My advice to students writing college essays: Tell a story only you can tell.
Did you know that synapses in your brain light up when you are connecting with a story that you are reading or hearing? Think of your favorite family stories. What makes them funny or interesting? Parents often think that students should write about their big accomplishments. But, what the Admission Reps really want is a glimpse into the student’s mind. How they think, what motivates them, what scares them, what they have learned about themselves.
What are they looking for above all? Interesting essays!!! Of course, the grammar should be correct, but even that can be forgiven if the essay catches their attention. During admission season, these bleary eyed reps are reading applications all day, every day. They are bombarded with essays about mission trips, winning the big game, a pet dying, being elected class president. These are all huge experiences in the life of a senior, but…..lots of seniors will be tempted to write about these same things. And the admissions reps will read the first sentence and think “I know where this is going”, and maybe even zone out. Can you make one of these stories more interesting than everyone else’s? Why even try? It’s much better to start with a story that only you can tell.
You want to find a way for the admissions rep to connect – to want to read your story. They want to know who you are. The person who you will be on their college campus. They don’t want to know what kind of academic student you will be, your GPA shows that. They want to know about the inner you. It is very likely that you have never written anything like this before. Is there a story in your life that is key to understanding you? One of my older daughter’s stories began during middle school when I signed her up for a Saturday afternoon cooking class. She discovered that cooking was science and from that point on she was an avid cook. She can easily tell lots of stories about cooking mishaps and successes. To talk about my daughter and not mention her passion for cooking is to leave something crucial out of her story. If she were writing a college essay today, that is where I would have her begin.
What is your passion? What should the admissions reps know about the inner you, before they make their final admissions decision? This is your chance to make your application come to life. To show them who you are and why they should say “Yes, we want to admit you!”
And….yes, if you want some help with essays, I’m happy to assist!
This time of year seniors are going crazy trying to finalize their college lists, and juniors are staring at the big college guide books trying to figure out where to begin. Students are asking "Should I put this school on my list?"
One excellent way to find out more about a college is to attend a local event sponsored by the school. In the next few weeks many schools will be putting on evening or weekend presentations.
I've put together a list of several of them; including University of Oregon, University of Pennsylvania and University of Southern California, all this Sunday, Oct. 12. (sorry Seahawks fans!). For a list of schools visiting Seattle, please see our Resources page.
Author: Teri Thompson