Gotta Have It: Standout College Application Essays

It’s mid-May, which means (at least for the students I work with) it is time to start the essay writing process—woohoo! I get excited for the start of essay writing because to me it feels like the application process really gets underway at this time. Not that the stuff leading up to writing essays is not exciting or important—it is—but I begin to see a student’s story and their application really come together via the essays, and that’s one of the things I enjoy the most about my work.

A bit about how I approach the process. I send out sample essays to the students I work with so they get a sense of “what works,” although what works for one student may not work for another, and to see that the personal statement can talk about a lot of different things. There is no one size fits all approach, but I’d like to think the sample essays I share all have a few things in common.

  1. Showed a side of the student not reflected in other parts of their app
  2. Explained something that was not going to be/could not be explained in another part of their app
  3. Highlighted a special interest/talent/experience
  4. Well-written

An awesome personal statement needs to hit a few if not all of the above (well-written is non-negotiable), and those that do not might represent a missed opportunity. We go through an extensive brainstorming process with students, which results in a topic that doesn’t miss the mark. If you’d like to learn more about how we help guide students on the essay writing process and make best use of what I believe is one of the only parts of the app you have total creative control over, shoot me an email.

Anyway, I initially started writing this post because I wanted to share a New York Times article that includes four personal statements that are quite good. Give it a read, and happy writing!


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