bloomtwo blog

Admissions essays: overcome your fears and start writing

October 2019

The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better. - Stephen King

Few events in a teenager’s life cause more anxiety than the prospect of writing a college admissions essay. In a previous post, I focused on how to start your essay. (Here are the links for the Common App, Coalition App, and University of California essay prompts.) As mentioned in the post, getting started is often the most difficult part of writing, and you have to give yourself permission to write terribly, knowing that you will fix up your essay during the editing process. This idea is perfectly encapsulated by my favorite quote about writing, which is by Anne Lamott:

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something -- anything -- down on paper.”

Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic. - Dumbledore (JK Rowling)

If you have not started your essay yet and are not inspired by any of the prompts linked above, I challenge you to write about an object in your life that holds a great deal of personal meaning. This exercise, created by MIT Professor Sherry Turkle, was the first writing exercise I completed in grad school. The concrete nature of the prompt helped me get out of my own head. To quote my writing professor Nancy Sommers, “objects are rich sources of inquiry; they invite us to observe closely, pose questions, forge connections, and anchor ideas in the concrete.”