First Things First: Take It Off Your Stress List

“An essay is valuable when it gives us a glimpse into the authentic personality and core of a student, a real aspect of the student’s life that has played a role in developing them into the person they are today. That’s important because we’re admitting people, not academic profiles or great stories.”

– Nick Spaeth, Associate Vice President for Admission, Monmouth College

“Don’t write about your grades. We are the experts at knowing how smart you are and how you performed in high school. The personal statement will help us understand other areas of your life.”

– Mike Cook, Senior Associate Director of Admissions, Michigan State University

As a private writing, reading, and college admission essay preparation tutor over the past 15 years, I’ve witnessed some…stress. Parents wanting their kids to study for the SAT as early as sixth grade. Students Skyping me between violin and swim practice to wrangle out topic sentences comparing Atticus Finch to Abraham Lincoln.
Copies of The Scarlet Letter flung across the room in frustration. (Okay, I confess).

So why would I add to the academic anxiety by suggesting that high schoolers start thinking about their college admissions as early as their junior, sophomore, or even freshman year?

Because the essence of a good college admission essay isn’t about learning the “secret,” squeezing in a house-building trip to Haiti to have an impressive topic to write about, or working hard to get an edge on the competition. It’s about being your best self. And it’s never too early to be you!