Those entering their senior year of high school should begin the process of college application essays. That one common application essay, approximately 650 words in length, is essential and can oftentimes prove difficult.
There are typically seven prompts to choose from, which are meant as guidelines to keep you from writing about how much you love your cat. If you were J.D. Salinger or Toni Morrison, you might be able to pull off that topic, but most young writers cannot. These prompts ideally will assist with establishing potentially who you might be as a citizen of the world. Topics typically focus on the future and how you will approach it – because you’ll be doing that on the college administrators’ turf, the campus.
For many, this is the first time they may have thought about such a question. Here’s how to approach this situation. The future has a lot to do with past accomplishments. Are you a tennis player, a voracious reader, a technical theater director? Each leads to possibly a different major –perhaps in sports management, English or engineering – so tell the administrators the way you lean. Remember, your answer doesn’t have to be permanent. Lots of students go to college undecided. Whatever you write, colleges simply want to see a glimpse of your human side. Empathy, according to many recent citations in major media, will be a keyword during your career because so far, robots and automation can’t provide that. It’s only human. So if you went to Guatemala or built a Habitat for Humanity house, what did you learn from it – the process, teamwork, perseverance and, most of all, the needs of the people living there?
Do not underestimate the human factor. I have some clients who, when I ask them about community service, say, “Oh, yes, I have that!” as if they bought it somewhere. Then, in several cases, they continue, “We made bologna sandwiches in homeroom for the homeless.”
Then I ask them, “What did you do with the sandwiches?”
“Oh, we gave them to the man who comes in.”
“What did the man do with them?” I respond.
“He took them down there to the homeless.”
“To the city?”
Further conversations with multiple students over almost 20 years now have convinced me the city is, to some young people, an anonymous pit somewhere east of Skinker yet not Forest Park or the Cardinals’ ballpark. Comments like these, of course, I intercept and explain why they don’t work. Serving one’s community must reflect genuine care in today’s competitive college application environment.
A truly good college application essay answers not only who you are but also why you are yourself. You don’t have to have all of that figured out yet, but the essay requires deep thinking and serious effort. Answering the why is the most difficult part in any situation, yet produces the best reflection of who you are now and who you may become. Then, using visual examples and positive points to prove what you say is true is essential to producing an essay that offers you your best chance.