Are you an international applicant? Haven’t started your college essays? Already worried about sharing your life story in 500 words or less? Rest assured, for I have a few tips that will help you shine through your college essays this admission season. Keep calm, and apply international!
1. Start early
It doesn’t hurt to start early on essay drafts, especially if you are applying Early Decision or Early Action. Essays really take more revisions than you imagine! I recommend jotting down essay ideas, completing rough drafts, editing and reediting multiple times during the summer after junior year. Working on essays in the summer may sound boring, but you will be thankful for all the edits and revisions in the fall.
2. Write productively
My motto is: draft boldly and always click save. College essays are never supposed to be canned, so don’t feel pressured to conform to a certain style or form of writing when you are drafting your essays! Stick with the ideas in your head and keep writing. Don’t get distracted by the technicalities when you are drafting because you can always go back and edit. Whenever you have a writer’s block or have doubts about your writing, you should always save whatever you have (even if it’s just a sentence or two) and continue working on another essay. This method makes it possible to work on multiple prompts and write more creatively and efficiently.
3. Eliminate the language barrier
International applicants, often students who use English as a second language, struggle with grammar and articulation in college essays. I recommend reading more strategically on a daily basis prior to application season. Sample college essays shouldn’t be the only things you are planning to read. Books with strong, personal narratives will help you form your voice in essays, while magazines like Time and Newsweek improve vocabulary and concision. You can also write more frequently via journals or blogs to sharpen your writing skills.
4. Pick up a figurative magnifying glass
Many international applicants have unique experiences of living abroad, moving to different countries, or adjusting to new environments, which gives applicants an edge in personal statements. Try to focus on a glimpse of your experience—a time period no longer than a minute—rather than an overview. Instead of writing out your entire resume in essay form, you should pick a specific, memorable moment and shine through it with vivid details and unique perspective. It may sound kind of intimidating to do, but doing so gives the admission officer a more concrete sense of who you are as an individual.