Friday, July 13, 2018

Tips for writing the college application essay by Suzanne Hatfield

Summer vacation is time for high school students to take a needed break from busy schedules. Members of the 2019 graduating class can rest up for an eventful academic year ahead. Those who are planning to apply to colleges and career schools can use their free time this summer to get a head start on the application process.

Writing the college application essay is a creative endeavor that should not be rushed. A classic guide to this writing process is the 2012 fully revised and updated book, “On Writing the College Application Essay, 25th Anniversary Edition”, published by HarperCollins L.L.C., 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022 ( 

Written by Harry Bauld, a former Ivy League admissions officer at both Brown and Columbia Universities, this publication is available in book stores and online. Students can also check local libraries for access to the updated text.  
In this 25th anniversary edition, Bauld concentrates on the writing of a general personal statement to satisfy one of the Common Application prompts. ( His advice and encouragement can support students throughout the writing process.
A few of Bauld’s main points are as follows:

Keep a notebook of ideas and experiences for possible topics. Describe your actions, thoughts, impressions, reflections, sensations, etc., in order to share these with future essay readers.
Read other essays and try responding to different prompts or topics. Examples of common essay prompts include those below:

“Describe a person who has influenced you.”

“Describe the greatest challenge you have faced or expect to face.”

“Write on a topic that you choose.”

Stick to one topic. Have a strong lead that captures the reader’s curiosity. End the essay by satisfying that curiosity.

Use nouns and verbs to describe thoughts and experiences rather than adjectives.

Use precise and lively terms. Avoid using vague or overused words. Bauld provides extensive lists of these that include some commonly used words, “it”, “thing”, “who”, “which”, “that”.

In connecting various parts of the essay avoid using terms such as therefore, nevertheless, thus, moreover, secondly, finally. Use words such as “but”, “instead”, “now”, “later”, “then”.

When writing drafts, avoid self-criticism and freely express your thoughts and impressions. Proofread and revise as often as needed.

The final version of the college application essay is usually 300-500 words. The writing must be original and interesting. The tone of the essay should reflect the student’s humility, honesty, and positivity. Ask trusted adults to read your essay to provide constructive criticism.

Suzanne Hatfield is a certified school counselor who worked in Maine high schools for 20 years before retirement.

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