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Starting early will allow you to experiment with different topics and find just the right words to share something important. What eventually comes out will hopefully be a deeper insight into you — the very thing that admissions officers seek when they sit down to read the much-agonized-over personal statement.
Example: You’re writing a paper on the effects of all-nighters on college student’s health.
You can’t think of the word “deleterious.” After a few seconds of futilely scanning your brain for it, you write “super harmful,” knowing that you can find the more professional word later.
Example: You work for your campus newspaper and have been assigned to write an article on an upcoming career fair.
Although at first your editor asks you to simply inform students of what companies will be represented at the event, you find that you’re much more interested in profiling a certain company that’s new to the fair.
The answer to this question wouldn’t change your major argument either way, so you decide it’s not important to look up right now.
You write “two,” highlight it, and leave a note to yourself to check this minor supporting fact against your research notes later.
You talk to your editor and get permission to write the article that engages you more.
Example: The same scenario as above, but your editor tells you that you have to write the original, more general article.
But do share your essays with a couple of people that objectively know you well and can tell you if your essay reflects you.
Start by brainstorming ideas and thinking about what you want to tell a college that is not already relevant elsewhere in the application.