Thanks to Esha Banerjee (MA'18), for this post! 

You’ve filled out your name, academic information, and work experience, uploaded your transcripts and test scores, and requested letters of recommendation. Now you face the Herculean task of writing the motivation statement and questions race through your mind: What to write? How to start? How do I fit everything in so few words, or for some, how do I write so much about myself? Should I start with a quote or is it too cliché?

As you keep staring at the blank screen in frustration, with the cursor blinking as a constant reminder that you should be writing, consider these few words of advice from a fellow sufferer.

Essays shouldn’t be a one-night or all-nighter task    

These essays tend to not be something you can just ace in one night. They should accurately represent the "essence" of you that needs to be presented to someone who has never known you personally and has limited information to assess your admissions profile. Give yourself enough time to work through drafts and reflect on your writing. Do not panic if you haven’t started the process earlier; learn to pace yourself well and set personal deadlines.

To finish, you have to start

When you start, it’s easy to get bogged down by the whole scheme of things: how the essay is going to turn out, how to fit in all the content, how it will flow, etc. Just be confident and type down those first few words; write whatever comes to your mind. Don’t be afraid of hastily scribbling down words— you can ruthlessly edit later. Throw in small paragraphs adding in whatever you feel is relevant — it will make sense in the end.

Google is not the answer for everything

Google might help you with facts, but writing your statement is something that you have to do on your own. Do not be tempted by sample essays on the internet or the essay that your mentor or friend so helpfully provided you. By all means, seek advice from people but do not try to build up on an existing essay. Your essay needs to be as original as you are! Admission committees value honesty and have an uncanny knack for detecting botchy work.

To write is human; to edit is divine

Edit mercilessly. While editing, try to get rid of redundant words and paragraphs that do not make sense when placed one after the other. Do not be afraid to reorganize and reorder. Detach yourself from your essay and judge it as an observer. Treat your life as a movie and think of the viewer. Does it make sense to them? If you find it lacking, go back and start over. While the next bit of advice is obvious, it is often overlooked in haste: make sure your writing is free from grammatical and spelling errors and the formatting looks good. Stick to standard fonts and font sizes.

Feedback is the breakfast of champions

Let someone who knows you well look over your essay. Sometimes, we tend to miss achievements and aspects of our life that our well-wishers might be quick to point out. Do not be defensive about feedback — it is what will make your writing better!

Begin planning to complete your essays and application today

Good luck and happy writing!

P.S. Never make the cardinal mistake of forgetting to edit the name of the school you are writing the essay for!