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How to Improve Your Writing Skills Ahead of College Application Season

By Tasha, IvyWise College Admissions Counselor

If you’re wrapping up junior year of high school, there’s a lot to think about: college tours, signing up for standardized tests, applying to summer programs – the list goes on. There is one more thing you should be prioritizing as you look toward your senior year: developing your writing skills.

Your personal statement and writing supplements are a chance for you to showcase your best writing—the kind of writing you would do in classes and on campus. Depending on the kind of degree you pursue, it’s likely that you will write quite a few papers during your college years. That said, it’s important to remember that your essays are primarily about taking the opportunity to introduce yourself, and to tell your story, to the colleges to which you are applying. The more effectively you can tell that story, the better for the qualitative strength of your application.

Strong writing skills don’t crop up overnight, though. Instead, writing skills can take months or years to develop. That’s why, as a rising senior, it might be a good idea to consider establishing habits and routines now to strengthen your writing skills in preparation for writing your application essays. Here are a few habits you may consider as you finish off your junior year strong.

Commit to a Daily Journaling Practice

If you already journal, this one might be a piece of cake. If you don’t already journal, writing about yourself might be a challenge at first. But, if you successfully develop the habit of writing every day, it may start to become second nature.

Journaling every day is probably the easiest way to develop a daily writing practice because you’re writing about yourself and for yourself. A daily writing practice is a great way to prepare for writing your college essays because it flexes your writing muscles every day. Even if you’re only writing stream-of-consciousness thoughts or recollections of your day, daily journaling can help you develop your ability to put your thoughts and reflections down on paper. Journaling is also an excellent way to be in conversation with yourself and to brainstorm potential essay topics. The more you have already reflected on yourself and your experiences, the better off you will be when tasked with writing about yourself.

If you start journaling and find yourself getting stuck, know that it’s totally normal. Writing every day is hard to do and requires a lot of discipline. Ultimately though, journaling can be elemental in helping you sort through your thoughts. It’s probably the best kind of indirect essay brainstorming you can do.

Read for Fun

Chances are that you already read every day.  That said, there’s a huge difference between reading for school and reading for pleasure. There’s something very different about reading a contemporary novel for your own entertainment and reading a required classic piece of literature for class. Sure, you can absolutely enjoy your required reading, but what if you also prioritized your own independent reading?

Reading to write, or the process of reading from the writer’s lens, is one of the best things you could be doing to prepare for college essay writing. For example, if there is a writer or an author whose work you really enjoy, you might consider reading more from them and identifying what it is you like about their writing. From there, you can choose to emulate their style, or better yet, integrate it into the kind of writing you’re already doing. Knowing what you like to read and making it a priority to read it will do wonders for your writing.

Consume Culture Intentionally

Whether it’s film, good TV, literature, or podcasts, having a grasp on what’s being made in the world can help you write a better, stronger college essay. If you’re not already steeped in one or all these genres, I recommend that you take some time doing this over the summer. I’m not saying that you should go back and watch season after season of old TV. Instead, I’m saying that it would be wise to follow a particular aspect of the culture and make sure you can speak intelligently on the subject.

It can be useful to have reference points directly in your writing or in your brainstorming process. You may not end up writing about for example, a Korean film you saw, but that Korean film may influence the way you experience an essay prompt or the way you frame your answer. Being intentional about what you watch/read/or listen to will help you align your priorities and zero in on your essay responses.

Developing strong writing skills is a process – and there’s a lot you can be doing daily to help you improve your writing as you prepare for the college application process. For those interested in more focused writing prep, IvyWise now offers a Personal Narrative Tutorial, whereby students can work one-on-one with an expert writing tutor to improve their personal narrative writing – a critical skill in preparation for the Common App personal statement and other college application essays. This short-term program is perfect for students who need an introduction to narrative writing, or it can be modified into an intermediate course for students who are already familiar with this style of writing but wish to improve. Contact us today for more information on our Personal Narrative Tutorial and how we can help you craft stellar college application essays this fall!

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