Juniors Get a Head-Start on College Essays


Courtesy of Al Qaraghuli Osamah

Junior Al Qaraghuli Osamah works on his Common Application essay about the struggle of moving to America. With Emergency Distance Learning, Osamah is still able to receive feedback from his teachers on his writing.

Ariana Wu, Staff Writer

Diving into childhood memories and reflecting on moments of growth, the brainstorming process for college essays differs dramatically from that of the typical English class essay. As the school year comes to an end, junior literary and language arts courses are preparing students for the upcoming college application process. 

For their second-to-last unit, which spanned the month of April, junior literary and language arts teachers guided students through the college essay journey, allowing them to pick from UC, Common Application, or their own college-specific essay prompts. Many students have found that this style of writing differs from what they have become used to. 

“We have been trained throughout our schooling to write essays with a concrete ‘Claim Evidence Reasoning’ based structure, a poor way of capturing the personality and essence of the author,” junior Saad Siddiqui said. College essay writing is personal and more illustrative of the author’s thoughts and perspectives, giving admissions officers a better look into the applicant’s identity.”

With the creative freedom that college essays allow, many students are able to create a piece of writing that they more deeply connect with compared to other assignments. 

“This unit helped me express my background since some of the prompts get deeper into my past,” junior Al Qaraghuli Osamah said. “For college applications, this essay shows the struggle I’ve been through…and all of the hard work I’ve put in.” 

The teachers’ end goal is to have students craft an authentic essay in which their unique voice comes across loud and clear to admissions officers. 

Find a way to produce writing that allows you to genuinely be who you are.

— Jeanne Jelnick

“When they read your paper, they need to hear you,” literary and language arts teacher Jeanne Jelnick said. “That writing needs to be you, not somebody else that you think is smarter or a better kid or a more likely candidate to get into wherever you’re applying. Don’t be that kid. Find a way to produce writing that allows you to genuinely be who you are.”

Whether or not the essays are used in applications, the experience that the unit provides can help to ease the pressure during the stressful period. Busy college applicants must revise essays, assemble resumes and collect teacher recommendations within a few months, and are often thankful for their head start.

Although I did not end up using the essays I wrote during class junior year, I think the unit helped me get an idea of what the actual college application essays would be like as in knowing the prompts and the revision process,” senior Gracie Koo said. “It’s always good to think ahead, and going into the whole process with an idea of knowing what you could be wanting to write about feels like a good opportunity that some students from other schools might not have.”