You may be fretting over writing the perfect application essay. You may be wondering how you will stand out among the thousands of others who pour their hearts onto paper, who have done more than you, scored higher than you and spent more time volunteering than you. Instead of worrying how you will add-up on paper, take a deep breath and take some inventory. Stop worrying about what other people have done, and think about you.
The application essay is the one section on the application of which you are in total control. You are able to let your uniqueness show, and pique the readers’ interest beyond the quantitative evaluation of test scores and number of positions held or awards won. Here is where you speak.
What do your readers want? I have read the admissions guidelines of dozens of top colleges. They all want one thing from your application essay: to know who YOU are. So start by asking yourself the question: ‘Who am I?’ While it can be easy to cater your essay to say what you think they want to hear, you are far better off just being yourself. How do you do that? Brainstorming is the first step.
Think about the question. Who are you? What makes you stand out?
Sit down at your computer and fill the screen with statements about yourself. Perhaps ask your parents or close friends, what makes you special or unique? Think about places you’ve gone, things you’ve done, and accomplishments you’re proud of. Then, think about what these experiences and choices say about your values. What mistakes or regrets do you have? Failures? Surprises? Write all of these down in your brainstorm.
Be totally honest with yourself. This process is for you, and you alone. Ask yourself these questions: Why do I do the things I do? What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? What is different about me? What kind of person am I? Under what circumstances do I learn? What interests me? What’s my favorite website, YouTube, TED talk? What do I care about? Why is ______ more like a religion to me than a sport? What is it like growing up in _____?
Give yourself some time to let these confirmations marinate. This process should make you feel good about yourself, to affirm your goals and strengths, to make you feel more purpose and direction. This practice is not just good for your application essay but for many areas of your life; when wondering about a career move, if a partner seems suitable, if you should move to a new city, etc. Knowing yourself is a vital part of life, and this essay helps you to shed some light on who you really are for the first time in your adult life. So go ahead and find out who YOU are!