The essay is your opportunity to show you’re a learner. Colleges aren’t looking for kids who’ve already accomplished every challenge successfully and have never failed. Don’t list your achievements, don’t toot your own horn, don’t live in clichés (sports taught me the importance of teamwork), don’t talk up your strengths, all of these things are boring, tired and come across as arrogant.
Most often we learn more from failing than from succeeding. In your essay, consider taking a personal risk and talk about a shortcoming of yours, a moment of embarrassment or shame, a moment that changed YOU, rather than the stereotypical moment of victory where you displayed your own prowess in dominating your surroundings.
Colleges are in the business of teaching, thus they don’t need students who know it all already. Show that while you don’t have it all figured out yet, you are great at learning, that you come with the humility of the beginner’s mind.
If you do this, your essay will stand out. It will be unique. It will be read and reread and then posted up on the bulletin board. It will be honest, not full of spin and polish but rather raw and authentic. Go for that!
Crystal Anderson is the president of Crystal Clear College Planning, which helps Seattle-area families plan financially and academically for college. Learn more about our free local workshops on planning for college.