Why Your College Essay Should Be More Like "So You Think You Can Dance"*

If you’re anything like me, you were in love with So You Think You Can Dance for at least one (or more than one) brief, shining moment in its high kicking, body flipping history. You love the costumes and the drama and the talent and the insightful comments. You hate-love Mary Murphy and her Hot Tamale Train. You may have even grown to love Cat Deeley, even though you were once annoyed by her pronunciation of “jiiidges.” And you certainly loved every one of these magical dances. In fact, chances are that you saved your favorite episodes on your DVR to watch again and again. But I digress.

And so did SYTYCD.

Stretching out over two long nights a week, this show was packed with filler—performances by singers you may or may not care about, Nigel blathering on about how this is the best crop of talent they’ve ever had, or “cute” videos of dancers listing three things you should know about them.

But no more. Fox brilliantly cut the show down to one night per week, banishing most of that filler. Now the show is packed with rehearsals, dances, and judging. (There's still a bit of filler, but it's much easier to swallow in small doses.) By eliminating the dead time, the producers made the show that much more fun to watch, especially for those of us who already have a jam-packed schedule of reality TV to attend to.

Now take a look at your college essay. Do you have filler? I’m guessing you do. We all do. Often, we overstate our point to make sure the audience knows what we’re talking about. But the thing is that our college essay audience already knows what we’re talking about. So there’s no need to include phrases like these:

“I think that…” (It’s your essay, so the whole thing is what you think.)

“It’s really important that…” (You don’t have that many words, so everything you write should be important.)

“…and that’s what I learned while working at the soup kitchen.” (Avoid this type of empty “moral of the story” wrap-up phrase.)

You only have 500 words. Or 650 words. Or—yikes!—just 250 words. So every phrase in every single sentence should pack a punch and move your story forward. When editing your essay, look at each sentence individually and imagine your essay without it. If the story still works, chances are you didn’t need that sentence in the first place.

Is your college essay on the Hot Tamale Train? writewithrosie.com
Is your college essay on the Hot Tamale Train? writewithrosie.com

Do yourself a favor and try to step into the “jiiidges’” shoes while reading your essay. Would you be on board the Hot Tamale Train?

*Note: I know, I know. Titles of shows should be italicized or underlined, but Wordpress isn't being my friend in this particular instance. It's killing me to look at those quotation marks in the post title. Check out more punctuation rules here.

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