Is an “A” English Paper a College Essay?

By Kim Lifton
President, Wow Writing Workshop

a-school-letter-gradeYear after year, students send us college application essays to review that were written for English class. Most of the essays earned A’s.

Unfortunately, we’ve never read an essay written for English class that was ready to submit to college.

One boy sent to us a beautifully written piece recounting many fabulous trips overseas, offering vivid descriptions of buildings and places and emphasizing how much this student loved traveling. The sentences flowed; the spelling was perfect; the essay had a beginning, middle and end. This boy knew how to write.

While this essay was excellent by high school standards, it lacked reflection and needed more focus to catch the attention of an admissions officer.

The application essay is not an English paper; it is an opportunity to show admissions officers who you are, that you will fit in, and that you can write well enough to succeed at their school. The admissions team that is responsible for making recommendations for next year’s class reads a lot of applications. So be careful: You don’t want to bore them or submit a piece that is simply uninspiring.

Forget about rubrics and grades. Ditch the five-paragraph essay format. Just write something genuine that is reflective, will make the person reading your essay smile and want to know more about you.

The student who wrote about his worldly travels for English class used our 10-step Wow Method and turned his broad story into a more insightful piece about a single night out in Spain when he realized how much culture and community mean to him. Getting there took time and reflection, which we encourage. It was all worth it when he landed a coveted spot at his first-choice college, one of the most competitive public institutions in the nation.

Think of that college essay you write in English class as a draft, just as the student in this blog did. He wrote it for his teacher – a person who already knew quite a bit about him. He later revised it for the admissions counselor. Don’t assume the college essay you give to your teacher is finished and will cut it for college.

Want to improve your chances of getting in? Sign up for FREE access to Wow, and then upgrade to our Platinum do-it-yourself virtual coaching program for $99. With Platinum, we’ll give you access to simple instructions with videos and writing exercises. Best news of all, we’ll teach you how to write it yourself – and give you a timeline to get it done in two weeks or less! We also offer private coaching and essay review services.