Writing College Essays: A Self-Reflection.


If there was one thing I learned about the college application process when I was applying to American universities, it was that everything mattered. Getting high SAT scores or a high GPA can only get you so far. It appears as though the United States wants to know more about you, the individual; not just what you are capable of academically, but also your interests and passions, your past experiences and future plans, and what you can bring to the table. In the span of two months, I had written 14 essays for 10 different colleges, all asking about my extracurricular activities, my inspirations, my life and why I had decided to pursue the course that I had chosen.


Writing openly has always been very easy for me, and having authored tens of thousands of words of fiction during my high school days certainly helped. It allowed me to approach the questions asked on the applications with a different and honest point of view, which I believe ended up being my saving grace. Asked about my favourite work of art, I talked about a tattoo born from difficult experiences; asked about my world, I talked about how ostracised I felt from my peers after having transferred from a local to international school. In my opinion, the college essays are an opportunity to highlight what makes you, you.


My advice would be this: don’t be afraid to be different, don’t be afraid to mention your past relationships, or your family difficulties, or your struggles with fitting in. The more muck and dirt you reveal about yourself in this process, the better. Because in the end, our failures play a larger part in forming our personalities than our successes. From my three years of having studied in the United States, I have come to realize that American schools really enjoy and relish in diversity: in people going against the grain, in highlighting and developing your own unique potential.


Methodologically I would suggest collating all your essay titles in one place. Often universities tend to ask similar questions, and this would save you the hassle of having to rewrite similar essays over and over. Do this early, so that you have the headspace to brainstorm and discuss your ideas with close friends and family. When you start writing your essays, don’t stress too hard about completing them all to perfection at once. Give yourself time to sleep on what you had written for the day, and come back to it later. The best way to overcome writer’s block is to take a break and relax, do something else that would take your mind off this stressful process. And remember, you are not likely to ever meet any of the individuals who read your essays, so bask in that freedom, have fun with it, and write!


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Fung Ying

Quintessential Consultancy