Seniors polish college applications


Seniors Dina Dib and Helin Yousif work together on peer editing their personal essays and providing each other with feedback and criticism before it’s turned in to be graded by their teacher Sasha Duran-Russel.

As seniors start their final year at Annandale, the college application process is right around the corner. While application deadlines are quickly approaching, students begin to tackle their personal essays with the help from their English teachers.
“I thought it was pretty daunting and hard because I didn’t really know what I wanted to write about and I’m not a great writer so I felt overwhelmed,” senior Finn Scott-Daniels said.
The first unit covered in seniors’ English classes was how to write a successful personal essay because teachers wanted to make sure that their students were less anxious about the process and were on the right track while completing their applications.
“You only apply to college once and I think it helps to be able to go to school, hear about the process and review it with your teachers because otherwise you’re going into it without any concrete knowledge or guidance,” IB Literature teacher Sasha Duran-Russell said. “It’s really hard to write the essay and to fill out the applications without getting that external help.”
Scott-Daniels is in Duran-Russell’s IB Literature class and he was able to gain a lot of insight on how to start his essay after completing class activities in the unit.
“We met with the teacher to discuss the plan, had personal work days to write in class and did a peer editing day. It was a very helpful process because I was stuck not knowing what to write and the guidance I was given helped me choose a topic.”
The college essay is much different than other pieces of writing seniors have worked on throughout their high school career, so getting the right insight to the process is important.
“A lot of my students don’t have access to someone who is knowledgeable about writing college essays and to give them advice on how to do it. More of what we focus on in terms of writing in school is writing academically and writing a traditional essay,” IB Literature teacher McClain Herman said.
IB Literature classes started the unit off by reading examples and having the chance to brainstorm their own ideas.
The seniors reviewed articles and videos to learn the basics in writing the personal essay and also had one on one conferences with their teachers in order to discuss the topic they chose to write about.
The one on one conferences were a big help to students who were struggling on finding a direction for their essay. Senior Camille Cortes also was relieved to be able to confidently start her personal essay.
“The process relieved a lot of stress because I was able to write my entire personal essay and have it revised by classmates and my teacher. The guidance was helpful because going in I had no idea what I wanted to write about,” Cortes said.
By the end of the unit, students were able to submit their essay drafts with confidence to their English teachers because of the detailed and informative process.
“[The students] now know how to do the writing process so they feel more confident in it and the essays that I read for scholarships tend to be even better because they are now familiar with what they need to say,” Duran-Russell said.
Most seniors have their personal essays along with their college applications deadline early November, so this personal essay unit puts seniors ahead of the game and allows them to write the best essay they can in order to go into the application process confidently.
When trying to start the personal essay, students typically struggle with how to express themselves as well as impress the admissions board. However, the admissions office wants to get the best idea of who you really are.
“When I talk to students about writing the college essay I remind them that everything else in their application is related to school and their academics so it’s best for students to think about what they want colleges to know about themselves that wouldn’t otherwise be in the application,” Herman said.
Students learn to embrace who they really are in their college essay so that colleges have a better understanding of why they should pick a student.
“My biggest takeaway from the process is to not overthink or over complicate your language. Write your essay as if you are having a conversation with the admissions people,” Cortes said.
The admissions board gets tired of hearing students brag about all of their accomplishments. The best thing you can do is just be yourself and try to show them something that is different from your typical boring personal essay that sounds like it was written by adults.
Seniors should focus more on finding a topic that they are passionate about, than stressing out about writing it.
“It seems a lot harder than it is. It is not as scary as people make it seem and the hard part is finding the topic,” Scott-Daniels said.
If you find a topic that you are passionate about, the rest of the essay will come easily.