College Application Essays: Getting Your Thoughts on Paper

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College Application Essays: Getting Your Thoughts on Paper

Meet our College Essay Coach

College Essay Coach Mac Porter

Hi, my name is Mac Porter, and I am English teacher and essay coach at MEK. My most cherished hobbies include playing and watching sports, listening to music, and reading satirical fiction. Furthermore, I am an avid consumer of news who is always trying to incorporate current events and historical trends into my lessons to further engage students with the material we are discussing. My favorite part of working at MEK is easily all the time I get to spend meeting with, collaborating with, and learning from the diversity of students in our community.

In this blog, I’m going to share essential tips for transforming great ideas into great writing on your college essays.

Getting Your Thoughts on Paper

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of strong writing is how you translate your thoughts into a meaningful essay that effectively communicates your personal experiences, thoughts, and realities. Coming up with the story is the easy part: everybody is unique and interesting in their own ways.

However, the countless decisions that an author must make when seeking to tell such personal stories can be dizzying at best and discouraging at worst. 

So, when setting out to write anything, much less a portfolio of college essays, you must devise a strategy to tackle these decisions in a systematic way.

This systematic approach largely consists of two steps:

1) Brainstorming and planning the essay.

2) Writing your essay multiple times over the course of a few weeks.

Brainstorming and Planning the Essay


Ironically, the most commonly skipped step in writing an essay is also the most crucial step. All too often, students use a whole range of excuses, ranging from pure laziness to over-confidence, to convince themselves that they do not need to construct a detailed brainstorm before writing their essays.

However, brainstorming is the most important step of writing!

The human brain is not nearly as logical as we think. If we start writing without a plan, we often end up with a mess of an essay that has no clear theme or organization, and can leave our reader confused and unengaged. Thus, the best method you can employ to defend against this phenomenon is to construct a thoughtful and detailed brainstorm.

It can turn even the most complicated essay prompt into a straightforward assignment with clear directions.

Because college admissions essays are often quite personal in nature, when you are brainstorming you should consider the following vital questions:

  • Main Message: Which aspect of yourself do you want to highlight in this essay?
  • Topic: What event or story will you use to most effectively highlight that aspect
  • Structure: How will the story work to effectively highlight the desired aspect

Once you answer these questions, and others specific to the given prompt, you are ready to begin writing!

Write, Write, and Write Again

Even though, by this point, you have put in considerable work to establish the direction of your writing, you must also realize that the process has just begun. Writing is not an exact science, and for this very reason, it requires a degree of comfort with trial and error. 

As a result, you should plan to give yourself at least a couple weeks of writing time. During these weeks, you have the opportunity to write the essay not just once but several times. This gives you the opportunity to audit your initial drafts against your original brainstorm and make any necessary corrections your writing. 

Furthermore, it is important for you to space out the various drafts of the essay because this allows you to consider your writing from the freshest perspective.

Too many times, young authors think that they have clearly conveyed their message because it makes sense to them when, in actuality, to the outside reader the message is vague and underdeveloped.

Thus, you must be very critical of your writing and consider how somebody with a completely different perspective than your own will interpret it.

Moreover, such intensive proofreading will often help you craft new and powerful ideas that you can incorporate to strengthen your writing even further!

You Are Not Alone!

This process should not be a solitary one.

Instead, you should seek out one or two trusted confidants, such as MEK essay coaches and guidance counselors, who can offer their own outside perspective of your writing.

Fresh eyes will allow you to further hone the direction and presentation of your writing with each subsequent draft until it has culminated int0 its most powerful form.

Want More Expert Tips?

If you want expert guidance on crafting strong college application essays from start to finish, sign up to work one-on-one with me or one of my fellow expert essay coaches through our Application Essay Writing Program.

You can call 855-346-1410 or contact us here to get started!

Mac Porter

Mac Porter serves as a full time English instructor for College Test Prep, H.S. Test Prep, and Writing Lab. He teaches students effective methods for excelling on the reading and writing sections of standardized tests. He also helps students become advanced and excellent writers.


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