To Tell the Truth: College Application Essays

In the wake of the current college admissions scandal, and as I prepare an upcoming presentation entitled College Applications: The Write Way, it does not escape my attention that doing them the RIGHT way is paramount.

It is imperative that all prospective college students submit accurate, authentic applications.

Since the CommonApp essay is, in essence, a piece of narrative nonfiction, how do students convey the truth while also paying attention to effective storytelling? Even published authors of this genre must grapple with inherent issues related to accuracy. One of the greatest examples of this is John Berendt’s wildly popular nonfiction book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Because of discrepancies related to events and their sequence in crafting the narrative, some critics have labelled the book “faction” for its mix of fact and fiction. In a student’s personal statement, while the recounting and reflection must be truthful, creative license is used to establish tone, perspective, and emphasis. Therefore, in addition to selecting a meaningful topic, students should give as much thought to how they want their readers to perceive them. By honing in on not only story but also personal qualities and reflections, students will be able to convey the salient parts of who they are, and perhaps what they aspire to be. Though writing the essays does involve some degree of storytelling, the content and message must be honest.


Please consider attending my free presentation, College Applications: The Write Way, at the New Canaan Library, 6:30-8pm on Wednesday, April 24. To register, contact me through my website or send me an email: writeaheadcollege@gmail.com.