A Case for Not Recycling Essays on New Common Application
Why reinvent the wheel if, according to prompt 7, an “already written” wheel is acceptable?
Because fresh is better when it comes to self-expression. An essay written by a high school junior at the beginning, middle or end of the academic year will be dated by summer. I would even argue that an essay written in the summer might need noodling in the fall to remain current. And by current, I’m not referring to topical. Stylistically, 16-19 year olds are still learning and implementing tricks of the writing trade; practicing those skills on a college essay makes students better writers. And provides colleges with a better essay.
The good news: in this age of social media and chronic texting, contemporary teens are engaged with words during most waking hours. But techno-speak is not what colleges are seeking. Nor do they want to read a slightly altered assignment on the feminist attributes of Jane Eyre or the dystopian aspects of Game of Thrones. Which is why I’m advising my students to ignore at least the “already written” bidding of Prompt 7 and do the heavy lifting of drafting a brand new essay for admissions officers.
Students Are Older
The growth that occurs between when a student chooses a Common Application Essay prompt to when they finish their essay is unprecedented.
And magical. It’s one of the main reasons I love working with rising seniors. To accompany them on this storytelling journey from self-knowing to self-expressing is a privilege. So, while a student may try and convince parents — and themselves — that that essay they wrote in April for their spring English final assignment is a great application essay, I urge that same student to think again. The easy road isn’t always the one that gets you to your goal. Students are different writers in June, July or August than they were in April.
Students Are Wiser
I’m not saying a rising senior is smarter than their junior selves; I’m saying they’re wiser. They know themselves better, even if it’s only a teeny bit. Once junior year exams and/or end of year assessments are completed, most students relax, reflect and anticipate. They tour colleges; they interview at their preferred schools on their list; they have jobs; they spend time with family and friends. The infamous potboiler of “junior year” didn’t crush them and there’s pride in their voice when they say, “I’m a rising senior.” Furthermore, their minds have space to generate inventive narratives. The years spent honing their craft and forming their idiosyncratic point-of-view on topics large and small reveal themselves in a piece of personal writing that wows them – and, quite often, admissions directors, too. One student just told me that an admissions officer commented on the power of her words when awarding her a Merit Scholarship. The student was drafting that essay until November when she hit SEND. A new piece of writing has the immediacy and urgency to delight most admissions officers, even those suffering from “tired eyes” syndrome!
Students Are Excited
It feels good to write well. I don’t mean just grammatically correct and lyrical, but moving. A piece of writing that is at once personal and universal; the writer and their audience can both “relate.” This excitement of capturing what it is they want a college to know about them is usually preceded by a call-to-arms. Akin to a battle cry or a pre-game cheer, the mojo and discipline required to write a memorable college essay is the strongest when the din of schoolwork and standardized test-taking demands dies down. Students know “the end is near” when they meet with me in Boot Camps or sit down on their own to contemplate the Common Application essay prompts. That surge of adrenalin is what sustains them through the process.
As always, drop me a line (Elizabeth@eecollegecoach.com) or give me a holler (917-863-2424) to talk about your student’s college essay or college counseling needs.Share