Metaphors and College Essays
When I was in Boston over the summer, I discovered a passion of mine that had been hidden for years. It’s an activity that involves sitting, yet there is motion. You can exert energy and go nowhere, or do nothing and go everywhere. You can have competition or recreation, explore small parts of the world or get lost in the middle of it all. My favorite thing to do on the weekends – kayaking!
Kayaking is like life because you can have a planned path that you want to take, but there are outside circumstances — like motorboats, duck tours, and sailing practice — that will make you rethink the planned path and go in a different direction. Because of any of these things, or the current, you may work really hard to go one way, but end up going backwards or sideways, or even upside-down! (Luckily I didn’t capsize, at all!)
Kayaking, like life, is a huge contradiction.
…Okay, so obviously I like kayaking a lot, but the point of this is to intro into college essays. The College Essay. I feel like it could be the name of scary movie…but the movie is real life. Over the summer when my brother came to visit me, I took him kayaking on Charles River, my favorite thing to do on a weekend afternoon before getting dinner in Cambridge.
While we were in the kayak, taking a break and letting the water take us where it may, I brought up his college essay. There is so much pressure on people to have this amazing essay, that it is really difficult to just sit down and write it. I tried to explain some tips and asked him how he would relate kayaking to life (some brainstorming technique I heard once). Only waiting three seconds, I answered with a lot of what I said above, plus more.
The advice I tell a lot of people is that students should write at least a rough draft of their college essay the summer before senior year. Once school starts, everything is busy again, and trying to write a college essay in between homework and soccer practice is not fun and feels forced.
The best thing I could have done was write my essay early. Now, I know it’s already October – so if you’re reading this and think you’re up a stream without a paddle (so punny!) because you haven’t started your essay yet, don’t stress— you can’t turn back time and stressing out will make writing more difficult. If you haven’t started or completed your essay yet, follow these tips:
1) Write down what day you need to submit the applications by – and try not to wait until the very last day of regular decision. If you are applying early action or early decision, the date is coming up.
2) Layout what your daily schedule looks like and schedule an hour everyday to work on your essay. Pretend this is a commitment that you have with a group of people and make sure you show up. Even though it’s not with a group, you need to use that hour productively, and give up one of TV.
3) Start off by writing what you know or what you can think of. Make a layout of what you want people to know about you…or maybe what you don’t want them to know about you.
4) Use your hour everyday, until you think the paper is edited perfectly.
5) Take feedback with a grain of salt – Obviously everyone wants to help you. If it’s a grammar issue, fix it, but if they want you to change something that you feel is super important to you, keep it. YOU’RE applying to college, not them.
6) And if you’re going to use a metaphor, like the kayaking one above, make sure it works. Metaphors can be highly effective…until they’re not anymore.
I wish you the best of luck in this process and let me know if you need more tips!