By: Caroline Koppelman
“My heart had stopped beating. The heart rate monitor stood still at a hollow flat line. As the doctors shuffled around the room searching for shock paddles, my mom cried at the window. With a round of successful defibrillation, I was revived. I view this medical triumph as my second chance at life, my opportunity to be the best version of me. Without facing death, I wouldn’t have the perspective I do on life. I am truly a miracle.”
Imagine an admissions counselor reading that in your college essay. While it seems like an interesting story, the excerpt above is a complete lie. The reader should never think about fact checking what you’ve written. Your essay should be genuine and based on fact, not fiction. You don’t have to pull out all the stops to impress the reader, you just have to be authentic and creative. There should be no mention of how miraculous your life is and how profound you can be. Just be you.
While writing your essay, there’s no need to stretch the truth. The essay is your chance to let your own voice come through your application: don’t waste it on lies. Your first thought when brainstorming ideas should not be about how legendary or heartbreaking your essay can be. Everyone has their own “life stories” and there are inevitably going to be some that are more interesting than others. If you think yours is not unique and therefore you’d need to embellish it, pick a different approach to writing the essay. You don’t need to write about hardship and strife. Your goal is to communicate a side to you that the rest of your application doesn’t convey. That can be done in a variety of ways.
When it comes to the college essay, admissions committees have seen it all. The worst thing you can do is make up a story for your college essay. You are good enough the way you are, and there is definitely a topic out there that you can write about without having to lie. You don’t even need to tell a slightly exaggerated story. The truth is always best. Honest writing is always rare and refreshing. But, if you feel like you don’t have anything to say, start here.
Since the admissions committee is reading hundreds of essays, it’s your job to move them, make them laugh, and force them to realize that they need you at their institution. Your essay should exemplify the manner in which you think. It should act as a blueprint to your mind. Instead of basing your character off of grades and standardized test scores, the essay provides the reader with a sense of your personality and views from your perspective.
You want to approach writing your essay as if it were a creative writing piece. The only thing you have to keep in mind is that it’s a creative nonfiction piece. This means you are telling a true story in a creative form. You can bring creativity into your essay through the hook, a conceit, or through your syntax and diction.
While writing your essay, you have to keep your ego in check. Although you want to come off as the best version of you, sometimes you can get carried away with the story and lose yourself in over exaggeration.
Writing about yourself can be a slippery slope, which is why it is best to stick to the truth and leave the lies behind. In the end, the admissions committee is just looking for insight into your mind and character. It’s up to you to show them through your writing just what you can add to their school.