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Fairfield County Expert Shares Secrets Of Writing The Perfect College Essay

Joanna Novins
Joanna Novins Photo Credit: Contributed

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — It’s a question that daunts many high school seniors: What topic should I choose for my college application essay?

Joanna Novins, a writing coach with Redding-based First Impressions College Consulting, said one way to approach the college essay is to write about a challenge.

“Maybe you got into athletics and were injured in some way and had to change way you exercise or [the experience] gave you an interest an anatomy or nutrition,” she said.

But there are certainly some topics to avoid. Essays centering around sports — whether a student made a team or did not make a team — can be particularly challenging, Novins said.

Those topics are often too familiar for those reading application essays. “They can turn into stories admissions officers have seen over and over,” she said.

So what’s the truly perfect topic then? The goal of the essay is to choose a topic that’s truly unique — a story that no other student can tell.

While the essay does help a college understand a student’s personal strengths, it is also a test of a candidate’s writing skills. All college application essays should be well-crafted, center around a clear idea and tell a unique story, Novins said.

“It’s go to be solid and sharp,” she said. “It’s got to have that punch. You’ve got to have it from the beginning to end.”

While Novins said a student doesn’t have to plan every step of her essay, a student should explore several topics — possibly through free writing. 

A student shouldn’t start the essay-writing process by sitting down at a computer in front of a blank screen, she said. Novins said writers -- professionals and students -- have different writing styles.

Some are planners, while others are "pantsers" who don't write with extensive planning, she said.

As a coach for First Impressions College Consulting, Novins said she's there to guide a student in writing the perfect essay. 

But she won’t rewrite a student’s essay. That approach does not work. 

“I don’t want to be their voice because I think you can tell the difference between a 50-something professional writer and a 17-year-old,” Novins said. “You want that youthful energy.”

For more information on First Impressions College Consulting, which serves all of Fairfield County, visit its website here.

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