Old Essays Die Hard

A piece of writing only needs revision once and never again. I used to believe this silly idea that the writing process has a stop button. I’ve only recently learned how wrong that idea was after looking over one of my old essays for my college applications. At the time, I thought the essay was one of my best works. Looking at it now, I’m wondering how I was even admitted with an essay like that.

I wanted to paint a picture to the college application reviewers of a typical day in my life. So I came to the decision to write about my high school club holding a college fair for the community. I just so happened to hold an officer position in this club.

Looking at the essay again, I can see there are some good aspects of it. The hook was actually of decent quality. “I stood alongside our club’s most loyal members behind the College Booth at our annual College and Career Fair when this feeling of anxiety began to creep in.” It throws the audience into the situation and sets the mood. But honestly, it could use a lot more imagery and less advertising. The tricky thing about writing for college application is that you want to seem genuine, but you also have to advertise yourself to improve your chances of admission. An opening scene that captures “the anxiety” and creates more drama would be a lot more interesting to read. “Tick…Tick…Tick…I glared at the clock in the cafeteria and prayed for time to stop. I glanced at the empty cafeteria and then the clock again. A knot was growing in my stomach. My anxiety grew at the realization that our College and Career Fair was turning out to be a yet another failure.”  In this style the audience is instantly engaged with the story.

The best decision I made on the essay crafting it as a narrative. Telling a story is more interesting to read than spitting out boring facts from my academic resume. However, I failed to make the essay seem genuine. I started off the essay in a whining tone and failed to establish ethos with the audience. All that I can relate to my audience is that I found the slight tardiness of students arriving to the fair to be overwhelming.  The essay then tries to connect how this situation was making me question why I even joined the club. Finally, the essay ends with a happily ever after with people pouring into the fair and I had the satisfaction of helping the students. It’s clear that the lapses in style were the result of too much focus on advertising myself and not enough actually being a writer. I overdid the self-advertisement so much so that it didn’t even seem like a genuine or relatable story anymore. And if it’s not a real story, then it doesn’t seem like I actually learned any sort of meaningful lesson from it.

If I could change the essay I would stick to scenes and cut out the advertisement to give the reviewers a genuine image of myself.  “The last time I had stared at a clock so seriously was just the night before. It was dark, I was alone in my bedroom working tirelessly. Though I had finished my homework, there was still a bit more work to be done for NAPCA. There had been many nights like this one since we had begun planning the Fair. I also knew I wasn’t the only one up this late. I knew the other club members were still doing their portion of the posters. The other club officers were probably doing the same as well. Our only motivation was the hope that all of our efforts would not be in vain. So there I was, still up at 1 am, on my laptop deciding which college logos looked the best on our information booklet that for the moment, only existed on a Word File. The next day there were at least a hundred printed copies of that booklet placed in carrying bags ready for the students who would be attending. It’s really no wonder why I was afraid of failure.” I definitely like this description better because it shows some of my character and it’s a real scene. The audience can easily connect with me because who hasn’t stayed up late working? And the stronger the connection between an author and their audience, the better the writing.

Another place where the essay just dies is that it doesn’t dive deep enough into my personality. In the original essay, I just mentioned that “the club became my passion because I knew from personal experience how hard it was to combat disadvantages from birth.” I should have elaborated a lot more on why this program and this fair were just so important to me and what “disadvantages” I had in order to create a stronger connection with my audience. “I was raised by a single mother of three who didn’t attend college and my grandfather, who preserved through racism back home in Louisiana to become an air traffic controller. They taught me that if I wanted something, I should earn it. I wanted to attend a university, but I thought that my family’s finances couldn’t take the strain, so I exceled as a student and I found NAPCA, which showed me that it was possible for me to attend whatever university I wanted. It bothered me that our community was filled with people who felt that college was an impossibility. I wanted them to know that if it was possible for me, then they could do it too.” This change is far better than the original because it gives shows apart of my background that can’t be found in any resume. Also, the audience can sympathize because everyone has dealt with hard times in life.

Since writing that original essay, I think that I have definitely grown as a writer. There are some mistakes that are harder to get rid of than others. My pieces show that I would rather make a long drawn out sentence than to just break it up into a few clear ones. However, I have been improving bit by bit and my goal is to definitely expel that bad habit from my writing. Also, I want to learn to create a stronger connection with my audience so that they find my story relatable. The most important is that I always remember to keep growing. If I had never tried to redo that essay I would have just concluded my style and my mistakes would not have changed. I am glad this project showed me that I was wrong and that the best writers never stop growing. Hopefully, this class will settle me on this idea permanently.

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