This particular essay draft was different

IMG-8078One evening in late August, a rising high school senior brought over an amazing draft of a personal essay for the Common Application. Here in lies the rub: she wrote 789 words, and the prompt calls for 650 words. She is applying to several competitive universities, so her eloquent writing style will impress the admission reps, and her story will carry the reader’s attention to the concluding statement. It was as if she created the most beautiful cake, yet knew that only a portion of it would ever be enjoyed.

In my decade of experience working with student on college applications, writing a first draft with more words than necessary is most often a good thing. Reviewing the essay and prompt with my students allows them to select their most important statements, often eliminating repeated ideas as well as tangents. This particular essay draft was different – it was whole.

My student was so brave! She set aside her emotional attachment to the art she created to keep to the task and word count at hand. As she stepped off my porch on that summer evening, I complimented her, affirming that the edit she performed under my guidance was very difficult. She looked back at me, thoughtfully reflecting on her enormous effort completed while keeping true to her writing. Pausing to thank me, she smiled knowingly, and then walked off into one of her final summer evenings before senior year.

Michelle Machiele

Michelle lives in Ann Arbor, MI and is passionate about helping students in transition, as well as Italian baked goods. htttps://