The white computer screen glares back at you. You type: “Personal Statement.” Then delete it. You type: “My Journey” and gag silently. Delete delete delete. There’s nothing you want more than to be decorating a dorm room, signing up for classes, hanging out on the quad… so why is actually applying for college so hard?
Sure, you know that tens of thousands of other students are staring at their computer screens, just like you, mystified about how to make their chosen college choose them back. How to stand out and be that one, special kid. Pick me! Pick me! Sigh.
Other students don’t have your grades to contend with. Or your parents. They probably have more money than you do or better test scores. They probably come from families where everybody goes to college. Yeah, maybe. There are some kids out there with all the breaks, definitely.
But that’s okay, because that’s just life, right? And that’s what college is about: Growing Up 101. Countdown to Adulthood. Time to Get Serious About Stuff. Ugh. That knot in your stomach again. Yep. And what if wanting to go to college, dying to go, what if it’s not enough?
What if you spend all this time applying and all this time taking classes and all this effort getting good grades and then, just… you fail anyway? Is that a thing? Can you go to college and learn a bunch of stuff and get good grades and not end up doing well? Hm. I guess that’s not really a thing. If you learn things in school they can never be taken away, so… yeah. Even if you’re not elected student body president and carried off of the football field on someone’s shoulders, going to college is probably the best thing you could do with yourself after high school. Right? Right.
And, also, there is that class you saw in the catalog: The Modern Crisis: Major Books of Western Culture. What do they mean, “the modern crisis”? All the courses descriptions are so mysterious. Could they possibly be as intense and deep as they sound? What if they’re even better?
Okay, but if you’re going to find out, you have to get in first. FOCUS. “Write a personal essay that explains why you want to attend college at our institution. Be sure to include details from your life and experience that will elucidate your personality and point of view.” That could literally mean anything, couldn’t it? Eluuuuuucidate. Elucidate. Elucidate. Do you even have a personality? Not if you sit here staring at a blank computer screen much longer, you won’t.
Okay, you have to write a statement that you can use for more than one school. Most schools are asking the same basic thing anyway. You’ve got your safety school—well, two or three, really, just to be extra safety safe safe. And your shoot-for-the-moon school. Why not? And then the school of your choice—your school—where you really see yourself.
Start there, then. Why did you pick these schools? Well, they’re all close enough to home without actually being home, so that’s one good reason. So maybe write about that? Why is your favorite school your favorite? Kinda hard to say. When something feels right, it just clicks, and it was like that.
You’re applying to enough schools that you’ll probably get into one of them and everything is going to turn out fine… but not if you don’t finish this essay already! You put your hands on the keyboard and start typing and, letter by letter, somehow the words just come.