This month, I’ve written several essays for college applications, and I’m sure many of you who are seniors have done the same. While it is sometimes fun to write about yourself and your likes/dislikes, often these essays are stressful to create. After all, a lot is writing on how well you express yourself (pun intended).
It can be debated whether or not a college can accurately identify a student’s potential based on a 650 word essay, but the bottom line is that these essays are critical to our success in a world of universities trying to convince their prospective students that their school will treat them not as a number, but as what we really are: a collection of knowledge, wisdom, and memories, or experiences.
It’s the last of those for which college application essays most often ask. They want to know what experience has most changed you as a person, or when you really “discovered yourself,” or a time when you “overcame adversity.” They want you to talk about yourself within the frame of a single, supposedly life changing moment, to use your narrative to tell them who you really are. What they really want is your history.
I’ve been writing these History Corner articles for a while now, and I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s an interesting space where I can explore the past, the present, and even sometimes the future with absolute creativity. Every month, I pick something that connects back to current events, and dig a little deeper. I ask myself hard questions and attempt to answer them. Many a late night has been spent forming and crafting the arguments of which you get to see the final product. (Usually these late nights are the Sunday my article is due to the editors to be looked over- sorry Olivia and Judianne!). Often, I begin an article with one direction (not the band, mind you), and end up developing a different direction. The worst is when I realize midway through that I agree with the opposing argument and have to rewrite the whole thing. The entire writing process is a journey, and sometimes I don’t end up where I thought I was going in the first place.
Looking back at the college applications I’ve written, I could make an argument that each of them was actually a History Corner piece in and of itself. The UK honors application prompt helped me out because it was already history related (What time period would you choose if you could decide your birth date?), but even essays that are all about my life are examining the history of me. I ask hard questions of myself. I question my motives, of course always attempting to paint myself in a good light (this is an application after all). I look to draw conclusions about the world around me through memories brought to light by the broad, open ended prompts colleges favor. Most of all, I explore who I am, opening my past to whatever bored, tired admissions counselor ends up reading mine, the 167th essay they’ve seen over a span of a couple days.
You can read a million self help articles about how to write a college essay, and all of them will say the same thing: be yourself. Write about something you’re passionate about, and you’ll succeed in crafting an interesting essay that reveals the best side of you. All that is good advice, but don’t forget to ask questions, to explore, to get creative. Treat your essay like a journey, an adventure. Seek new paths than the traditional “I got a puppy and it made me happy because he is my friend so now I’m a good person” route. Sure, brag on yourself. Show your strengths. But impress them just as much with your willingness to ask questions, to doubt what you’ve taken for granted and to explore new ideas. That’s not weak. That’s how the world grows. That’s what the History Corner is all about.