College Essays 101
Read Spencer’s First Version
Read the first sentence.
What do you think? What are your first impressions of this sentence? What do you think of the writing? What kind of person might Spencer be? If you were an admissions officer, what would you think?
Read the first paragraph.
What you do think about this paragraph? What are your first impressions? What do you notice about the writing quality? What do you notice about the content? What do you know about Spencer? What kind of person is he? What would it be like to be around him?
Read the common reactions.
Most people’s eyes glaze over reading this essay. It’s boring, full of uninteresting and unimportant details. One hundred and thirty-five words into his essay, all you know is that Spencer went to camp, was a counselor, and learned something about being confident.
Admissions officers have read this essay a hundred times before and can guess what will come next. By the time they get to the end of this first paragraph, they are skimming quickly.
Take the Roommate Test
If this were all you knew about Spencer, and learned that he (or she) would be your roommate, would you give a:
- thumbs up, excited about your new roomie?
- thumbs sideways, need to wait and see?
- thumbs down, you do not want this person as your roommate?
In our live workshops, the average is a little less than thumbs sideways. Students and parents are either unsure or think that he’s just too boring.
Spencer didn't know his audience.
Admissions officers read at least 1.3 million words of college essays every year—that’s every Harry Potter book, plus the unabridged Moby Dick.
Admissions officers tell us that they spend too much of their time reading essays that don’t reveal much about students, tell the same story they’ve read a thousand times, or are poorly written.
Yup, that’s Tina Fey, playing an admissions officer in a movie.
Tina Fey dreads essays like Spencer’s first version.
Don’t be like Spencer.