It can be tempting to think that you should only worry about getting better at the essay format once the mountain of supplementary essays loom during college application season. But if that’s the first time you start to realize how tenuous your grasp of basic sentence construction is, or the first time you realize you shouldn’t use the passive voice — let’s just say a bad time will be had by you.
It’s easy to give up on writing early—we’ve seen many students come to us, pointing to their grades in biology and calculus, and tell us they never really worried about becoming better writers because it just ‘wasn’t their strong suit.’
But this is the wrong way to think of writing. While it’s completely true that some people are better writers than others, writing is a muscle like everything else and should be worked out as such. It’s a vicious cycle: Neglect your writing workouts, and sooner or later you’ll come to believe that you’re not a strong writer, so you won’t feel any need to work out at all.
But why are we focusing this on the timing of becoming a better writer? What’s the hurry?
Well, not only is it better to learn things young because of the law of compound interest, which says that steady, incremental progress will eventually add up to far more than the sum of its parts, it’s good because we’re better at learning when we’re younger.
It’s no secret that writing is a vital skill that is often weak in students—despite its prevalence and importance in the American workforce, students aren’t asked to write much more than cookie-cutter academic essays, until it’s suddenly college time and you have to write eight supplements, all of which get to the distilled essence of you.
Writing is one of those things you know you’ll be asked to do in some capacity. Even MIT and CalTech, havens for those who haven’t a humanities-inclined bone in their body, require supplemental essays! So the sooner you can start on learning how to find your voice and translate your thoughts onto the page, the better off you’ll be.