation, I’m still not sure exactly what angle I will take. Because of this I’ve decided to write two different drafts using both angles just to see which really fits me better. Also, I really advocate building a mind map to help you organize your thoughts, it works wonders in deciphering what your thinking.

Eric Huang


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