Dear Children,

A few youngsters whom I closely know have just hopped into grade 12, and as they aver, the year ahead looms like an insurmountable peak, with all the expectations, at the end of which comes the true challenge – college admissions. A couple of others have already reached out to me requesting my support and guidance to write their personal statements. Without further ado, I want to use this space for those who are still in the process of applying to universities and offer a few tips on what makes a good essay that will get you the acceptance letter.

A heads up before I get into the details: Even before AI stormed into our lives, writing college essays was a nightmare that many students assigned to outsiders who wrote cookie-cut copies based on inputs given by the students. There were writers and agencies that took up this job for a huge fee. Cut to modern times, you have ChatGPT to do the needful, but nothing can rival the thought and idea that come from your heart, based on your life experiences. So, I would strictly advise you to not ‘copy-paste’ any auto-generated essay, because people who are assessing your qualifications can quickly tell the difference between an authentic life narrative and a third-party account.

There are plenty of online content that will tell you the dos and don’ts of writing a college essay. So, I will not present a lame listicle of items that you will simply scroll through. What I want to attempt here is to inspire you to come up with your own pieces of writing that will be genuine; stories that will make you introspect, reflect and in the end, make you proud of what you have achieved so far and what you are setting out to accomplish.

Let’s begin with the fundamental question that is asked to you: “What motivated you to choose this field (that you have chosen)? Include the value of your experiences that prepare you for this role in the future.” It can be worded differently, but in essence, it seeks to explore your interest, and your background that supports your choice. So, the aim here is for you to have a strong motivation to choose the mentioned course. It might be inspired by a life-changing incident; an experience that shifted your perspective; or a transformative phase that you went through. Your experience, emotions and the motivation that came out of it is uniquely yours and only you can dredge it from the bottom of your heart and explain. Neither ChatGPT, nor a hired writer.

So, spend some time pondering over the big WHY that’s driving you to take up this profession. There is always an intent behind every human action, and you must be honest and informed in your findings. Turn it over in your mind until you’re certain that it is the chosen path for you. This sets the tone for your future goal setting because you know precisely what you want to accomplish at the end of this academic journey — what capabilities you want to acquire and for what purpose. The purpose, which I call the BIG WHY, is the crux of your essay.

Initially, there will be ambiguities and doubts in your mind about whether you will do well or not in what you have vaguely thought about. Now the consideration is not whether you will do well or not, but WHAT you want to do and WHY. Once this is firmed up, you will naturally be buoyed to do well and won’t stop until you have accomplished it.

Each of us has a road to take and you may face dilemmas like Robert Frost did, but eventually when you take it, I hope it will be one that made all the difference to you, and to the world.

I shall take you to the next step in my letter next week. Until then, keep glowing; keep growing.

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