Writing College Essays

There’s an old expression: writing is about rewriting. As rising high school seniors begin writing college essays this summer (if they’re smart — as waiting to do so during the school year isn’t a good idea), they need to internalize this expression and make it their mantra. Writing is about rewriting. Say it to yourself again. Read it over and over. Writing is about rewriting. It’s simple and yet college applicants so often don’t seem to understand it.

So many college applicants think that now that they’ve completed their five hundredth word of one of their college essays, they’re done. Maybe they’ll reread their personal statement to correct any misspellings or grammatical errors. Maybe they’ll change a comma here and a semicolon there. That’s not enough! A good college essay on a first draft is rare! Few students write an exceptional college essay that will stand out to college admissions counselors on the first draft. What these students should be doing is putting it down for a little bit so that they can gain a fresh outlook and then return to it to see what should stay and what should go.

Write College Essays, Write University Essays, Writing Ivy League Essays

Good writing is about rewriting. Writing college essays is all about rewrite after rewrite (photo credit: Amerique).

Maybe the whole college essay needs to go. Maybe only a line or two should stay. Maybe the premise of the essay entirely needs to be scrapped. Or maybe it’s just about re-ordering some paragraphs. Maybe there’s one line in the essay that will tip off a college admissions counselor that you’re pompous or arrogant — one line like this can severely hurt you in the process of highly selective college admissions. That’s why it’s important to read it over, to rewrite and rewrite. The best writers are rewriters. It’s true of novelists. It’s true of feature and television writers. It’s true of advertising copyrighters (like Peggy Olson from “Mad Men”). So just accept the fact that your first draft is likely far from perfect and you’ll need to do some heavy lifting with rewrites.

And, yes, it’s difficult for college applicants to realize what works and what doesn’t work in college essays. So indeed that’s part of where we at Ivy Coach come in for our students!


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