Seniors offer tips on writing college essays

December 7, 2017 — by Julia Miller

The first semester of senior year is so different from its portrayal in “High School Musical.”

Rather than dancing on tabletops or writing a play based on all of our shared senior bliss, most of my classmates and I have been stressing about college applications for months, specifically on the almighty college essays.

Not only is there one large college essay on the Common Application for most private institutions, but there are also a myriad of supplemental applications, additional information sections and more, depending on institution and major.

Though college essays scream perfectionism, it’s easy to forget the prompts allow us to write about what we want and have fun with it.

Senior Shania Jafri described the story of finding a cat on the streets of San Jose as her essay topic, explaining that her reasoning behind the choice was more than meets the eye.

“I wanted my application reviewers to connect to a personal side of me, rather than tell a shallow story about volunteering somewhere,” Jafri said. “So, I wrote about accidentally stealing a cat since it was a unique story about a time in my life that I connected to a deeper message.”

Jafri is still undecided on her major for college, but that did not hold her back from telling a tale that is both hard-hitting and uncommon.

Similarly, senior Smrithi Balebail experienced the same feeling of undecidedness during her application process, but revealed that writing her college essay for the Common Application actually helped her recognize her self-transformation through the personal situations she has undergone.

“Personally, this self-reflection helped me realize that a big part of my life revolves around helping others the best I can,” Balebail said. “My essay helped me appreciate the growth I have had and the person I am today more.”

At the same time, however, Balebail could not help but criticize the college essay process and “how much emphasis is put on how everyone’s lives are extremely impacted by random circumstances.” In other words, writing a college essay sometimes pressures seniors to somehow describe a single experience that defines their entire focus on the future.

The other important advice from seniors is fairly obvious: Start early. Jafri stresses that by brainstorming ideas in the summer and coming back to school with a few drafts, seniors will not have to juggle as much pressure during their first semesters.

“Start as early as possible, so you have enough time to find a unique story that fits you and enough reflection upon the story to know why you chose it,” Jafri said.

Both Jafri and Balebail have finished their essays before their deadlines, and agree that procrastination is not the best approach to the college essay writing process.

Finally, the seniors said it’s important to realize there is no formula to write the perfect essay other than perhaps authenticity. As long as an essay topic represents who you are, what you stand for and what kind of a person you aspire to be, then college admissions officers are more likely to see you as more than just a name on an application.