Articles on writing the college essay often tell students that they need to maintain their own “voice” in the essay. Great, but what do they mean. Why does it matter?
“Voice” is how the essay sounds when you read it. Think of it this way. When you read something, does it sound like someone you know? Some people talk, and write, very formally. Some talk informally while others may have a bit of sarcasm or a bit of humor in their normal speech. We all have a certain sound to the way we talk.
Similarly, there is a certain sound to writing. You want to strive to have your writing sound like you talk. Don’t get me wrong here. If you like, you know, like, talk, like your friends, you know, that is not something you want to follow in your writing. Poor speech does not make for great writing.
Several years ago I worked with a young man whose father was a professional writer. They sent me a copy of the essay written by the student and I knew right away that this was not the product of a high school student. I work with many students who are great writers but high school students and older adults talk, and write, in different ways. The words are different and the syntax is different. When I asked, it turned out that dad had done an edit on the essay which made it sound like a 50 year old man. The voice of the student had been lost.
Why is this important? Because the purposes of the essay is to communicate something about you and how you write. If the essay doesn’t sound like your voice you are not communicating “you” to the college. After reading thousands of essays, college admissions officers are very aware of what an authentic voice sounds like.
How do you make sure your “voice” is coming through. Read your essay out loud. Does it sound like you? Not sure? Read it out loud to someone who knows you well. They will be able to easily tell if your writing sounds like you.
If you make sure that your “voice” comes through in your essay, you will be one step closer to being the strongest possible candidate for admission to that special college.
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