A Useful Essay Writing Framework
Ananth Veluvali @ Stanford University
I have a confession to make: I had a completely normal high school experience. There was no family tragedy, natural disaster, or other unforeseen circumstance I had to navigate through as an impuissant teenager.
A lot of high schoolers are probably in a similar boat to what I was in. They probably, just as I had once believed, think that you need some well-defined struggle to write a college essay that gets you into a T20.
I’m here to tell you that’s not true. Here’s a useful framework I used to write essays, inspired by the College Essay Guy.
Start by thinking about the values that you most prioritize in your life. Here’s a good list if you need some suggestions. Once you’ve thought about your most important values, see if you can whittle down the list. Can you list your top five values? Your top three? Your most important value?
Take all the time you need to do this. Think deeply about what matters to you. Speaking personally, I’m someone who valued ingenuity, family, and changing the world. I know others, though, with completely different sets of values. That’s totally OK. Just find what makes you you.
Once you’ve done that, on a separate list, write out a list of the most important objects and experiences in your life. These are called your essence objects: the things that make you a unique individual. Maybe you have a collection of plane tickets from all the places you’ve been to, or you have a worn-out journal you’ve been using for years. Try to list out as many of these objects as you can. A good number to target is at least 10.
Now, it’s time to put two and two together. Try to see how each one of your essence objects ties to the values you’ve listed out. Maybe your list of plane tickets shows how you admire adventure and global connection, while your journal signifies your love of writing & your appreciation of craft and artistry.
This process should hopefully make it clearer what objects mean the most to you — or at the very least, what objects are the most direct manifestations of the values you hold.
When the dust settles, you should hopefully have a great essay subject to write about! Find a way to discuss the object or experience, how it shows a certain value you hold, and how you carry that value into the broader world and other aspects of your life.
Curious what that may look like in practice? Our website offers inexpensive access to countless successful essays and resumes. For a limited price, you can directly see essays that hopefully inspire you. Check it out, and best of luck in your application journey!