This lesson covers... the style that jumps around in time, with events that aren’t based on cause-and-effect.
By the end you should... have a second option for structuring your main personal statement.
Time 3 minutes
College Essay Essentials paperback: pages 14-19     |     ebook: pages 15-20

What is a montage?

Montage is a technique that involves creating a new whole from separate fragments (pictures, words, music, etc.). In filmmaking, the montage effect is used to condense space and time so that information can be delivered in a more efficient way.

Take the classic “falling in love” montage, commonly used in romantic comedies. We don’t see every single interaction; instead, we see: he surprises her at work with flowers, they walk through the park, they dance in the rain, they pass an engagement ring store and she eyes a particular ring. You get the idea.

A few images tell the whole story. And you can use this technique for your essay.

But which essences should you choose? That’s up to you. (It’s art, remember, not science.)

Find a Focusing Lens

The Type B “Endodontics” essay below employs what I call a focusing lens. You can’t discuss every single aspect of your life, but you can show us a few important points through a single lens or metaphor.

What type of focusing lens might you use to write your essay? A sport? A place? An art form? A hobby? Ask yourself: what’s something I know really well?

Tips for finding a good focusing lens

  1. Make it visual. Storytelling is a visual medium. Use a lens that will help conjure images in the reader’s mind. I’ve had too many students try to write “soundtrack” or “mix-tape” essays in which their favorite songs provide the soundtrack for their lives. The problem with writing this type of essay, however, is that the reader can’t hear the music (and often doesn’t know or have the same emotional connection to the songs referenced).
  2. Write what you know. Know how to cook? Use food. Play chess? Use that! Use your essence objects list (see below) for ideas. 
  3. Find a focusing lens that allows you to “go wide.” Use a metaphor, in other words, that will allow you to discuss several different aspects of who you are. Note how the scrapbooking lens allowed the writer to discuss more than two dozen different essences. 

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