The College Essay Expression

College Essay Expression, The College Essay, College Essay

There is not one college essay. There are many college essays.

One of our pet peeves is when parents or students write in asking if we can help them with their “college essay.” College essay? Do they mean the Common Application Personal Statement? Because there is not one single college essay. There are many college essays with just about every highly selective college tasking students with crafting essays to unique prompts. So when a parent writes in and asks for our guidance with “the college essay,” what we really want to do is say, “Do you mean the dozens and dozens of essays? Or you want us to help your child with one essay so he or she has one great essay and dozens of lousy ones? We don’t follow.” But we don’t say that. Ok, maybe we say a version of that. You know us.

There are folks who come to us asking only for our help with the Personal Statement. But we are very clear with these parents and students that, yes, we can help them craft a powerful and compelling Personal Statement but what good will it do if they have one outstanding essay and then a host of essays that aren’t nearly as good? Typically this response is met with the sound of crickets. And we’re ok with that. It’s such a misconception that there is only one college essay, one we’ve tried to debunk over the years. It’s as though these parents and students haven’t opened the supplements for any of the individual colleges to which they’re applying. Were they planning on doing this at the last minute? Yikes is right.

Let’s take “the college essay” out of the vernacular. It’s misleading. It’s wrong. It implies that there is only one college essay when this couldn’t be further from the case. And as more schools add more unique prompts to their applications, it’s only getting more misleading. If we never have to hear the phrase “the college essay” again, we’ll be totally ok with that!


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