Seniors: Finding Your Voice in the Essay


Seniors, as you work on your essays, we strongly recommend you avoid books hawking application essays that “worked.” You won’t find the story that says the most about you in someone else’s work. Colleges want to hear your voice in your writing. You’re much better off investing your time— and money— in some good writing. Here are some recommendations of engaging essays written in the first-person:

• David Sedaris:  Santaland Diaries and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

• Sloane Crosley: I Was Told There’d Be Cake

• Gayle Pemberton: The Hottest Water in Chicago

• Julia Alvarez: Something to Declare

• Calvin Trillin: Feeding a Yen and Family Man

• Annie Lamott: Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life and Operating Instructions

• Caitlin Flanagan: To Hell with All That

• Mark Salzman: Lost in Place: Growing Up Absurd in Suburbia

• Amy Tan: The Opposite of Fate

• Tim Cahill: Hold the Enlightenment

Please remember these are professional writers who make their living telling stories of their lives. Don't stress that your writing has to be up to this standard! Your essays do not and should not be quite this polished or the colleges will think you've asked David Sedaris for too much help! These essays are simply meant to inspire you and help you to identify and capture your own first-person voice as best you can. 

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