College application deadlines are approaching faster than you think. Many students may be finding themselves unsure of their work and in need of some advice from their loyal teachers. The college essay, for example, can be particularly daunting. Fortunately, Roosevelt’s educators have countless pearls of wisdom that they are more than happy to share with anyone who asks. Key tips from a few of Roosevelt’s english teachers have been collected below. And remember, if you still find yourself struggling, teachers would be thrilled to review your essay; all you have to do is ask.

Cora Mackoff

“It’s impossible not to stress about college applications. I’ve been watching seniors apply to college for a very long time, and it really is impossible not to stress. I think the best way of writing your college essay is to actually start it. Get a rough draft, get something going. My advice for you is to tell a story: a good story. What does a good story have? It has characters – that’s you, your friends, or your family members. It has a strong plot, but mostly it has a conflict, and conflict resolution. When I’m reading applications for something, I like to look at an event where a student has overcome a challenge. And I’m pretty sure that the people who are reading your essays want to see that too. Make the story personal. I think that’s what people want to see as entrance to their college; they want to see students who can be faced with a problem and solve it creatively.

“It’s impossible not to stress about college applications.”

Don’t forget: some of the little things you’ve done in your life should end up on your resume. If  you babysat, if you did something at your church or synagogue, if you went on a particular trip that you learned a lot from, if you read a particular book or article that really changed your life, you should include that in your application. You’d be surprised how much you have done, so sit down with somebody and try to list the activities that you’ve done and it’s probably more impressive than you’d think.”

Ben Masaoka

“What I would say is that you have to imagine the thousands of essays that come in, and how most of them are really boring. I think a strong voice that shows a personality is important, and also that the idea that you present is not the standard, stereotypical, general cookie-cutter comments or cliches. And good writing; good strong writing builds your appearance. That’s their encounter with you is your writing. A strong, well-written piece will build your image. In general terms, the most common mistake is not creating enough drafts. They think they’re done before they’re really done; and you really have to look at it and think about it and sleep on it; and add to what becomes a powerful statement of who you are, and not be satisfied with three or four drafts.”

Tom Nolet

“Your college essay is going to be key. For Juniors, they really need to think about how they are involved in their community, especially their academic community. Have they pushed themselves beyond just being in class, doing your homework? Taking an AP class, taking an honors class, that’s one thing; but you should get out there and do things – it’s one of the things that our honors projects allow students to do, they go out and they do teaching and different kinds of things. So there’s certain honors projects that are engaging the community in real ways. Working on student writing, more than doing yearbook and newspaper. Those are good things to say you’ve done, but have you pushed the process, have you become a leader, have you become a strong community member?

“Find something that’s truly authentic.”

That’s going to really up the value of your application, guaranteed. The other thing, when you are doing your essay, is you have to find something that’s truly authentic. If you’re writing in a clichèd way or if your experience is clichè, then you are not going to have as strong an essay. It may be well-written, but it’s going to be well-written in the same way that a thousand others are well written. Writing about people is important, but what have they truly done for you? Rather than just that you’re really sorry they’re gone. That’s always the hardest one to tell people; be careful about that, if you’re just lamenting the loss of someone. And I would definitely not do a 3-point thesis and a 5-paragraph essay.”

Jordanna Hoyt

“Make your essay you, like mine was about growing up short and what that did to my psyche, how I was always trying to prove myself in other ways. It’s totally fine for it to sound super trivial; if it speaks to you and says something about you, that’s what’s going to make them notice. It doesn’t need to be some stereotypical story, some sad story – it could be, but it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to be something that is you; it could be comical, it could be whatever is calling to you. But make it original, make it say something that maybe they’re not reading all the time.”

Featured Photo: Seniors grinding through apps may find some help in these pointers. Photo by Maddie Dowling


  1. Thomas Hinds

    very well done

  2. Thomas Hinds

    Great article, but the word it actually clichés, not cliches.

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