The essays are the part of the college application that students resist the most. Classes and tests require hard work, but there’s something intimidating about sitting down and writing several hundred words from scratch that have such a bearing on your future. In this post, we offer a few tips for the intrepid college-applicants who are just getting started.
Where to Begin
The goal with your application as a whole is to show different parts of you, your personality, what makes you tick, and also, what you’re interested in pursuing academically. So, before you do anything else, you first have to determine what parts of yourself you want to convey to the admissions committee.
If you haven’t been following our blog, this might be news to you. The way to start is by writing down a list of adjectives that describe you. If the characteristics don’t come free flowing, text your friends and ask them for words they would use to describe you. The first few adjectives that come to mind probably aren’t the winners. Pick a few that really stand out and feel accurate. These are going to comprise the backbone of your essays.
At this point, students who work with us will have already identified a few characteristics they intend to convey through the Common App. The next step is to distinguish which characteristics you do not plan to (or have not already) written about in your Common App essay, a new side of you that doesn’t exist anywhere else in your application. Are you a leader? Funny? A great listener? Put those in your supplements.
The Middle Piece
Now that you’ve identified the characteristics you want to highlight in the supplement, hone in on a story that illuminates the traits (2-3). The trick here is to keep it simple. You really want your own personality to shine through, so don’t worry about telling a story whose setting or details are so bold that you, the main character, are lost.
Talk about your commute to school, your desk, something you did with friends one time, or anything else that’s pretty routine. The details themselves are not what’s going to impress the admissions personnel. The person that shines through (and that person’s ability to write) are what they want to see.
They also want to see growth. As such, a lot of people are tempted to write about something life-changing or existential, or worse, something tragic. We don’t mean to invalidate the life experiences that have made you who you are, but there is a time and a place for those kinds of stories, and it is the additional information section.
The Other Piece
The other important component is your academic interest. This is crucial. Your entire portfolio should highlight a specialty. It should present you, the applicant, as an expert in a niche area about which you are passionate. If, in reality, you have no idea what you want to do in life, that’s fine. But you don’t need to tell the admissions council that. By now, you should be gearing your extra-curriculars and classes to that area of expertise. You should also discuss it in your supplement and talk about how your experience qualifies you to study a related major at the university to which you are applying.
Need help crafting a stand-out supplement? Reach out to use here. We are great at helping students identify their specialty and develop the perfect complimentary portfolio.