It’s coming up on a year now since I applied to Tufts, which means that high school seniors are currently going through the process of choosing their schools, filling out applications, and writing numerous drafts of essays to achieve that perfect personal statement. I don’t miss that time of my life in the least, especially not the essay writing portion. As a lover of words and a prospective English major, I have a tendency to overwrite; therefore, the strict word counts that accompanied the application process were the most challenging aspect of the whole ordeal for me. How was I supposed to fit my entire essence as a human being into 600 words? It was agony for me. However, I had an excellent resource for this issue in my very own house: my mom.
As an English major herself, my mom is a master at meeting word counts and college essays in general. She proofread countless paragraphs during that first semester of my senior year, including those written by my friends for their own applications. We’ve told her, with absolute sincerity, that she should start a business for helping kids with their college essays. In my opinion, she would make a lot of money and save a lot of lives.
If you’re a current high school senior, or anyone trying and failing miserably to write their college application essays… have no fear. My mom is here. I texted her asking for essay tips, and she, in an extremely on-brand fashion, sent me an email with all of her secrets to finessing the word count. I hope that these words of advice can help you meet that dreaded word count and still turn in a fabulous essay.
1) Look for “extra” words in your writing. Vernacular English is full of them.
2) Ensure you are devoting the appropriate amount of space in the essay for your essential points. In a 400-word essay about an event at school, don’t devote four sentences to what the principal’s office looked like. Set the mood, but do it with a few key phrases. Most of the words need to be describing you, your thoughts, and your aspirations—not external things.
3) Be okay to “kill your baby.” Basically, don’t hold onto a great phrase or sentence because it is poetic if it does not support your overall thesis. Look critically at your entire essay and be willing to make the hard choices to cut out unnecessary words.
That’s all my mom had to say. My own advice? Write a draft, wait three days, edit it. Don’t feel disheartened if you need to scrap an entire idea; you will find another that fits you and your application better. Find the resolve within you to let go of your favorite sentence if it’s necessary for the overall health of the essay. Ask the English major or English teacher in your life for help. Breathe, take a break, and appreciate your mom. Speaking of which, it’s time to send this blog post over to my own to edit. Happy writing!