PLUS IMPORTANT AND USEFUL TACTICS – by: Annie Jain
Frustration (and caffeine) coursed through my veins like the throngs of people swarming in and out of the busy Starbucks. There I sat, a blank Google Docs screen glaring at me and a hodge-podge of messy, useless ideas scattered on a notebook page. The only progress I had made in all those hours was emptying my Frappuccino cup and devouring my bagel. The sole thing I had gained from this writing session was calories. A sense of futility hung over me as I lazily combed through my old google drive folders, ready to give up my efforts for the day. Where was the muse that all the great writers claimed helped them out?
Clicking on my creative writing class drive folder, I laughed at my ninth-grade self’s words and shared seemingly-ridiculous portions with my friends in efforts to procrastinate further. Then suddenly, an old poem caught my attention. Dusty memories resurfaced: reading the poem aloud at an awards ceremony, referencing it on my phone before a musical audition to soothe myself, and writing to strike a chord with myself – What To Play For.
My earnest young words – encouraging myself to enjoy the delights of performing and radiate my soul into music rather than burying it all in nerves – flew out of the screen and hit me like a caffeine rush. “What is that feeling?” I wondered. It was a sensation almost as dazzling as taking the first bite of my plain-bagel-with-cream-cheese had been earlier that morning. It was… an idea!
“I was so wrapped up in the moment that when I finished my draft I had more than one-thousand words! Overflowing the 650-word common application capacity.”
Fueled by a shot of inspiration blended with espresso, words burst through my fingertips into the keyboard almost as fast as the baristas churned out drinks on that crowded morning. I was so wrapped up in the moment that when I finished my draft I had more than one-thousand words! Overflowing the 650-word common application capacity. Of course, the reframing, revising, and editing that would come in the next few weeks still loomed. But, that unexpected nudge from years forgotten was the adrenaline rush that really kick-started my college application momentum.
I remember complaining about my creative writing class profusely in freshman year – it was a lot of work for an elective class and my teacher doled out constant writing assignments without teaching, only to needlessly lower my grade point average. Never would I have guessed that, more than three years later, this “utterly garbage class” would help me get into many big-name universities.
Drinking from a similar coffee cup, my Princeton long essay involved my experience crashing cymbals in ninth-grade marching band. Having blown off the marching audition, I was relegated to a humiliating spot in the show. At the time, I considered it nothing more than a cymbal of my failure and crashing waste of time, reverberating with patheticness all around. However, without those 296 “vain” hours burning my fingers on percussive accessories, I would never have gained the point of view about persistence that I shared in that supplemental essay.
I may never have gotten into Princeton.
The point is, I gained a lot more out of writing college essays than rejections and acceptances. The magnitude of self-reflection completely reshaped my view of the past. I saw several “useless and insignificant” life events as formative in who I am today. Even essays I wrote but never submitted molded my self-awareness. I have since realized the true value of viewing past events through a variety of angles – even those we want to repress.
Never again will I consider any life era wasteful – even the quarantine! Although the world would obviously have been better off without COVID-19, I anticipate afterwards a degree of regard and appreciation of presence with others that severely lacked beforehand. If I ever again catch anyone scrolling through social media when spending time with me in person, I will be extremely shocked. And yet, such occurrences saturated social interaction before coronavirus was poured into the cup. Overall, the college application process has forever placed me more in tune with my emotions and helped me connect better with other people – all by introducing self-reflection as a critical ingredient in the frenzied coffee drink of my life.
I entitled this A College Essay About a College Essay for a reason! Besides the message that I want to get across, here are some tactics I employed that can be useful in college essays:
- An anecdotal and story-like approach
- A metaphorical/thematic approach interwoven throughout the essay (all my subtle references/metaphors/similes to Starbucks, caffeine, drinks, etc.).
- Literary devices can really spice up your writing, like pumpkin spice improving a plain latte!
- An immediate transition to deeper personal reflection and connections after my anecdote. Really exploring how I grew as a person.
- A SINGLE MAIN THEME to focus on in my self reflection! (Kind of like the moral of the story). Sub-themes are also possible but hard to fit in these short essays.
- Using my voice!! As you can see, although I have varied word choice, I didn’t use any crazy vocab or make it sound super “impressive” with a ton of big words. It’s more conversational in order to bring out my personality. I even threw a little bit of cringe humor in there (I do love puns!) which is very much in line with who I am.
- SELF REFLECTION about how I learned to self-reflect better!
- Coming full circle in the conclusion by relating my self-reflection to the theme/anecdote that I started the essay with.
- Have others read over your essays to see if your voice really comes out and discuss how you could better implement some of the above things!