In your college essays, just say it

When you write your college essays.  Don’t tense up.  Relax.  Just say it.

When soldiers are hanging out in the army barracks, they might crack jokes, trade stories and be themselves.  But when the general walks in, everything changes.  The soldiers leap up and stand at attention.  Nobody wants to stand out, because that can get you yelled at.  It’s better to just play it safe, stand up straight and shut up, which makes sense because nobody wants to be forced to clean urinals. 

Unfortunately, that’s what most students do when they start to write their college essays. They tell the story much differently than they would if they were just telling it to a friend.  They write in a stiff and formal way that doesn’t reveal their voice or their personality.  They’re afraid of insulting the generals on the admissions committee.  They won't just say it.

When you make this mistake, you become one of the masses—a soldier standing at attention instead of a student standing out.  That’s going to go over great in the army, but it’s not going to get you into college.    

Remember, this is not an essay for your high school English class.  Tell it like it is.  Use your own words.  Don’t use the word “therefore.”  No member of any admissions committee is going to yell at you or make you do push-ups.  So relax. 

I'm not saying you should just blather on without worrying whether or not the story sounds good—good story telling and good writing mean that you have to make it interesting.  But you don’t have to make it academic and formal.

This isn't the army.  Just say it.