The College Essay-Writing Process
By Leila An Laserna '24
(Photo: Sag Harbor Express)
Senior Representative quotes are altered for precision.
The process of essay writing for college applications started in the first semester of the school year for seniors (also known as the “College App Season”) and with the second semester beginning, Spartan seniors are already hearing back from some of the colleges they applied to. After experiencing the toughest part of their senior year, three seniors gave thoughts on how their journey of applying for college and writing essays went for them. Seniors Jessica Ferrer, Ariella Magana, and Julienne Cancio discussed their tips, regrets, expectations, and more.
These representatives said that the essay-writing part of the application was the most complicated and time-consuming, compared to every other step of the application process. Various questions, ranging from personal growth to writing about overcoming challenges, are given to applying seniors. Jessica and Arielle claimed that it was difficult for them to define and describe their identities as well as listing all of their greatest skills. Jessica said that these questions gave her the process to reflect on herself.
Julienne went on to say that it was almost hard to talk about herself because “throughout our lives we are taught to be humble and grounded.
“But college apps are focused on doing the exact opposite because we have to tell them all about ourselves and you have to be very upfront with all of your accomplishments, your grades, passions, etc. For me, it was tough to get through that barrier of portraying myself as a good candidate for school and be upfront in their face about it,” Julienne said.
The relationship between the seniors and the application essays can be described as an ambivalent relationship as these representatives talk about how the essay writing was also their favorite part about the experience. Arielle said, “Writing the essays was super fun and the writing prompts allowed me to be very creative with my responses.” Julienne said that she does personally enjoy writing as well. So, once she found something she was passionate about that she felt she could write well on, she said she became thrilled about the work that she was able to produce. As for Jessica, even though she had a hard time describing herself on paper, she said that she liked talking about what she valued in both her academic and professional life.
In addition to the ups and downs of the essay writing, there are also the additional burdens that come with being a responsible student during the essay process. These senior representatives discussed the importance of time management to help make the essay-writing process less strenuous. From Jessica’s experience, she regrets not taking more time to review and edit her essays. She said, “I saw so many mistakes in my responses, both technical mistakes and content-wise. I definitely took the ‘it is the way it is' mindset, which I definitely do not recommend when it comes to applying to colleges.” However, throughout Jessica’s experience she said that the Notion website (a compact workspace that helps organize daily work for you) helped her keep track of deadlines and anything else in her personal life. Arielle was in a similar situation; she recommends that the rising seniors should start their essays early because it was challenging for her to balance school life and college applications.
Strengthening the skills of time management also means overcoming procrastination. This persistent harmful habit is a common obstacle students face and these senior representatives could definitely relate as they explained their ways of dealing with it. For Jessica, she used a method of rewarding herself every time she finished an essay. Some examples of these rewards she would give herself included boba at the end of the week, or even an extra hour on Netflix. She said that these mini-rewards helped her look forward to becoming more productive.
Arielle took a different approach and decided to motivate herself by watching YouTube college acceptance videos. This helped her to continue working and it made her try her best. Julienne’s drive, however, was from study halls that she had with her friends. During these study halls, they would encourage each other to finish their applications. “My friends and I were able to bond a lot more because of the fact that we were all going through the same nerve-wracking part of our lives. It was a bonding experience for the senior class to go through senior apps together,” Julienne said.
In spite of all the stressful components that the essay and college-application process comes with, these representatives remind rising seniors that they are not alone. Julienne said that she got a lot of help from her friends who gave her insight on editing her essays as they had work sessions together. Additionally, along with the support of her peers, she also had assistance from two college counselors at ICA, Ms. Benson and Ms. Genger (who is also a part of Alumnae Support): “Ms. Benson and Ms. Genger will be your best friends. They were really good in supporting and helping me with every question I had.” So although college applications are tough, future seniors should keep in mind that there is always guidance when needed. Not only is there aid within the college process, but there is also always a helping hand given in general at ICA. “Take advantage of all the relationships and communities that are at ICA. In my experience, I’ve made so many amazing mentors and friendships both before and during online school that have helped me thrive both academically and personally,” Jessica mentioned.
College applications have the reputation of being intense and stressful, especially the writing portion. Luckily, Julienne shared that the process gets better. She added, “For me it felt like a never-ending abyss of work, along with the homework that I had to do for my classes. However, with the right amount of time management and the support given to me by my mentors, it became more manageable as the process went on.”