"Experience is knowing a lot of things you shouldn't do." | A Princeton Alum on College Essays

We had the opportunity of interviewing RY, an alumni of Princeton University about: Exceptional Programs In high school, RY was: President of the New Jersey Association of Student councils, President of the Senate of New Jersey State student body, Student body president of her high school student government President of her local FBLA chapter, which expanded to the biggest chapter in South Jersey A nationally-rated fencer at Princeton In college, RY: Was a nationally-rated fencer at Princeton Studied sociology and entrepreneurship Served as student body president Helped to launch the Company of Female Founders. Post-graduate, RY: Has contributed to launching the end to end operations of a captive corporate venture capital fund along with the founders of True Platform Works in Strategy under the Office of the CEO for True Platform And is helping to launch our Corporate Social Responsibility and Women's Leadership initiatives Key points Rachel shares: "I think that it (common app essay) takes multiple drafts. The final draft that I turned in of my common app essay had been revised eight different times, and revised by, I believe, three or four trusted people." "Obviously have correct grammar, but it's more about the overall impression and the specific sentences or words matter less." "In terms of prioritizing, I knew the way my schedule went, so I had to block out one or two hours." "One main thing is do not repeat your resume. They already have copies of your resume if you attach them. I don't think that it is beneficial. It doesn't really give the reader a sense of who you are because you are more than your resume." Q: What was your inspiration for your essays? What type of message did you try to convey through your essays? In other words, how did you condense your life story or an aspect of your life in a few hundred words and still tell the whole story? A: I think that it takes multiple drafts. The final draft that I turned in of my common app essay had been revised eight different times, and revised by, I believe, three or four trusted people. It was a little bit of a team effort. I wrote down my first draft of my initial thoughts, got some feedback, and went back to the starting block. My advice there is work early, just get all of your raw thoughts on paper, and then create an outline of what you want to say. It is really difficult to chop out words, in fact that may be the most difficult part (I got it to exactly the word limit). That's probably the hardest part of being concise because you will have to take out parts that you think might feel pretty critical. But if you keep those three main points that you want, everything else is like the word choice. The essay reader is going to walk away with is a sense of who you are. It doesn't matter about the specifics, or the semantics. Obviously have correct grammar, but it's more about the overall impression and the specific sentences or words matter less. Q: Who did you go to, to get advice on revising your essays? A: I would say, the four people that I had in mind... I guess I'll lump my parents into one person, I thought my parents were definitely one of the influencers. And then I had a family friend who was an English major, and she had gone to Yale. So I definitely wanted her advice because she was very good at grammar. And then also, my AP English teacher also was very influential in helping to shape the overall tone and flow. And then I think the fourth person was a trusted friend who also ended up getting into Princeton early with me. Q: In your full schedule, when did you find time to write your college essays? A: I started brainstorming in the summer. In mid August, I started a draft and late August was probably draft #1. I just kept drafting and redrafting through all September and had a final product ready to go mid-October. In terms of prioritizing, I knew the way my schedule went, so I had to block out one or two hours. I probably blocked out the same way I blocked out studying for the SAT. I was pretty consistent about it -- one or two hours every day -- and I'd put it on my schedule and be like, "Hey, regardless if I'm feeling it or not, I have to just sit down and be disciplined and work on this essay". Sometimes it came in spurts. I have a couple of days where nothing, no good progress would come out. But after the third or fourth day of just sitting there and toiling and feeling kind of frustrated, something good would spurt out and I would be like, "Oh, the three other days that I tried earlier were worth it since I got in one or two hours of really productive writing. Q: One thing people don’t really focus on is what to avoid. We generally know what’s acceptable, but we're unsure what isn’t beneficial to our writing. What did you avoid when writing essays? A: I would say one main thing is do not repeat your resume. They already have copies of your resume if you attach them. I don't think that it is beneficial. It doesn't really give the reader a sense of who you are because you are more than your resume. The second thing is, and this sounds a little counterintuitive, but don't be inauthentic. I think that sometimes it's pretty clear when someone is not being fully themselves and just bragging about things that may not have happened. Don't try to embellish too much. It is pretty clear to a skilled reader when that is happening. Q: Did you ever read anything (other books, essays, literature, etc.) to help you write an exceptional essay? A: I went to the local library and I pulled out basically every book that they had about college essay writing, I read through all the sample essays, I took notes on what I liked and what I didn't like, I kind of just cobbled something that was the best of both worlds of all the best things, and I tried to fit it into what is authentic to my own style. This interview originally took place in an audio format. However, we have converted it to text to avoid sound quality issues. To ensure coherency, we have slightly modified the wording.

"Experience is knowing a lot of things you shouldn't do." | A Princeton Alum on College Essays

We had the opportunity of interviewing RY, an alumni of Princeton University about: Exceptional Programs In high school, RY was:...