Working with Gabrielle Glancy, even the hard questions weren’t that hard. She has a way to help you get started and write your essays that really works. I can’t believe it, but I kind of had a lot of fun writing my essays. And all my hard work paid off. I got into Stanford. J.Cameron, Stanford ’20
College Essay season is upon us. It’s really only a matter of weeks before the applications are due for your Early Action schools.
Most students start with or have already started on their Common App essay. Some students will already have finished that essay and are ready to move on to the supplements.
Remember almost all your schools will receive your Common App essay. The supplemental essays for each school are unique. This is where the school gets to ask you anything it wants. The Ad Com spends a lot of time inventing these questions and they’re eager to hear your answer to them.
Almost all schools have a “WHY” question. And even though the word limits on these are often fairly low (with the exception of the University of Pennsylvania), the WHY’s are very important.
Having been in admissions, I can tell you that the Ad Com often reads the WHY questions first. Why? 😉
Because that is where they can get a feel for how genuine and deep your interest in their college goes.
If, in your Why essay for Tulane, for example, you end the essay by saying, “And for that reason, The University of Oregon is my top-choice school,” they will surely know that you are using the same essay for all your schools. They will also know you’re careless. And it goes without saying, you’re not going to get in.
If, on the other hand, your WHY is filled with writing that shows you 1) know about their school 2) honestly want to go to their school and 3) are a good fit for their school — you’ve just upped your chances of getting in!
We get it, we get it. The “Why’s” are important.
I would be lying to you if I didn’t add that the WHY questions are also the most difficult questions to answer.
I usually advise my students to wait until they’ve written everything else before they attempt to write the WHY’s.
So why I am bringing this up now, so early in the college application season?
There’s a method to my madness.
Although I don’t have students start writing the WHY’s until after they’ve finished the Common App essay, and potentially even the other supplements, I do offer some suggestions to get them thinking, and even writing, preliminarily.
In a certain way, I prepare a marinade for them so that when the time comes to sit down and write that essay, it has already germinated inside them. In some cases, the writing they do in preparation for writing the essay, is good enough to use.
Your reasons for choosing a particular college or university are unique. They belong to no one but you.
You can’t just tell Columbia University what they already know about themselves. You can’t just tell them how pretty their buildings are or how bustling the city is outside the campus. You must show them you really know who they are by showing them why you’re the perfect candidate for that particular school.
You must Find Your Why!
And one way to do it is to follow the guidelines below.
So here is my recipe for the marinade:
- Go visit the school if you can
- Speak to students who are going there or have gone there
- Research the school thoroughly. Go to their website. Look at mission, vision, values. Read what’s in big print — that’s what they want you to know and think about them. And read between the lines — get a feel for what the school is really like.
- Once you’ve done the above, pick 5 adjectives that best describe the school and see if you can find an example for each one of them.
- You could also pick 5 adjectives to describe yourself and match these with aspects of the school that appeal to you.
- Find a metaphor for the feeling you get about this particular school. Is the school a boat drifting at sea? (Hope not.) Or is it the freedom of a bird in flight searching for food for its mate? May sound corny, but it helps you locate your sense of the place.
- Think about how you first heard about the school
- See if you can remember what people you know have said about it
- Look at courses and majors and see what interests you, what you might take if you went there
- Pick a specific spot at the school — the library of the business school, the quad, the dining hall — and imagine yourself there. What is it like?
Don’t write an essay. Just see if you can answer these questions.
Then, when you have finished your Common App essay, and other supplements, pull out your answers to the questions above, and see if you can put them together as an answer to the question WHY?
I would love to guide you in this process. I’ve been doing it a long time and am something of an expert at it!
It’s not an accident that about 94% of the students I work with get into their top-choice schools. I helped them find their WHY. I can help you too!