Creative approaches to writing a college essay?
I'm beginning to write my personal application essay and in doing so I've realized that while I have a strong, unique essay theme/topic, I am struggling to express this idea in a way that's unique (and I really don't want to sound like my essay was made with a basic formula that everyone uses--even if it's quality writing it might sound dry/redundant to the essay readers). Anybody have ideas for a creative approach that could help me stand out above other applicants? Also, to anyone who's reviewed other essays, I'm curious as to what constituted the difference between a good essay and an outstanding one (and what the best/most creative essays you've read were about.)
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A good essay tells you more about the author and what they're like, what motivates them, what inspires them, etc. An outstanding essay shows you. Simple as that.
You've heard the adage, "Show, don't tell," right? It's exactly right. You've got to be good at storytelling if you want to write an essay that knocks your reader's socks off. Talk about the tiniest details and weave them into your narrative, and use your narrative to construct the base of your essay. Any topic, when written in an extraordinary way, can become an extraordinary essay.
Who are you, really? What do you stand for? What makes you tick? What lights up your world? Deep questions from an anonymous internet user, I know, but your answers to these reveal something about yourself, something the reader wants to know. But they don't want you to tell them; they want you to show them. You know?
TL;DR - think about who you are and what you're interested in, and then write a story about that in your own words that ultimately reveals something poignant and inspiring and beautiful that makes the Admissions Officer want to cry and run to the other AOs and shout, "This kid is amazing!" Or just tell your own narrative in your own voice. Same thing.
Oh - and about my favorite essay? I've reviewed a couple, most of which were decent (some of which should never see the light of day), but one was really, really good. Like, really, really, REALLY good. This person wrote about their love of cooking, which I guess is an ordinary topic. But they intertwined it with their mom's struggle with a mental health/health crisis (I forgot which, but I thiiink it was schizophrenia or bipolar) and my LORD it was gorgeous. The emotion! The simplicity! The description! The complexity! All these contradicting elements pulled together in a magical way that took my breath away. (If you're reading this, essayist, your essay was amazing and you're a talented writer!! <3<3<3)
You can try doing a creative structure but another approach that I don't see people talking about as much is using creative and unique language/wording. This doesn't mean using the biggest or most complicated words you can find, but using words to express your thoughts in a richer, more thought-provoking way. Besides just having good content and actual main points, I really enjoy essays that use detailed descriptions that actually help incorporate/communicate meaningful values or qualities, rather than just random details (e.g. sweat beads down my face) that don't do anything besides making your essay appear "specific" but still filling it with fluff. Hope that makes sense!
For me, essay writing is also quite a complicated and time-consuming process. And it doesn't matter the type of oaoer I have to write, the theme and so on, I always have some troubles. And the advice, which is based on my own experience, is to read similar papers. You can find some samples online; for example, I always read them on https://studyhippo.com/ , and it always helps me to complete my paper. Also, I recommend you read different literature, articles and so on because it's also good for skills development and improving your knowledge.
My biggest piece of advice, which I think makes or breaks an essay, is to have an extremely intriguing hook and an ending that makes the reader not able to forget you. I personally like to start with a piece of dialogue that is sudden and maybe controversial to get the reader interested. Other ways you can do so could be through introducing a controversial topic, asking an interesting question, something interesting and unique about you or the topic, or even an anecdote. The goal is to have the reader hooked and wanting more right at the first sentence. When you write your ending, you want to do something similar by writing an ending that makes the reader remember you even after reading your essay. You could restate your introduction but add an important lesson that you learned that one would not expect, write a unique but meaningful metaphor, address the reader, restate your biggest point and/or a new point that doesn't require too much detail (you don't want to introduce a whole new topic that would require its own paragraph as you want to keep it short and simple) to make it your "cherry on top" or "la pièce de résistance", or even keep it simple and just leave an inspirational quote you made yourself as your last sentence.
For the part in between, just write an essay as you normally would but be sure to give it a personal touch and use very unique vocabulary. A way to check if it's unique is to read it and ask yourself, could this apply to anyone else? If your answer is yes, you need to make it more personal and unique.
Otherwise, I wish you luck with your essay!
1) Having some kind of anecdote or recounting specific memories in your essay will always help add a bit of spark to your essay! By adding those types of things to your essay you're tailoring it directly to yourself making it personal. Personal, personal, personal, is 100% the way to go! Don't be afraid to be vulnerable!
2) I think we're so used to writing our essays formally because of school with the whole structure of claim, evidence, and analysis-driven essays. And all of that has unintentionally programmed us to only write formally. Try forgetting all of that when writing this essay! Think of it more as a narrative than an essay. Mess around with the format of the essay if applicable. For example, my essay is structured as a list of lessons that I learned from my father, with each lesson being its own paragraph. You have full expression in this essay, use it!
I faced this same problem as well while writing my essay so I know how frustrating it can be, but there is always room for improvement and I believe that you will be able to achieve it!
P.S. Remember that this is YOUR essay when you feel that YOU are happy with YOUR essay that is how you know it couldn't be more perfect. I wish you all the luck with your writing process and all of your acceptances!!
my biggest piece of advice is just to read other people’s writing. since u have a strong topic and just need help to express it, reading works by others (and not just like classic novels or whatever, this could be new articles, essays, op-ed’s, blog posts, etc.) will be invaluable in building ur writing skills and showing u new ways to write that u had never thought of before. so basically, i give u full permission to go down an internet rabbit hole on ur favorite topic and read way others have to say about it :)
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