The Perfect Essay
Many of you have written to me about concerns regarding your essays for your UWC application when I asked for questions for my Q&A and I therefore decided to put my best advice in one of my articles. The most important ingredient for an outstanding essay is honesty. They want to read about a real student with real flaws and strengths and not some perfect illusion of you. Do not waste time asking yourself if who you are will be enough to get in - you will not get the answer without applying!
If you are still unsure about whether you should apply or not and your doubts keep hunting you, I would recommend asking yourself this question: Would you regret not applying and therefore never knowing whether you could have gotten in ten years down the road? If the answer is yes, apply! You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by applying.
But now let's get to my advice for the essays. I would recommend taking two hours out of your day, sitting down with some hot chocolate and then reading the prompts for the first time. If an idea comes to your mind immediately for a specific prompt, write that essay right there. The first idea is usually the most honest answer because it is the most intuitive one. The draft you write that day does not have to be your final draft - you might end up changing it completely. But you will have gotten started. Take two hours out of your week to work on your application every week and you will not run out of time. Work on your application also includes asking for letters of recommendation and getting your transcripts so do not forget about these!
But what if no idea comes to your mind immediately? Write the question on a piece of paper and take it with you. Scribble down ideas over a week and look at them at the end of the week. Eliminate those ideas which you do not really like. Then write outlines for the remaining ideas for the concerned question. You will probably realise that you enjoyed writing one of the outlines more than writing the others - that is the outline to go with! If no feeling of joy tells you which outline to go with, look at the outlines and ask yourself which of them tells them the most about you, answers the prompt best, and means the most to you.
What about questions you are unsure about? Some applications include questions that leave space for interpretation. Sometimes, this is done on purpose. If you are unsure about a question, you can do two questions: You can either start your essay by defining a few key terms of the question to ensure that your reader understands how you understood the question or you can email/phone your national committee and ask for clarification. The latter is advisable in cases where you for example do not know what specific activities they want to know about or how much you can write. But interpreting questions yourself is also absolutely fine - it shows them that you think on your feet and are not afraid to examine a questions in detail and examine them a little bit more.
Once you have written your first drafts, I would advise you to get a few people to look over them. Personally, I like to ask my teachers to read over my essays for grammar mistakes. It is really important that you have at least one person check your essays for grammar mistakes because you do not want your reader to think that you did not spend enough time on your essay to proofread it. Then I would recommend asking a friend to read over it to check whether the essay sounds like it is written by you. Did you use words you would normally use? Would an interviewer recognise you as the writer of that essay? Lastly, I would recommend asking a parent to give the essay a read to check whether it really says something important about you.
One thing that is important when receiving feedback is that it is up to you to decide whether you should incorporate it or not. I asked many people to give me feedback on my essays but I only incorporated a little bit of the feedback I got from everyone. The reason for that is that I wanted to ensure that my essays do not start to sound like the people who read over it but still like me. If people critique a specific part of the essay that you love, keep it! This essay is about you as a person and not about others.
And most importantly, do not let that "Submit" button stop you! I remember that hitting submit took me at least ten minutes because I was scared that my application would not be good enough. When you have put in so much work to complete this application, send it to them!
If you have any questions about this guide, please feel free to send a message to me! Good luck to everyone applying to UWC!
Lots of Love,
P.S.: Have you already seen my UWC Q&A? If not, here is my UWC Q&A: