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The news site of Ludlow High School

The Cub

The news site of Ludlow High School

The Cub

College Essay Confusion: Where Do I Start?


It’s not a shock to anyone that the season of applying to colleges is distressing. With the hundreds of high level institutions and majors to pick from, how will you know which is the correct one to decide on? Add on to that this will be the last year of school you will spend with all of your friends, classmates, and teachers you have come to build relationships with over the past 4 years of your life. So do not do what most, including myself, do every year, and begin a college essay while you’re ahead. 

Why Not Just Worry Later?

To this I say, you absolutely could, however, it is worth taking the time to begin early, especially if you plan on applying to numerous or top tier colleges. Doing this will spare you from restless nights and caffeine headaches that I and so many others experience in this process. Writing your college essay is stressful, there are endless topics and many end up completely scraping their essays last minute and starting from scratch.

In addition many middle and upper ranked schools will ask you for “supplemental essays,” in addition to your primary essay you will send to nearly every school. These essays can come in many different forms, asking you how you will explore a specific college you’re applying to or for a time your perspective was changed. So its best to at least have a good idea of what to write for your college essay that could allow you to shine in the eyes of the admissions officers who read hundreds of applications and essays.

How Do I Prepare?

The best advice I can provide for any prospective college student is to do your research. Browse for videos on Youtube for tips from both students and admissions officers. Do a mental brainstorming session, carve some time out your day, to just close your eyes and think.  There are many prompts to the personal essay that you can choose to respond from. Commonapp, the platform students reading this will most likely end up using, has 7 expansive, and differing prompts you can choose to respond from. These prompts are also pretty typical for other application websites and college specific application forms, and include: explaining your upbringing or background or a time of personal growth. 

Make Your Essay Stand Out

Choose wisely, and ensure once you select a prompt that you make an essay that would be both the most compelling and correctly represent you. Colleges want to see you on these applications, so being as true to yourself as possible is extremely important. It is also important to try to stand out from other applicants on your application, especially when applying to more selective schools as a better written and more unique essay could be the difference between a rejection and an acceptance to a college. In order to do so, avoid beaten to death essay topics, such as: ACL injury that prevented you from playing football or the death of a family member. Of course these subjects are character defining moments and times of struggle, however these are circumstances that happen to everyone or many others. Attempt to write about something more like how your cruise to the Bahamas nearly ending with the boat sinking into the Atlantic made you realize how precious life is, or how you were inspired to pursue physical therapy after you regained bodily function after contracting Polio. More than likely you will not have a story like that to tell, but think of something not many could say they have experienced in life. These topics will make for the most compelling read for Admissions Officers. 

For Ivy league schools, I suggest you think outside of the box, like Carolina Williams who was accepted to Yale after writing an essay on Papa John’s Pizza. However, it is risky, and should only be done for Ivy League Schools and if you have a good topic and writing capability. 

Another way to better your odds for any Ivy League or top school is to hook any college admission reader as quickly as possible. The longer your essay takes to draw in a reader or at all is going to hurt your chances. This hook does not need to have extreme shock value, it can just be an interesting writing choice or topic your essay is focused on. 

Additional Advice

Once you settle on an interesting topic and begin your writing, you should keep these factors in mind. A college application is a documental representation of you and your character, so keep in mind that your essay does not need to be overly articulate or sophisticated. Realistically, an essay from a high school senior from any public or private school in the nation should not sound like it was written in the age of Shakespeare. The word choices you make should be kept in mind to avoid your tone from being to simple or causal, but not every word needs to be replaced by a better sounding synonym or else your essay will get your application rejected, as admissions officers can tell that is not your writing style or will think it is written by ChatGPT.

Speaking of ChatGPT, it would also be wise to enter your essay into a trusted AI detector, like GPTZero, just in case. After all, several colleges have begun equipping the tool, and it could prevent your essay being marked as “AI written” for possibly sounding too robotic. It’s likely not something you will need to worry about, though, if you write your own essay. The technology is not reliably accurate, but it does not hurt to check it just in case. 

Concluding Thoughts

The best piece of advice that I could give to anyone thinking about college is to get your essay out of the way as soon as possible. Ultimately, try and aim for it being done by the start of your senior year or over the summer and you will thank yourself later. 

It is also important to know that despite all of the societal pressure to get into a top tier school, which are now increasingly competitive each year, is to keep motivated, no matter which institution you end up attending. If you do so, it will ultimately be your ambition and mindset that will make you successful in life.


Common App Essay Prompts:


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About the Contributor
Jacob Moquin
Jacob Moquin, Opinion Editor
Jacob Moquin is a part of the Class of 2024 at Ludlow High School. This is his first year as a writer for the Cub. He is also a part of Leading Lions and LHS cares, and was the former Vice President of the French Club. Outside of school and sleeping he enjoys partaking in painting and looking through his telescope on a clear night. After graduating, Jacob plans on pursuing a doctorate in veterinary medicine and aspires to have a practice of his own. However for the time being he plans on sharing his many opinions for readers to enjoy.

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