Talkin’ With Thonny – Terrified Senior

Dear Thonny,

I am currently a senior and the thought of writing a college essay has me terrified. I mean, this is the main thing that will determine if I get into the school of my dreams. How am I not supposed to be? I want to write an essay that is sure to stand out, but I don’t know the first thing about writing something like that. This has me so anxious that I can already imagine admissions officers falling asleep reading my essay. What should I do?

A terrified senior

Dear terrified senior,

First of all, don’t think of this essay as the thing that’s going to determine your whole life. Your grades, extracurriculars, and relationships you have with recommenders are also important, so don’t freak out about this
one aspect.

The entire senior class is probably going through this same state of panic about their own essays, including myself. I also share the uncertainty you have about getting this done.

We’ve all been taught to write a certain way in school, but that’s been for an academic-style essay. This is our personal essay, not an academic exercise, so the format can be whatever we feel is best for the story or message that we want to share.

I want to make it clear to you that the idea behind this essay is that admission officers are trying to learn things about us that they aren’t going to find elsewhere in the application and notably that is our personality, style
and interests.

I suggest starting the essay by picking a topic that expresses who you are in the best way possible, not a topic that might seem pleasing to a college. Talk about meaningful things that will show admission officers who you
are, how you think, and how you view the world.

When you write something you truly care about, that passion will come through in your writing, which is what you want.

Colleges ask questions that are deliberately very broad so that we can be the ones to decide what topic is right
for us.

The last thing I want to tell you is that you know yourself best. It’s good to get advice from teachers and friends, but you are the expert on what each part should sound like. Remember you are enough. There’s no way you can predict exactly what admissions officers are looking for so instead, make this essay something that you will be able to come back to in ten years and be proud of.