‘Tis the season for college applications. If you are a senior in high school or a transfer student, you are most likely in the midst of writing the most important essays (arguably) you will ever write in your life.

More than anything, word count seems to be the bane of any student’s existence. Supplemental essays may ask a profound question, yet they require a maximum of 150 words. These essays are, in actuality, gold mines if you know how to work them. Their purpose is for colleges to see if you can synthesize information and only tell them what’s important.

You may ask, How can I possibly explain my life in 150 words? 

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Mr. Moore, my Freshman writing teacher, repeated his mantra every class: “Omit needless words.” Doing this is a skill you will learn over time, but first you have to understand that unnecessary words and paragraphs weaken your essays.

As a quick exercise, describe an object that is closest to you at this moment, such as a lamp. In your description, in 150 words or less, outline the function of that object as well as its appeal to you. Exercises like this will help train your brain to only record the most important details rather than needless “fluff.”

College application essays offer you the chance to be open, vulnerable, and honest. The people reading your essays are not random English teachers judging your writing; these are professional admissions officers searching for what makes you human. In particular, they want to find things that reveal who you are in a way that your application cannot.

Personally, my Common App essay was, hands down, the hardest piece of writing I have ever had to write. This is because I wrote about an issue that I feel uncomfortable talking about; the fact that I had to write about it meant that I had to be honest with myself and accept the way I am.

If you are working on an essay, I am always available to provide critiques. Feel free to send it to my Sumbissions page and I’d be happy to help.

Happy writing!