Updated: Jul 18, 2021
We had the opportunity of interviewing Luke Drago, a student at Oxford University, about: Essay Tips
In high school, Luke was the Public Forum Debate captain, an octofinalist at the 2019 NCFL National Debate Tournament, a three-time national qualifier in the National History Day documentary competition (and three-time finalist in the local and state National History Day documentary competition), a strategy intern for the McCool for Matthews campaign, the co-founder of his school's social justice club. Luke also scored a 32 on his ACT and has over 2000 hours volunteered at his local church.
Key points Luke shares:
I know a lot of people say that you should get as many people as possible to look over your essay. I disagree. I picked a few people that I thought would be able to give me an unbiased view on it.
Take my advice: put all your essays on one doc, and make a spreadsheet that tracks your progress and deadlines for each school. Don’t get lost on the due dates. If you stay organized and focused, you’ll end up where you need to be.
Q: How did you get inspiration when writing your college essay?
A: My personal statement for Oxford was pretty difficult to write. I stumbled upon an unlisted 40 minute video from an admissions officer at a respected UK university after finding the link on a form post. It’s probably the reason my essay was successful. There aren’t a lot of guides on how to write it, especially from an American perspective. It’s a pretty dry read, so it didn’t require a lot of inspiration once I understood what they were looking for. My Common App essay is a different story. I was getting food with friends, and joked about how I should write my essay with a metaphor about the burger I was eating. It was a joke at first, but then I did it. I wrote the first two paragraphs and the end paragraph right there from my phone, then went home and finished the rest.
Q: Who did you ask to review your essays, and who would you recommend to give the most honest advice?
A: I know a lot of people say that you should get as many people as possible to look over your essay. I disagree. I picked a few people that I thought would be able to give me an unbiased view on it. For me, that was a couple of friends I trusted and my AP Lang teacher. If you get advice from too many people, your essay can start to lose its vision. No one is going to be able to tell your story better than you.
Q: How much time did you spend on each of your college essays?
A: I finished my first draft in about an hour, but that was after days of not being able to think of anything. For the rest, I spent a ton of time with a few friends at Panera Bread and Starbucks writing them one by one. I probably spent thirty minutes to an hour on each essay, and gave it another thirty minutes or so to review and revise after feedback.
Q: Did you use a certain strategy on all of your essays or was each one different?
A: I put all of my essays on one Google Doc, with subheadings for individual schools that were sorted by deadline. Essays from the same school were grouped together, and I included the word limit next to every prompt. When I had time to write, I’d scroll through the doc and find a prompt that I could come up with ideas for. By doing this, I was able to get prompts that I had immediate ideas for out of the way. From there, I tackled each essay by its due date. This helped me organize my time and thoughts, and I’ve recommended it to everyone that’s asked me. Take my advice: put all your essays on one doc, and make a spreadsheet that tracks your progress and deadlines for each school. Don’t get lost on the due dates. If you stay organized and focused, you’ll end up where you need to be.
Q: If you don’t mind sharing, what was your main focus in your essays? (extracurriculars, social life, academics, personal life, etc.)
A: My essay was a blend of my life, extracurriculars, and my passion. I think politics is the place where people can work together to solve big problems, and I used my essay to explore where my interest in politics began, what I’ve done to build on it, and how I plan to grow in the future.
Q: Did the schools you applied to require certain types of essays?
A: Oxford and the other UK schools that I applied to required a personal statement explaining my interest in history and politics. My US schools required the Common App essay and a variety of supplemental essays.
Connect with Luke on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/mwlite/in/luke-drago-89a5a7b0.