Developing your writing skills so your personal essays and statements are engaging to college admissions officers requires creativity--creativity of ideas to write about, creativity with phrasing of words, and creativity in identifying which resources to tap into for different writing techniques. Below are our top three favorite tips to jumpstart your creative writing juices!
Tap in to the talents of your favorite authors: Who are your favorite authors and why do you enjoy their stories over others? By studying the styles and writings of your favorite authors, you can get a glimpse into how they weave their words into adventure, romance, and thrills, to name a few. You don't need to read and analyze novel after novel--one book is more than enough to provide insight into a style of writing.
Research books and articles that specifically discuss styles and techniques of writing: There are countless publications on styles and techniques of writing; it's just a matter of taking the time to search the Internet or shop in a bookstore to find those that grab and hold your attention. If, at first glance, the design, formatting, or content doesn't appeal to you, continue on with your search. Select reference materials that trigger your interest so you know you'll be more likely to use it in the future.
Look over multiple writing examples in just one book: There is a goldmine of writing styles that can be found in the billions of books that exist, and in one book alone, you can typically find four quick examples to learn from. Going from the front cover to the back, there's a writer for the Foreword section; the primary author for the Preface and main chapters of the book; another writer for the About the Author page; and finally, the copywriter for the book synopsis on the book's jacket or back cover. Reading these sections is a quick and easy way to truly see how powerful long and short pieces of literature can be. Remember, an author is trying to persuade you to devote some of your precious time to read the book you have in front of you. This is no different than trying to get an admissions officer, recruiter, or employer, to sit down and read something you have prepared for them. Below are brief descriptions of what the foreword, preface, and synopsis sections are.
Foreword: A foreword is written by someone the author trusts and respects to take their time and help sell the audience on why they should consider reading the publication. Because it's considered an honor to be asked to write a foreword, a lot of thought and planning usually goes into writing it.
Preface: Prefaces briefly explain how and why a book was written. These are penned by the authors themselves and can give you a condensed view of the way they write and portray their ideas in a quick and easy format. When writing for application essays and prompts, there is often a word limit. Just like a preface, you need to capture the attention of the reader quickly and relay your ideas with the power of your intent.
Synopsis: A synopsis is a quick overview of the story and ideas of a book. If you have a tendency to write over an allotted word count, then learning how to condense your ideas like a synopsis will become very useful. Most novelists do not enjoy writing a synopsis because it can easily give away the premise of the story that they have spent months, or even years, writing. Yet, this is exactly what you want when writing an essay for college applications or scholarships.
You've got the idea, now what should you do?
Head over to your local bookstore, library, or download samples of writing from the Internet. Read as many articles and books (or sections of books) as you can to see what makes them so interesting and engaging to read, or so uninteresting and dull that you just want to close out of it or put it back on the shelf. Pay particular attention to word choices and phrasing of words. Take note of any emotions that are triggered as you look them over--are you bored or is your curiosity piqued? Be aware of whether or not you can hear the author's voice and visualize the scenes being described as you read his or her words, and notice if your other senses are triggered in any given moment of reading. This trail of breadcrumbs can be very insightful with developing a style of writing that can serve you for years to come. Check out our article The Challenge of Discovering Your Personal Writing Style if you would like to dig a little deeper into this topic.
Do whatever it takes to discover ways to trigger your creativity! There are tons of creativity-sparking activities and ideas out there to choose from, so if one strategy doesn't work for you, try something else. Aim to learn about and develop your writing skills from proven writers and credible reference materials so you're able to bring your written words to life for any admissions officer that reviews your college application essays. Your goal should then be to relay your insights, feelings, and experiences, in a concise, entertaining manner so readers remain engaged and interested in what you have to say. You don't want them to equate your essay to a technical manual of the latest electronic device on the market. As mentioned earlier, your ideas have value and admissions officers, recruiters, and employers want to know about that value you will bring if they select you.
A final word…
There are always those who firmly believe that they don't have even an ounce of creativity in themselves. Rest assured, though, we've eventually proved many of the students we've worked with wrong! It just takes a different approach to bring it out; and, once their mind's gate budged open, the ideas, words, feelings, expressions, etc., flooded in and contributed to amazing college application essay masterpieces. If this is something you're interested in exploring, try out one, two, or all three of our favorite tips above. If additional support would be helpful to you, contact us here.