Stop what you are doing. Right this minute.
I hear you asking what’s up with the theatrics? You get theatrical a lot, Katie.
You are right. But here is what is up with the theatrics: don’t start writing without a plan.
Do you know how many college essays the average admissions officer reads?
The right number is 9,500 according to the people who brought you College Essays for Dummies, but we aren’t dummies, right?
Let us take a moment to soak that in.
On average, each admissions officer reads 9,500 essays? That is the Game of Thrones series, and we want people to remember what was described on one page. To extend my GOT addiction and analogy, make sure your essay is the Red Wedding and not the day everything was good but not great in King’s Landing, cool?
We have such a smart and sophisticated readership, a readership that reads Game of Thrones and tells an amazing narrative about themselves, that we need to talk college essays (not just for dummies) but for you stellar people.
1. Don’t write
Of course this a bit misleading because you will eventually need to write your college essay, but before you write, there are many steps that will better lead to the perfect college essay. A huge mistake I see is people trying to write the perfect piece and getting a major case of writer’s block.
2. Start thinking about who you you ARE
Too often, people over-rely on the thesaurus to make something sound good without thinking about the stories they want to tell about themselves. Within each person is a story to tell. Your biggest responsibility is to find the unique narrative that only you can tell. Have you climbed Machu Pichu? That’s cool but how does that tell me who you are? I don’t want to know that you are a great athlete, good musician or volunteer. I want to know how who you are and how you became that amazing athlete.
3. Use that information to decide who want to BE
So back to Machu Pichu… you climbed the mountain after you worked an after school job for four years and got into excellent physical condition. You also learned that along the way, there was another personal mountain that you needed to climb as you approached the summit. How does that make you the person you want to be? Do you want to be the kind of person who approaches everything like you approached that mountain? Do you want to take on seemingly insurmountable tasks in order to help a particular population of people? Be specific and know (at least a little) who you want to be.
4. Align who you ARE and who you want to BE strategically with the schools you want to go to
Research what makes your future college (or at least the ones you are applying to) unique and find a way to align your own personal narrative with the school of your dreams. Does your future school want to find students from diverse backgrounds? How do your hike and your desire to overcome new and different obstacles contribute to a unique and diverse student body? Yeah, that’s a tricky question, but think it through. This is the making of a great and spectacular personal narrative.
5. Play to your exceptionality to write a unique story
I think these exercises will help you discover what makes you unique and help hone where you are applying and why. However, if you’re still working on hitting that discovery, start to think about why you are different. What makes you unique and what is your brand? Why should the universities want to align strategically with you in the form of an admission? Write that too!
If you follow these tips (and perhaps hire us) you are certain to create a compelling package that makes you stand out in that sea of 9,500!