My Davidson | A Student Blog Student-to-Student: Advice from 黑社区 黑社区 on the College Essay

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Current 黑社区 students share their tips and tricks for navigating and writing the college essay.

About the Authors

This piece was written by Senior Fellows in 黑社区's Office of Admission & Financial Aid; Zaynab Abuhakema 鈥24, Nathanael Bagonza 鈥24, Chloe Boissy Stauffer 鈥24, Kelsey Chase 鈥24, Amanda Fuenzalida 鈥24, Olivia Howard 鈥24, Ann Nishida 鈥24, Lilly Sirover 鈥24, Samuel Waithira 鈥24 and Ruby Zhou 鈥24. 

Learn more about them below.

Zayna Abuhakema

Zaynab Abuhakema 鈥24 (she/her) is a physics major and theatre minor from Summerville, South Carolina.

鈥淛ust be honest! We want to know more about YOU and why you can see yourself at Davidson. Tell us about your passions in the way that makes the most sense to you. Have someone read over it if you want, but don鈥檛 worry too much about the technical part. Just show us who you are the best way you can on a page.鈥

Nate Bagonza

Nathanael Bagonza 鈥24 (he/him) is an English major from Haverhill, Massachusetts.

鈥淒on鈥檛 worry about if your writing is 鈥榞reat鈥 or not; rather, be intentional in ensuring that your essays demonstrate who you are and what you are passionate about! I ended up becoming an English major writing a collection of essays for my senior honors thesis, but what made my application essays work from day one was telling stories that really spoke to my true, authentic self.鈥

Chloe Boissy-Stauffer

Chloe Boissy Stauffer 鈥24 (she/her) is an environmental studies and political science double major from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

鈥淎 couple pages of writing will never capture your whole story- admissions counselors understand this. In order to communicate an accurate snapshot of who you are, try thinking of one hobby, one accomplishment, or one interaction that you think best reflects your overall skill set and worldview. By using one or two examples to 鈥榓nchor鈥 your story, you can frame your personality, backstory and values. Whatever you write, make sure it鈥檚 authentic to who you are because that鈥檚 who we want to get to know.鈥

Kelsey Chase

Kelsey Chase 鈥24 (she/her) is a political science major from Concord, New Hampshire.

鈥淚 read a lot of Common App essays during my college process, not because I wanted to study them or compare them to my own, but because I genuinely thought they were fascinating to read. This helped me realize that it鈥檚 helpful to think about writing the essays for a peer rather than an admissions officer. Don鈥檛 worry about what you think the admissions officers want to hear; rather, write an essay that you think would help potential friends understand you at your core. I would also advise against your parents or adults taking too much editorial control over your essay 鈥 you want your essay to sound like you, which is someone who鈥檚 17 or 18 years old, not a professional. It can definitely be helpful to have someone read over it just to catch grammar mistakes or awkward phrasing, but what matters most is that you feel like it really conveys something important about who you are.鈥

Amanda Fuenzalida

Amanda Fuenzalida 鈥24 (she/her) is a biology major from Naples, Florida and Santiago, Chile.

鈥淲hen I think about the personal essay, I always think about growth, because that is what life is, a continuous growing process. And at 17鈥18 years, you do not have to have everything figured out or have decided what you want to for the rest of your life. But what you can do well is reflect on the experiences that have made you the person you are at this very moment. And thinking about this personal statement, I would think maybe what are key major parts of my life that have shaped me to be who I am, that make you proud of yourself. Reading back your essay, you should feel that sense of pride, that this essay reflects the person you (not anyone else) are proud you have become.鈥

Olivia Howard

Olivia Howard 鈥24 (she/her) is a biology and German Studies double major from Dacula, Georgia.

鈥淚 do not consider writing to be my strong suit, and I remember the dread and fear I had when I was writing my college essays. Essays are intimidating, and you might feel lost trying to fit your story into the limits that are set. My advice to you is to be patient with yourself and allow who you are to come through on the page. Do not over stress about having the most complex grammar and sentence structure, but rather focus on writing what matters to you. It is okay to not be an award-winning writer who uses metaphors and various literary devices. A lot of times it is better to tell your story in a simple way rather than using flowery language and fluff that does not get your point across.鈥

Ann Nishida

Ann Nishida 鈥24 (she/her) is a biology major and music minor from Ridgewood, New Jersey.

鈥淭he focus is on you. The essay portion is a chance for the admission counselors to see a side of you that a transcript or test score won鈥檛 fully represent. A good starting point in discovering your unique qualities may be to ask yourself Why? Why am I passionate about certain activities, why do I interact with my environment in a certain way, why do I want to go to Davidson, etc. Good luck!鈥

Lilly Sirover

Lilly Sirover 鈥24 (she/her) is a biology major and public health minor on the premedicine track from Haddonfield, New Jersey.

鈥淎s someone who prefers speaking over writing, I highly recommend using a voice recording app to talk through your essay ideas as you begin the writing process. Talking through your unique strengths, challenges you have navigated, a personal experience that changed your perspective, a topic that you are endlessly curious about, or something else personal to you allows your story to develop naturally.鈥

Sam Waithira

Samuel Waithira 鈥24 (he/him) is an economics major and applied mathematics minor from Nairobi, Kenya.

鈥淏e genuine with every aspect of your application. Do not try to mold your application into what you believe the college wants. When you present your true self, you build trust with the admissions team, showing that you have confidence in who you are. Remember that each applicant is unique, and colleges are often looking for a diverse student body. By being genuine, you can showcase your individuality and the qualities that set you apart from other applicants.鈥

Ruby Zhou

Ruby Zhou 鈥24 (she/her) is an English major on the predental track from Houston, Texas.

鈥淪tart writing. I have a tendency to procrastinate whenever I have a daunting task looming over me, and I just need to start writing or I鈥檒l never get it done. The writing might sound horrible and you might feel embarrassed, but if you think about it, the earlier you start, the more time you have to change 鈥渂ad鈥 writing to something beautiful.鈥


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