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The Urban School
of San Francisco
1563 Page Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
415 626 2919

Next Steps Blog


You are the Expert on You

by Susan Lee
Director of College Counseling

I just googled “college essay advice” – 521 entries came up, and those were only the “most relevant” results. Those entries are in addition to all of the conversations, the classes, the books, and the how-to’s that are not on the internet. Lots of advice…where to begin?

It is a joy to read the writing of Urban seniors. After three years at Urban and all of the essays, papers and self- reflection that are part of the Urban education, our students have grown to be competent, original and articulate writers. Although writing is easier for some than others, all know how to do it well. Often, the most captivating essay is one in which the student spontaneously, but confidently writes about something that has captured her heart. 

Sometimes students misinterpret their task and lose their voice. This is easy to do when one tries to say TOO much, works TOO hard, or gets TOO much adult help.  There are so many opinions out there and, for many, listening to the ideas of others bogs them down and makes the task overwhelming. The essay can become formulaic or cliché, like the writing section of the SAT.

It is very rare when an essay is the factor that makes or breaks the admissions decision. The essay is like a spice in a stew – the stew is fine without it, but it certainly makes the meal more interesting and more memorable.

Trust yourself, writers! You know how to do this. You have something to say – we hear it every day in the halls and classes and in conversations. You are a unique individual with your own personal ideas, passions and loves. Don’t try to be perfect  – none of us are perfect and admissions readers certainly do not expect you to be.  Just be yourself. You are the expert on you.
Posted by Kristen Bailey on Tuesday September, 21, 2010 at 09:04AM


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Susan Lee
Co-Director of College Counseling
415 593 9511

Lauren Gersick
Co-Director of College Counseling
415 593 9512

Leslie Schaffer
College Counseling Assistant
415 593 9519

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