How to Write the Best Essay of Your Entire Life and Get Accepted to Every Single College in the Known Universe
Disclaimer: I can’t guarantee anything that this title says. It was clickbait...Sorry.
Don’t laugh at me when I say this, but this is an exciting time for you! (A stressful, confusing, frustrating, tedious...and EXCITING time.) You have so many options to choose: what college you want to attend, what you want to major in, what career path you ultimately want...and even though that sounds ridiculously overwhelming, I think it’s incredible that we have the opportunity to study what we’re passionate about. And chances are, if you’re reading this post, you’re considering Juilliard. Congrats! You’ve taken your first step: navigating the Juilliard website. (I still can’t figure it out.)
To be honest, I never thought I would end up at Juilliard. I applied to a mix of both conservatories and universities because there’s still a lot I’d like to study outside of music. I spent most of my senior year debating whether I would prefer a conservatory or university environment, but surprisingly, a lot of my decision-making was influenced by my college essays. There are SO many amazing schools out there, and it took what felt like forever for me to sort through all of my options and narrow the list down to a manageable amount of college applications. And then came the essays.
Let me start off by saying this: I hate writing essays. I HATE writing essays. I loathe deadlines, and I greatly dislike restrictive prompts. Unfortunately, my burning hatred for essays wasn’t going to get me into college, so I had to spend weeks aggressively typing perfectly punctuated, grammatically flawless responses for my applications. It took weeks, but I learned many things about myself (and about writing), and I don’t think the college boards even noticed the undercurrents of rage flowing through all of my essays. Maybe.
But in all seriousness, I know how hard it is to force yourself to sit down and write The Essay to End All Essays, especially since you are probably much more worried about preparing the rest of your applications and your auditions, so here are some tips I have for you:
1. Be yourself. WAIT OKAY I know everyone says that, but I can’t emphasize this enough! The whole point of these essays is so that colleges can get an idea of your personality and your interests and whether you would be a good fit for their school. Your transcripts and test scores show how you do academically and your audition shows how you perform, so your essay shows your personality and gives you a chance to make your voice heard.
2. Don’t stick to the “norm”. We’ve been drilled for years that a good essay should be 3-5 paragraphs, double spaced, intro-body-conclusion with a thesis statement thrown in there somewhere. While this is an excellent guideline, sticking to only the bare necessities can produce some of the driest, most generic essays. When colleges are sifting through thousands of essays, something unique is key. I actually turned one of my essays into more of a short story than a traditional essay, and I think it was one of my best applications.
3. Make sure you’re writing for the right college. This might sound like a joke, but nothing is scarier than writing an essay on why you want to attend one college and realizing you accidentally submitted it to a different college instead. Make sure you mention the right school in your essay! (I might have learned this one the hard way.)
4. Ask friends/family/teachers to read your essays. This is good for proofreading, but you should also ask whoever is reading your essay if what you wrote sounds like you. Again, the point of the essay is for colleges to get to know you and your voice. You don’t want to mislead them with an essay that doesn’t seem to line up with your personality or ambitions.
5. Stay positive! If I had followed my own advice, I probably would have had a lot more fun with my applications. Use these essays as a way to be creative, to figure out how to respond to the prompt in an exciting, unique way. It’s so, so easy to get bogged down during the application process, but you actually learn so much about yourself through it all. By the end of it, I had a much clearer idea of what I wanted out of a college because I spent so much time considering the prompts: why did I want to attend this school? How would I be a good fit in this school’s environment?
Take this, like everything else in life, as a learning experience. (We never stop learning, but eventually it’ll stop being for a grade, I promise!) And don’t put too much pressure on yourself--these essays may seem like a lot, but colleges also understand that you’re applying for something other than essay-writing. Best of luck!