Here at Private Prep, we are all about finding ways to leverage the systems that are already in our lives to help us go further. And what’s more integral to our day-to-day lives than our phones? While we could all admittedly stand to spend a little less time scrolling mindlessly through social media, there’s no doubt that our devices are pretty amazing tools—tools that, believe it or not, can help you write a better college essay. Read on for our top tips on how to use your phone during the college essay process.
Use the Notes app
You’ve probably heard this before, but it bears repeating: inspiration can strike anywhere. You might be talking to your mom, or playing video games with friends, or standing in line at the store, when suddenly something in the conversation or your surroundings makes you think oh! That could be good in my college essay! Luckily, you probably bring your phone everywhere with you, too. Use the Notes app to write down these moments of inspiration as they come so you don’t forget.
Beyond serving as a place to store important ideas while on the go, the Notes app can help you build up to writing a full essay. Sometimes it takes some practice to get used to writing with the level of detail and specificity that makes college essays really pop. Consider using the Notes app for mini-writing exercises whenever you have a few free minutes. For example, challenge yourself to take in your surroundings and write down everything you see, hear, notice. This can be a good habit that helps you build a writing practice that taps into your creative side.
Use Voice Memos and/or speech-to-text
We all have different styles of learning. While using Notes can be great for the visual learners among us, Voice Memos might be a better fit for those who lean more towards auditory learning. Record these small moments of inspiration or ideas in Voice Memos to return to later.
In general, recording your thoughts can be a great exercise to help you achieve the right kind of tone for college essays. While students are likely familiar with the style of formal, academic writing done for school, many may struggle at first adjusting to the more informal, conversational style that allows voice to really come through in a college essay. Recording ideas and then transcribing them (using Voice Typing or speech-to-text functions) can help some students develop this different style of expression a little more easily.
Scroll through your pictures
Many successful college essays focus on very specific stories, zooming in on just one experience, or even a single moment within one experience. Choosing these moments is sometimes easier said than done. Try looking for inspiration by scrolling through old pictures—this can spark memories and help you recall some of the smaller details of an experience, or perhaps remind you of a part of your life you hadn’t yet considered writing about.
They say a picture’s worth a thousand words—the Common App essay is only 650, so you’ll have ideas to spare!
Follow your colleges of interest on social media
This tip is for those pesky “Why do you want to go here?” essays. Following colleges on social media—most colleges have presences on Instagram, Twitter, even TikTok, these days—is not only a way to show interest in the school (yes, some schools track social media engagement); it’s a way to get to know the personality of a school. They’re choosing the way they present themselves to the world the same way we all do on our individual accounts. Reading schools’ social media posts can help give you an even better sense of that school’s identity, which in turn will help you better articulate in your essays how and why that school is a great fit for you.
Use the Calendar app
Calendars are not particularly glamorous, we know. But the college essay writing process is just as much about time management as it is about inspiration and writing ability. You might have the best ideas in the world, but if you don’t create a workable schedule and give yourself enough time to revise and proofread, you won’t be putting your best foot forward. Calendar reminders are a beautiful thing—you can write down key dates, like your deadlines, or August 1, when the Common App refreshes and all the supplemental essay prompts come out. Use your calendar for backwards planning based on your goal of when you want to finish your essay, and then use the alert function to remind yourself about deadlines as needed. In this way, your phone can be your accountability partner.
Wherever you are on your college essay journey—several drafts in, or just starting—remember that writing is a process, and no one writes a perfect essay on the first try. Keep at it, and if you’re feeling stuck, lacking inspiration, or seeking support in telling your story, we can help.