Is Your Teen Stuck on Their Personal Essay?​

Writing a college essay can be a daunting task for many students, a challenge that goes beyond academic prowess to touch the very core of one’s personal identity and fears. Dan Ulin, through his mentorship at Elite Student Coach, shares a compelling story of a student, whom we’ll call Margaret for anonymity, and her journey through the intimidating process of crafting her Common App essay.

The Challenge of the Personal Essay

Margaret, a brilliant and talented writer, found herself at a standstill with her Common Application essay. The Common App, serving as a gateway to over a thousand colleges in the United States, requires a 650-word personal narrative, a task that invites introspection and vulnerability. Dan observes that many students, in their bid to impress, often lose sight of the essay’s purpose: to reveal the person behind the grades and activities.

Facing Fear Head-On

Margaret’s struggle wasn’t with the craft of writing but with the fear of revealing her true self. Dan’s approach to mentoring her wasn’t to diminish the fear but to lean into it, to explore its depths and acknowledge its presence. This method, though unconventional, allowed Margaret to confront the source of her paralysis.

Simplicity and Authenticity

Dan emphasizes the importance of simplicity and authenticity over complexity and exhaustive detailing of one’s achievements. He guided Margaret to understand that the essence of the personal essay lies in sharing a genuine piece of herself, not in cataloging her accomplishments. This realization, though met with resistance, eventually led to a breakthrough.

A Personal Triumph

Margaret’s essay, born out of a struggle with fear and self-doubt, turned into a narrative that was uniquely hers—funny, personal, and beautifully simple. This essay not only secured her admission to one of the most competitive schools but also taught her a valuable lesson about authenticity and the courage to face one’s fears.

The Emotional Journey

The aftermath of submitting the essay was a whirlwind of emotions for Margaret. Happiness, sadness, and relief intermingled, reflecting the complex journey she had undertaken. Dan’s mentorship helped her realize that feeling deeply, whether joy or fear, is a gift, one that brings us closer to our authentic selves.

A Lesson for All

Margaret’s story is a powerful testament to the idea that facing our fears, especially in the deeply personal task of writing a college essay, can lead to profound personal growth and unexpected success. It teaches us that authenticity and vulnerability are strengths, not weaknesses, in the journey to understanding ourselves.

Dan Ulin’s approach to mentoring students like Margaret offers invaluable lessons not just in writing but in life. The college essay, a mere 650 words, becomes a canvas for self-expression, a challenge to confront our fears, and ultimately, an opportunity to present our true selves to the world.

We invite you to share your experiences with college essays and the fears they may have stirred. How did you overcome these challenges, and what did you learn about yourself in the process?

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