Me, Myself, and I: How to Describe Yourself in College Application Essays
A Student’s College Application Essay Is One Of Their Best Opportunities To Stand Out…
After all, a well-written personal statement can be the difference between acceptance or receiving a waitlist letter. Often, the best essays are those that go into detail about the student themselves. A descriptive essay that shows how a student’s personal hobbies, interests, values, and career goals interconnect goes much farther than just a list of their extracurricular activities.
However, many students find it difficult to break the habit of being humble and write about themselves. In this article, we cover five different ways students can reframe the challenge of writing about themselves to make their college essays feel more personal.
The Importance Of Sharing Your Story
With over 3 million students expected to graduate from high school this year, the pool of college applicants will continue to grow. Because of this, colleges are increasingly seeking ways to adapt the college admission process to allow students the opportunity to share their unique stories.
Across the country, from small liberal arts colleges to leading research universities, schools are increasingly moving in the direction of a holistic admission process. A holistic approach to college admissions goes beyond a student’s test scores and grade point averages to take into account all that a student achieves inside and outside of school.
Because of this shift in approach, it’s never been more necessary for students to share their personal stories however they can in their college application. Most often, students are given the opportunity through essay prompts that ask questions about the student’s views, values, or interests as they relate to the institution.
While many students find these prompts uncomfortable, they are one of the only ways students can take control of the application process by choosing to put themselves in the spotlight. The person who reads a student’s college application and personal statement has no idea who they are; it’s up to each student to leave them with a good first impression.
5 Tips For Writing About Yourself On College Applications
SHOW PERSONAL DEPTH
While students may be tempted to state just the facts of their background, encourage depth and description in their application. A holistic admissions process loves to see students with interests that interconnect, especially when provided with a record of extracurricular involvement to back it up. Providing detail gives the reader the context they’ll need to get a clear picture of the student.
In other words, students shouldn’t be afraid to nerd out and get passionate! If their interest in political activism is driven by the field they’re most interested in studying, such as climate science, encourage them to work all aspects of their character into their application. Same with art, social justice, psychology, and more! Colleges provide students with essay prompts that invite them to get personal for a reason - they love the inside look at what qualities your student will bring to their campus.
However, students should be careful to not merely rewrite a list of accomplishments, extracurriculars, or commitments that can be found elsewhere on their college applications. A student’s personal essay can lean on these parts of the application by focusing on the most important accomplishments rather than trying to list all of them within a small word count limit.
DESCRIBE YOUR BACKGROUND
Today, it’s possible for students from all walks of life to attend college, each bringing their own unique perspective and background to create more diverse campuses than ever. As this diversity is continually being recognized as a driver of innovation and equality, colleges are giving applicants more chances than ever to describe their background and what factors have shaped them into the person they are today.
Therefore, if there’s a unique aspect of your student’s background that you believe is worth highlighting in their college application, don’t hesitate! Colleges are eager to hear from applicants with experiences during their upbringing that reveal grit, determination, or ambition.
MAKE USE OF STORIES
To this end, students should make use of stories in their personal statements, if given a prompt where a story would make sense. Past experiences that show personal growth, dedication to values or ethics, or willingness to reach out and help those in need can all do more to tell a college about an applicant’s potential as a student than a grade point average ever could.
Shockingly, sometimes the most powerful stories to tell in a personal statement are those where a student has failed, lost, or made a mistake. In these stories, students are not only given the opportunity to display humility and the capability for growth, but also many other soft skills often associated with success in higher education.
Even if the essay prompt doesn’t invite your student to share a story, look for ways to naturally incorporate small anecdotes. Past experiences and stories, even summarized in a few sentences, can add a personal touch to an essay that college admissions officials will notice.
CONNECT TO THE SCHOOL
Students should always aim to be truthful in their college applications and should avoid making themselves seem more connected to the college they apply to than they really are. However, if a student’s interests, values, or experiences align with a college’s, then making an effort to genuinely connect with the school in their college essay can give students an edge.
For example, a student with a nearly life-long passion for debate would be well served to mention it when applying for a school where their debate team has received national recognition.
Additionally, if your child has had positive experiences with a school, whether through official programs or interactions with current students or alumni, a brief mention of this can work well in their college essay. When a student is unsure of how to answer “why this college” essay prompts, this tactic can be a great way to bridge the gap between what first drew a student toward a school and what convinced them to apply.
ASK FOR AN OUTSIDE OPINION
If your student finds themselves struggling to weave their personal story into the essay prompt, one way to spark ideas is to ask a trusted outsider for help. From a counselor to a teacher or fellow student, chances are your student will know someone who is willing to give them an idea of how they’d describe them to others. These outside looks will do wonders for your child’s confidence, creativity, and perspective when it comes to writing their “me, myself, and I” personal statement.
Depending on who your student asks, they may even be reminded of past experiences where they showed personal growth, committed to their values, or helped someone in need. Hearing stories from a different perspective may make it easier to write about them in a way that doesn’t feel self-aggrandizing. If they’ve already written a rough first draft of the story, their helper may be able to fill in details that add strength to the essay.
Make Your Personal Statement Personal
Many students struggle with the idea of writing about themselves. However, the perception that describing your past or telling a meaningful story about yourself is “bragging” couldn’t be further from the truth. Colleges are eager to hear stories that give insight into who a student is beyond their grades and test scores, and students would be wise to take advantage of the opportunities to do so. Yet, even the most accomplished adults struggle with describing themselves and their own accomplishments. It can be difficult to sell yourself, no matter how much value you bring to the table!
If your student is having a difficult time portraying themselves in their college application, we’d love to hear from you and see where our WeAdmit counselors can help. Our counselors are experienced in helping guide students toward submitting the best possible college applications, exploring all their options, and putting their best first impression forward. We would love to hear from you and see how our team can help your student get into their dream college!
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