Anonymous said : I have no idea on what to write for my college essay. Common app is destroying my life 

trust me babe I’ve been on that boat a million times. 

Unfortunately tbh the essay that everyone said they loved was the one where I had to drive home the token minority graphic and I only sent that to one school (I ended up going there even though their film program sucks but that’s ok! Mainly because I’ve got some good internships under my belt, semi-changing career paths to be more art-oriented and I met my love but that’s besides the point) 

First you should breathe

Then remember the above where I realized slowly that everything will work out eventually even if by “working out” means that you stop having a school career and start having a life. And when I say that it has nothing to do with how great the school is or the program or how good of a fit you are.

At some point, maybe it’s sometime while you’re in college or after you graduate— hell maybe it was in high school or maybe you drop out and realize it after— but someday you might still be studying and growing and learning but you stop giving a crap about the pressures of school itself.

Course I might be crazy but the point of this tangent is that at one point two years ago I got pointers on editing  a different essay and I finally understand what he meant. 

I was told that one of my essays was good but to tie back my ending point on how college would enrich my experiences. 

Point of the story (cynically): College administrators in highly competitive schools still want to hear that we’re grateful even when we’re getting the short end of the stick

Point (uncynically): don’t do that

Tell a story, tell your story 

Don’t kiss up because they don’t owe you anything. You are a treasure and while they may be giving up minutes in a couple months to read through thousands of “yous”, you will have spent months writing how you’re unlike “them” 

You’re the entire package, completely unique and I bet whether you love to decoupage, put together impromptu cabaret shows, or do podcasts on thurday nights about how great the 80s must have been.

But I say this a lot in different ways and maybe it’s not just about that one quirk that you think will set you apart from thousands of other faceless statistics.

So ask yourself this (if it’s not too morbid and if it helps jog your brain)

If you were to die tomorrow name one thing you would want in your obituary

Ponder it, expand it, condense into an elevator pitch

It doesn’t have to be a legacy, it doesn’t have to be the passing on of familial ties. It’s about what you think is so important that you want to exclusively and inclusively identify yourself with, why it matters to you and why should it matter to everyone else. 

If it sounds cheesy or fatalistic, it probably is so maybe live up to our generational stereotypes and be blunt, ruthless and mildly cynical 

One more thing: people talk about developing your writing voice in college personal statements and that’s extremely important. 

Not saying I don’t like buzzfeed nerdiness every once in a while but if I have to read another Thought Catalog, TSM, Buzzfeed, Wordpress or random knock-off brand site with a catchy title but sounds exactly the fucking same I will choke someone and college admissions officers probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

You’re not getting graded on your formality and you’re not Ellen Page (although if you have a sense of humor, play with it). Don’t sound like a robot, don’t sound like a jerk, and certainly don’t sound like you’re Jack Donaghy. 

I could definitely get more specific but that’s my updated perspective as of now. 

Sorry if I sounded cranky and/or bitchy and I hope that if you’re looking for something more optimistic that you’ll look at some of my earlier posts because I wasn’t wrong then and even though I’ve got bite now, my message is pretty similar. 

Message me if you want more specific direction 

Best Wishes,


Meanwhile I’m avoiding catching up for an Anthropology final here are some tid-bits that will hopefully enlighten you all as to what to expect in the coming year. And if you’re already in higher education a) thanks for sticking around b) hopefully you can sympathize with this:

1) Never buy books before syllabus week. 

Sometimes even give it a few days. I don’t care if you think you’ll read ahead. Don’t even worry about the bookstore running out (they won’t and if they do your professor will be informed and give extra time on the first assignments accordingly if that happens). There will be books that are assigned to your class through the school bookstore that will never be used or rarely so. Your professor or TA will tell you this or you’ll hear some upperclassmen or others that they never used there books in said class. It gets easier to shop for books once you start learning about the lesser known (and cheaper) bookstores around campus and online source (like amazon and others) but for the love of everything that is good this is the one thing that you should always apply a healthy dose of procrastination to. 

2) You’re first friends will be your dorm mates. 

Roommates, floor mates, that hot kid who lives on the 3rd floor that you sometimes strategically wait for their dinner time to run into. Being stuck together during orientation when the campus is virtually empty will bind people together. In general it’s super easy to make fast friends in college, but even more so the first month of freshmen year. If you’re shy or slow to warm, don’t worry about it they’ll still be around. Whenever you feel like you’re not getting much out of social life, try expanding. ((Maybe you sign up for everything you’re interested on quad day so that if you ever feel like trying something new boom you know when the next swing class is.)) 

As the year progresses and you find you niche it you might still be tight with the people you met at the beginning. Or you might move on. Either of which are perfectly fine. Random placement into housing isn’t what makes lasting friendships. It’s the connections that touch you and make you grip on tight. If you still want to be friends but you feel like you’re drifting away, find out where they’re the next term and see if you can’t drop by for a visit. 

3) It’s like drinking frenzy 

I was talking to a guy from the University of Indiana a few weeks back in Belgium (very long story that I’ll save for the next post) and he basically validated for me a phenomena that I see all around my campus. Freshmen get hammered like there’s no tomorrow. Sure upperclassmen do it too, but mainly on special occasions. With first-years there’s often a progression of epiphany/intro to college drinking, going hard and maybe simmering down (or continuing until drinking gets old). Now even if you partook in high school, college life has little to no buying or consuming limits as long as it isn’t illegal (or otherwise caught). Which is a problem for some and not for some others. The key is if you’re scared of drinking, don’t be. You’re not going to get wasted after two drinks in a row (you might get tipsy based on your tolerance levels). Just because you don’t feel it doesn’t mean you’re not actually drunk and it’s perfectly fine to ask for sips of friends drinks if you just want to know what a particular drink is like. If you’re looking for casual social drinking, stick to beer and don’t get too attached to mixed drinks. If you don’t like the taste of straight up alcohol you might want to examine why you’re having it in the first place (or lest find your preferred drink and stick to it). 

4) Everyone’s an asshole

That is to say that everyone has flaws. Everyone is for themselves and not against you personally. They will disappoint you. They may even bruise your ego. They will be objective and critical or loyal and stubborn. If they don’t do what you want that does not make them bad people. You’re going to meet so many people that you might enjoy their company but despise dealing with them professionally or vice versa. Conversely, if they’re handing out hate speech you have every right to call them out. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and what’s right. It’s not hard once you get in the habit of asserting and stating what you know and how you feel. 

5) You’ll learn by thanksgiving(maybe not until the first summer) who from home you want to keep in your life. 

People make up their minds pretty fast. If you find yourself missing someone, give them a call. There’s a difference between them not having time to talk and not having time for you so keep that in mind if you ever get blown off. Getting out of touch with someone can be remedied very quickly if they’re the right person to be in your life. I unfortunately know and have seen way too many stories of people holding onto high school friends that result in them being abused, freeloaded or worse left in another state/country to fend for themselves as a result of keeping these ties. Sometimes distance is all it takes to discover who in your life is toxic. Let them go and move on with your life sooner. If it sounds like a bad relationship to third parties and feels like a burden it’s probably time to move on. 

6) You’re so much more like your parents than you realize 

It might be that you learned copping mechanisms from them or you have the same temperament as one or that they stopped going into “parent mode” to handle you so now it’s like you’re dealing with totally new people. It’s actually a really good way to do some self evaluation and see if there’s anything you’d want to change in your life or be mindful of. It’s also a great motivator if you really revere your parents. If they made it through uni or some other big life challenge/goal then you can make it through as well. 

7) Relationships are what you make of them

Both with friendships and significant others. However you want to handle them be willing to face the consequences as well as the rewards. It’s cool being in a relationship in college because the dynamic is less stressful and more meaningful than high school. Not to say that there weren’t some gems during adolescence but the majority of us can agree that breaks up are different here because people are less willing to commit in the first place to someone they’re not into. Going back to the point on parents, you’re also going to find that there are striking similarities between your family in general and the world of your significant other. Set clear boundaries where need be and never be afraid to say exactly what’s bothering you and why. If they’re worth it, they’ll understand. 

8) Don’t knock it until you try it 

Unless what you’re trying is like a plot line out of Breaking Bad.Then you should probably stop and walk away as quickly as possible. 

But seriously you never know what you’re capable of and if it interests you even a little bit, try it. This is a time of making mistakes and readjusting accordingly. If it all fails, then at least you have a good story to tell at an interview one day.

9) You can change your major three times and still graduate on schedule. 

You can also change schools if you have to

You might be taking some summer courses. Be ready and plan smart. Never apologize for chasing your dreams, especially if they change. 

10) The seniors graduating have no idea what they’re doing with their lives either. 

Case and point I know one who’s a journalism major applying for a one year portfolio program and/or internships because she realized a few months ago that she should’ve been in advertising all along. Plenty of people go to grad school in fields that weren’t their original. Your first job will hopefully be in a field that you like and/or are good at. It’s ok to complain as much as you want about your first job. Your first job is just the spring board for your second and whatever comes after that until you get what you truly want. There’s always a path, there’s always a contingency plan. And if all else fails: don’t worry there are plenty of seniors going home for the summer to take a break and start job hunting fresh in September. 

Take all the time you need. Get a late shift at a retail store and go job hunting in the morning. You won’t have to drain your savings or live off your parents if you don’t want to/can’t. You’ll always have a job that way even if you’re waiting for your next big break. 

6 months ago


So you’re a high school senior or maybe even a junior, the thought of applying to college has been on your mind for some time. It seems that every moment of your high school career has been building up to this point. Your GPA is mostly set and you are already involved in all the clubs and extracurriculars that you will ever join, at least in high school. There is now one thing that stands in your way. The college essay.

Below are some tips and guidelines that will help you write the ideal college essay:

1. Answer the essay question. Each college essay prompt will probably ask something different of you. Be sure to read this prompt carefully and get a sense as to what it wants you to write about. Because many of these college essays are rather short, it is absolutely essential that you start your essay by immediately addressing the question.

2. Use anecdotes. Most of these college admissions officers who will be reading your work go through hundreds of college essays each day. In other words, they do not spend that much time on each essay. As such, it is important to capture and hold their attention during the few minutes that they will be reading. Make sure to use specific and personal stories as these stick with people. Also, use strong and vivid language that creates powerful images in people’s minds.

3. End lesson. With the college essays, it is crucial that you come to some kind of end goal or lesson. This lesson does not have to be extravagant, like “I want to achieve world peace in the next few years.” Rather, it has to be a personal and therefore rather intimate observation that shows who you are as a person. It is a way for the admissions officer to get to know the candidate.

4. Edit, edit, and edit. Once you are done writing, you have to edit your work over and over again. Go through your work with a pen and make edits. Afterwards, have your friends and maybe even teachers take a look and have them critique your work. The quality of these revisions will make for the best college essay.

Follow these tips and you are thinking about the college essay in the right way.

About the author-Daniel Ryu was raised in Ridgewood, NJ before attending Harvard College where he studies history and literature. Currently he is working for a legal consulting firm in Beacon Hill.

(Source: cafeblogger, via thewritingcafe)

8 months ago
8 months ago