Is AP English Paper a College Application Essay?

By Kim Lifton

Last year, Danny asked me to review a college admissions essay he had written for AP English. His teacher gave him an A.

Danny’s essay, a beautifully written story about his many fabulous trips overseas, offered vivid descriptions of buildings and places and emphasized how much he loved traveling. His sentences flowed; the spelling was perfect; the essay had a beginning, middle and end. It was clear Danny knew how to write.

While Danny’s essay was excellent by high school standards, it was not ready to be submitted with a college application. The essay lacked reflection and needed more focus.

Wow’s 10-step college application writing process helped Danny find his unique voice and focus on why he loves to travel. He turned his broad story into a more insightful piece about a single night out in Madrid when he realized how much culture and community mean to him. Getting there took time and reflection, which the Wow Method encourages.

Don’t assume the piece you turn in at school is finished and will cut it for college. Think of it as a draft. That’s what Danny did. He wrote that draft for his teacher – a person who already knew quite a bit about him. He revised it for the admissions counselor.

What do you know about that admissions counselor? He reads a lot of applications and is part of a team. Her job is to make recommendations for the school’s next class.

Today, Danny is a student at the University of Michigan – his first-choice college.

Remember this: Your essay is your opportunity to sell yourself, to tell the admissions team why your story matters and why they should care. To master the essay, you’ll need to keep it focused, clear and written in your 17-year-old voice.

Kim Lifton, president of Wow Writing Workshop, will present “Myths and Facts of the College Essay” during the Western Michigan National College Fair at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids on Tuesday, April 9, and again at the Metro Detroit National College Fair at Cobo Hall in Detroit on Thursday, April 11.