College Essays About Public Speaking

Overcoming My Fear of Public Speaking

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Overcoming My Fear of Public Speaking


I could barely hold a pen. There was this faint, yet distinctly audible, buzzing in the room; I suspected only I heard it. My hands were shaking convulsively and the writing on the blackboard was blurrier than usual. My economics teacher called out my name several times before I acknowledged her.

“Carol, if the GDP per capita of Argentina falls, what is the most likely outcome? Carol?” she said, in her stereotypical teacher like tone.

“I’m sorry, what was the question?” I asked. I was hardly in the state of mind to be answering questions about GDP and South America.

“Are you sure you’re all right? You look a bit pale. Maybe you should get a glass of water,” she said. What she said scarcely registered. All I heard were the words “water” and “pale”. My lack of focus was reaching a comical point; I’m sure my fellow ninth-graders attributed my stupor to either sleep deprivation or a certain plant with intoxicating properties. Unfortunately, my daze was brought on naturally.

I soon began to feel my heart pounding faster. I noticed how moist the palms of my hands were, and how cold the room had suddenly grown. My economics teacher, Miss Loyd, went on relentlessly. She was one of my favorites, but I still itched to dart from the class room. I kept repeating to myself, “stay calm, you’ve got nothing to worry about,” but emotions are never easy to control.

The school bell rang, echoing throughout the building. In my ears, it was the sound of an executioner sharpening his sword. I felt my knees give way; I was, however, determined in my resolve. I would conquer my fears – nothing would stand in my way. I made my way out of the class room, and with a shaky hand, pulled out the speech I would soon deliver.

I smile as I write this, for I am now quite the orator. This episode of my first speech in front of a large audience will always humble me; unfortunately, I have an ego the size of a small planet when it comes to public speaking.

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What amazes me is man’s ability to adapt to his surroundings. There I was, but a few years ago, without any rhetorical skill; and now, I pride myself at having won several debate competitions. I fear my ego has begun to creep into my writing – I shall attempt to remain impartial, nonetheless.



Each fall, I enjoy meeting and speaking with admission representatives from various colleges and universities. Not only do these visits provide me with updates on programs and facilities, they allow me to chat informally with reps about what their offices are looking for—and what they could do without.

Since many of my clients are in the thick of drafting college essays, it was interesting to hear what one rep had to say the other day about essay dos and don’ts. Not surprisingly, his pet peeves were similar to my pet peeves when I was a college admission director. And his recommendations on topics to avoid mirrored—as well as added to—mine. I’ll be sharing his tips with my clients as they continue to confront the challenges—as well as realize the opportunities—that college essay-writing tasks provide.

Here are three of the topics he advises students to avoid:

  • Childhood role model/sick relative – I hear you already saying, “But that’s a prompt on the Common Application essay page!” Kind of. It’s not that writing about a traumatic experience or inspirational individual can’t make for a good essay. It just has to be (mostly) about YOU. So go ahead and reference your 3rd – grade teacher or uncle with cancer in your piece, but make sure you talk primarily about yourself—the qualities you exude, the person you hope to become—as a result of your relationship with this special someone.
  • Fear of public speaking – Just say no. Too many kids write about this and admissions people, in general, find those essays boring.
  • Bad grades/good grades – Yes, it’s wonderful when your academic life experiences an upturn. And, yes, you deserve to be proud. But don’t write your essay about this. Everybody does.

Remember a well-written college essay helps you stand out from the crowd in a positive way. Don’t squander this invaluable opportunity by following the crowd and producing a ho-hum piece that doesn’t do you justice.

Experiencing writer’s block? Or just procrastinating? Send me your college essay-related questions and I’ll do my best to answer them. And visit my Facebook page to find out where and when I’ll be giving presentations to students and parents this fall.

 

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