The Secret to a Stellar College Application Essay – Harvard Grad Tips

September 5, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski


Hello my bold bright people, it’s ya girl
Ahsante the Artist helping you move consciously and creatively through life, so let’s go It’s that time of year where millions of
teens will be trying to sum up their lives in a few sheets of paper to see if the past
12 years of toiling away in classrooms will be good enough to earn them a few more years
of higher level toiling in more expensive classrooms. That’s right, it’s college application
season, so today we’re talking essay tips. Specifically about your main personal essay,
either from the common application or the most open-ended essay question from the school
you’re applying to. And I’m speaking as someone who’s a Harvard
graduate so you know these tips are Harvard proof, but they also apply to colleges more
generally. There’s really no one thing that is perfect
to write about and one thing that you definitely shouldn’t write about. Ok well actually there are a few things you
shouldn’t write about. Put that chapstick away because this is not
the time to be kissing up. Don’t write about why you want to attend
a particular college or why it’s so great, list off test scores or awards, or simply
state your accomplishments. The rest of your application should contain
these things, and your resume should speak for itself. If a college wants you to say why you want
to attend their particular institution, they will ask for that in the supplement essays. Otherwise, they know that they’re a renowned
institution, and have a lot of admiration, blah zay blah say blah, you don’t need to
flatter them. This is your time to be self-centered and
self-important, because yes you are the star and your personal essay revolves around you. Diva. Don’t talk about a particular institution
and why it’s great, don’t talk about a particular franchise and why it’s great,
talk about you. Lots of people can gush about Disney Pixar,
or traveling abroad, or musical theater, or Disney Pixar, but how have those things affected
you individually? Now you can reference those things in your
essay. You can talk about how you’ve been influenced
by Harry Potter and now you want to become a writer. Or you can mention the city that you grew
up in and your environment and how that affected you. But the focus is on who you are as a person,
you are the main character of your story, not the outside entity. Ok so we’ve got that you’re writing an
essay about you and your experience, but you’ve probably got about 18 years of experiences
under your belt. How do you narrow it down from there? Well probably don’t want to dwell on the part
when you were in baby diapers, no one remembers much from then anyway. And then the common app has several prompts
for you to work from, and even if your college doesn’t take the common app, these can be
a good place to start. As of the filming of this video, there are
2 catch all questions that really leave the door open for you to write whatever, and then
there are 5 more specific questions. I’m not going to list them all out but they’ll
be in the blog post that accompanies this video and is linked in the description. After looking at the prompts, there’s actually
something that all 5 more specific prompts have in common. Can you spot it? Hmm? Hmm? Hmm? Come on, pop quiz, this is college prep y’all. The 5 topics are all about growth. They’re about finding a solution to a problem,
learning about a new topic, changing your beliefs, learning from failure. They ask for a situation that’s been transformative
for you, where you are a different person now because of the role that this thing, or
idea, or event played in your life journey. And the other two prompts leave the topic
completely wide open, wide open, wide open, but again I would stick to something that
demonstrates how you’ve grown or changed or how something’s developed you as a person. The open prompts allow you to explain a particular
outstanding circumstance or part of your background, but even with that, you can show some sort
of cause and effect relationship of how part of your identity has impacted you. As long as it meets those criteria, nothing
is off limits, no experience is too big or too small. You could talk about an impactful sports meet,
or arts program, you could talk about something you learned traveling abroad, or something
you learned while working a summer job in retail. If you have childhood memories of war, you
can talk about how that’s affected you. You can talk about growing up in the projects. As long as it’s part of your story and true
to who you are, it’s fair game. Gotta getcha, getcha head in the game I mean it’s High School musical, I think it’s
relevant And just as important as what you write about
is how you write about it – which I’ll get to in a minute. But as you’re picking your topic, one of
my secrets to a perfect essay and my strong suggestion, is that you write about one particular
moment. As opposed to talking about a topic that has
impacted you broadly, or how you’ve grown more generally, try and focus on one moment,
one project, one event, one particular time frame. That will make it easier for you to be specific
to a unique experience, and it will make it easier to follow the next tip. My other recommendation and secret to a stellar
essay, is that you should literally tell a story, as in your essay should read like a
narrative. You should hook the reader at the beginning,
make them curious to continue, and then set the scene. I mean, think about it, the admissions officer
is reading dozens of essays a day of people introduce themselves and say that one experience
that I learned from and overcame a failure is a time in 10th grade where one time I was
preparing for a competition and Zzzzz They probably get bored out of their mind! And they can only spend a few minutes on each
essay, so yours should be something that engages them and catches their attention right away. Starting in the middle of the action and then
going back to give context is a great strategy, although there are other ways to hook the
reader, so feel free to get creative. There should be a beginning, middle, and end
to the story. You are the main character and you should
go through character development, which ties into this being about growth and change, cause
and effect. Let us into your mind, this is first person
omniscient. What were you thinking in that moment, what
were you struggling with, what rushed through your head, what kept you up at night? When you take an action how did you do it,
were you eager? Did you hesitate? Did your fingers tingle, did your heart race,
did your eyes glaze over? And as you’re telling your narrative, don’t
just recount but reflect. Things should tie back to how you’ve developed
and what you’ve learned. This is a time to show your personality, both
in the content and the quality. In your reflection on your story, it’s great
to show skills like tenacity, discipline, leadership, self-awareness, working well with
others, communication skills etc. And in telling your story, you have the opportunity
to showcase your writing style. This is a creative exercise, use your voice. You don’t need to use big words that make
you sound smart or give you a half British accent out of the blue. It should sound like you, your style should
be informed by your unique perspective and writing tendencies. Feel free to take poetic license and use literary
devices that feel natural. In the end, make sure this is an essay that
only you can write. It is after all a personal essay, so it should
be true to who you are as a person. “True to your heart, you must be true to
your heart” Both in relating to your personal experience
and transformation, and in infusing your personality into how you tell the story, your essay should
be as specific and unique to you as possible, to the point where if someone else submitted
your essay, they would be straight up lying. And don’t let me catch you lying on a college
app. Umh umh umh. If you’re new here and you’re interested
in young adulting tips, social issues, and culture then you should subscribe to get new
videos from me every Thursday. And a string of Harvard and school advice
videos are coming out in a couple weeks, so stay tuned for those. Huge thanks to my patreon patrons, you all
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fam, it’d be much appreciated. As always, remember to live spiritedly and
think creatively, and I will see you next time. What’s making me happy this week is NFL players
using their first amendment rights to peacefully protest in however way they see fit. #TakeAKnee. And I’m just personally happy because I had
a good week last week, it was chill and I feel at peace, which is good. Well, I’m going to go be an editing diva and
get this thing out the door. I’ll be right back!