A common refrain I hear from clients is “I’m worried about this because I’m not a good writer,” in large part based on their English essay grades. While I understand what this is saying, this is equivalent to saying, “I’m not a good athlete.” It implies something, but for the sake of the discussion, it’s not specific enough. A basketball athlete? A tennis athlete? A baseball athlete?

Thus, when I get that question, I in turn typically ask my clients, “what kind of writing have you done?” For 90 percent of high school students, the answers will revolve around class essays for English, history, and a few other subjects. Occasionally, you’ll get the student who has worked for the school newspaper or writes a blog that actually gets traffic, but those students wouldn’t be saying “I’m not a good writer.”

The reason I ask this is simple–your college essay is NOT an English essay.

You will need to follow certain rules such as proper grammar, good flow, and compelling content, but this is not a literary analysis or a historical thesis paper. This is your story. This is your life, come to being on the page. This is creative writing, but it’s not really creating something so much as it is bearing the most compelling part of you that already exists.

So no, you don’t need to be a good English essay writer to write a good personal statement. You don’t need to have gotten an A on all of your research papers to feel confident about your application essays. You just need your most compelling story, a willingness to do a few drafts, and a willingness to tell the truth of your story in full.