How to Write Your College Essay in Just One Night

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(a.k.a.: The “Break in case of emergency” essay)

This is for those of you who are experiencing extreme writers block, have procrastinated ‘til the last minute, or are feeling just plain lazy. I love you and I have been you.

Oh, and this is for students who have not experienced significant challenges and do not know what they want to study in college. If you have experienced challenges or you do know, click here.

Here we go!

First, take 15 minutes to do the Objects and Values Exercises.

Next, get a blank sheet of paper, draw a vertical line down the middle, at the top of the right column write the word “My values,” and list your 3-5 most important values, with space in between. (Example: “knowledge” – skip an inch – “nature”– skip an inch – “music.”)

In the left column, beside each value, describe an image that shows how you developed that value. (Example: beside the value of “knowledge” you write “I sometimes stay up ‘til 3am surfing obscure Wikipedia articles” or beside the value of “nature” you write “when I go camping alone with just a tent, my journal and five lbs of trail mix.” You get the idea. Everything in the left column should be visual, like a snapshot or scene from a movie.

Put your little movies in order-–chronological often works-–and describe each image or movie in a brief paragraph. (Important: don’t mention your value.)

Write transitions between the ideas so there is some sense of flow. This part will take the longest. (Hint: if you write them chronologically you can use basic transitions such as “A few years later…” or “When I entered high school…” as placeholders and tweak later.)

At the end, describe some of the values that you’ll carry with you into and beyond college no matter what career you choose.

For examples, check out the Scrapbook Essay or the Five Families Essay.

And if you're not panicked and want to do this essay thing in a more carefully thought-out way, check out the one-hour guide to the college essay.


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