Six Things College App Essays Taught Me About Writing

I just finished all of my college apps!!! *screams with joy for hours*

john-stewart-happy

And while it was a horrifyingly stressful and (sometimes) tedious process, it did teach me some things about writing and myself as a writer.

1. How to write something that doesn’t rely on dialogue. Or sarcasm.

In my fiction writing, I rely on dialogue and sarcasm. College app essays weren’t really the place for that style writing, so it was an adjustment. Trying to find a tone that conveyed my personality without making me sound like a bitch was something that I’m proud I accomplished.

2. Just how many “voices” I have, outside the ones I already knew about.

This goes with the one before, but as I wrote more and more essays, I started to develop new writing voices. I still prefer my fiction/journalism ones, but I like that I discovered others.

3. How to be done with something. And actually be done.

I have been writing fiction for years, but I have never really finished something. I have reached the end of pieces, and edited pieces, but I have never really felt done. With college app essays, I had to write, edit, and turn it in. This was incredibly stressful at the beginning, but it also feels awesome to be actually done.

4. Kill Your Darlings is actually really good advice.

I have heard the classic writing advice “Kill Your Darlings” for a while, but college app essays were the first time I really had to use it. And damn, it works. I can’t tell you how many essays clicked into place when I got rid of a favorite sentence, metaphor, or idea.

5. How to write, even when I don’t want to.

My WIP started to teach me this over summer, but it was writing essays for college apps that finally drove home this lesson. Although I still occasionally give in to writer’s block, I am now able to get myself to sit down and write, even if I don’t feel “inspired.”

6. Word counts are the worst, but only sometimes.

This was my first real encounter with word counts, and it was rough. Of the hours I spent working on these essays, only half the time was writing. The other half was spent editing them down to the right word count.

But I also started to appreciate word counts for the direction they gave me. I knew how far to go with an essay based on the word count. Without them, I don’t know if I would have edited my essays as thoroughly. So I guess word counts aren’t the worst.


What do you think? Was this post interesting for you? Have you applied/are you applying to colleges, and if so, what was it like for you?

2 thoughts on “Six Things College App Essays Taught Me About Writing

  1. I’ll be a freshman at Middlebury College next week (!!!) and still vividly remember writing my college essays last year. I got to do a wonderful thing that totally paid off: I wrote my essay about books! I also applied while watching the Sherlock Christmas Special, which made the process a bit more fun (but probably wasn’t the best choice I’ve ever made).
    Great post! I’m so glad I just discovered your blog!
    ~Gwen

    Like

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