College Essay Mistakes When Writing About Yourself
Senior Advisor Anna shares common mistakes students make in their college essays and how to best avoid them.
2022-01-24 College Essay Mistakes When Writing About Yourself
[00:00:00] Are there you may have all heard or maybe not of, you know, this big personal statement. Um, that’s a part of every college application, uh, whether it’s through the common app or the coalition. And don’t worry if those words sound like jargon mum, like mumbo-jumbo, you don’t know what I mean. That’s fine.
You don’t need to know yet. Um, suffice it to say that every application you submit. Basically is going to have a personal statement. Um, it’s around one page. Um, the, the link varies a bit, depending on what app you’re applying on. Um, but around one page, um, and this is, you know, a great place to test. Your story, the questions are usually pretty vague.
So on the common app, there’s a list, I think of eight questions this year. Um, but they’re all very open-ended um, really just trying to get a sense of who are you, um, what’s your story that sort of. Then a lot of colleges have supplemental [00:01:00] essays, uh, but some of them they’re required. Um, so to complete your application, you have to complete additional essays and some of them are optional.
Uh, these kind of range in topic from being very specific, for example, Why are you choosing this major? Why do you want to go to the school? Um, or they could be a lot more vague and say, tell us something else about you that we ha we haven’t learned yet. Um, they’re generally shorter than the, than the other.
Then there’s a personal statement. Um, so I know essays can sound overwhelming. Um, but th these supplementals are usually, um, a much smaller thing to take.
Okay. So why are college essays important? This is your chance and your application to get across some things that are really hard to get across anywhere else. [00:02:00] So most importantly, your voice, your personality, your unique story, things that really are hard to pick up on. If you’re just reading through a list of extra curricular activities, for example, things that are hard to pick up on just by looking at your transcript, um, you’re not going to get your voice, your personality from reading this.
It’s also an opportunity to explain any gaps or anything that you think. Um, I might give the people reading your application questions. Um, so for example, if you had a period of time where you participated in fewer or no extracurriculars, I know we have students navigating that right now, given the pandemic.
Um, if you went through a phase where your grades were a bit low. Um, here’s the chance to tell that story, um, and to, to show the application committee, um, why that happen and, and how you’ve learned and grown from it.[00:03:00]
So how to get started. Um, I think these essays often feel really overwhelming. They feel very high stakes, um, 16, 67% of you are juniors. Um, some even younger. That’s great that you’re thinking about this already. Um, I wish I had been thinking about this as early as you are. Um, and seniors, you’re doing great as well.
Um, no stress. So as you’re seeing. Thinking about colleges and applications. Any time an idea comes to mind of something you could potentially write about, jot it down, have a notebook, have a file on your computer, just write it down. Um, you don’t need to do anything else for now, but it’s an idea. Um, so keep, keep track of those.
Um, and it can be anything. I think, uh, sometimes students. Get the [00:04:00] feeling that it needs to be this like major, like life event that they’re describing. And it really doesn’t need to be, um, one time, uh, to give a personal example, uh, when I was a child, my babysitter, um, said that she really believed that if you, um, had bronchitis, the, the.
A good treatment for it was to cut, open a live chicken and put the intestines on your chest. Um, as a child, I thought that was strange as I, you know, took science classes and learned about, um, hypothesis testing, um, third variables, that sort of thing. Um, I realized, Hmm. That really seems odd. And I turned that story into a whole application essay of this is why I’m interested in science and how the brain works and dah, dah, dah.
So it doesn’t have to be this big, like major life event, [00:05:00] any interesting anecdote, um, or any, anything that shows how your brain works, how you think. Um, how, who you are and what has shaped you. Um, so no idea is too silly. That’s, that’s the point in the chicken story? Um, write it down. And as you’re doing that, think also about your pers the personal narrative, the profile of yourself that you want to get across.
Um, if those terms are new to you, I’ll explain briefly here and we can discuss, uh, more on the Q and a section. If you’d like, basically you want to give the application committee, um, when they’re walking away at the end of the day for meeting all of these applications, you want them to have a sense of who you are.
They’re not going to remember every single extracurricular you did. They’re not going to remember all of your grades. None of us would. [00:06:00] Well, we want them to remember who you are. Um, and so we advise students to come up with one to three themes that tie together your whole application. Um, and once you have that in mind, you can think about how you’re going to really bring those out in your essay for essays.
So here’s a timeline that we share with our students. Um, this is a suggestion. If you are further ahead or further behind on this, I don’t want you to take, leave this webinar feeling stressed beyond belief. You’re doing great. This is doable. No matter where you are. Here’s the timeline that we recommend though.
If it’s possible for you. So when your junior year in the spring start brainstorming those topics, like I said, one of those chicken stories come to mind, [00:07:00] write it down, um, leave it in a drawer somewhere. So when you’re ready to start writing, you can take it out and think about which ones make the most sense.
We advise that you start doing that around summer of your after your junior year. Um, so before senior year starts, um, where you start drafting and workshopping your personal statement, then, you know, end of summer, July to August, uh, you can, you can finalize that. You can ask people for feedback on it, and you can start looking at the supplemental essays that you’ll have to write, which we talked about earlier.
Then once you get to your senior year and classes, startup and extracurricular startup, when life gets busy, I’m busier, then you can focus more on the supplemental essays, um, and feel a little less stressed in your peers that you already have your, your personal statement ready to go.[00:08:00]
So, uh, Some of the things to remember here. Sorry. My screen is being silly. Okay. What makes a good essay? I think the piece of advice I give the most frequently to students is show don’t tell, and I I’m sure they think I sound like a broken record when I say that, but it’s really so important. Um, Red, probably 80 essays this season alone, probably more.
Um, and this is what makes the good ones stand out is they’re telling a story. Um, so here’s an example of a way to show instead of towel. So one student, um, in their first essay said something like I’ve always loved the smell of oil and gas. Okay. [00:09:00] Context, they were talking about, um, they liked working on old cars.
Um, and so they liked the smell of oil and gas. That’s true. Um, that’s, that’s maybe interesting. Um, but it’s really doing more telling than showing. Um, so, you know, we talked that out and what that means, and here’s what they came back with, um, for showing, instead of telling. Legs dangling out wrench in hand, the strong smell of gas and oil and an adrenaline rush to learn how each part worked and how I can make the car even better.
So hopefully this example helps you see, um, and this has made me a pretty extreme example where they started with I’ve always loved the smell of oil and gas. Um, in their revised version, um, they really paint a picture, right. So I can see like singling out. Okay. You’re under the car. Like I can picture that.
Um, and that’s a lot more interesting. That’s [00:10:00] an essay I want to read. Um, another thing that makes a good essay is sharing things that can’t be easily captured elsewhere. So, like I mentioned earlier, um, These are the things that just can’t come through, um, and the list of activities you’ve done on your transcripts.
Um, every word counts. So be thoughtful about that and then really most important. Like if you forget everything else I say tonight, I hope you remember that the most important thing about your essay is that it’s you. Is that it gives the reader a sense of who you are, which means it should sound like you sat words are awesome.
They’re cool. They’re good for the sat. If you don’t talk using sat words, like I don’t like most people don’t then be really thoughtful about not [00:11:00] overwhelming your readers with sat words. Because when you do that, you’re depriving them of your voice. And that’s really what they’re looking for here.
Okay. So we’re going to pause. Yes. So where are you in the application process? Haven’t started, I’m researching schools. I’m working on my essays. I’m getting my application materials together, or if you’re really lucky, I’m almost done. And while we wait for those, uh, and, uh, can you tell us a little bit about, um, maybe some tips or tricks of how students that maybe aren’t as poetic as like that second version, um, can really pull some of those extra things?
Yes. I, um, I like to tell my students to think of a time when someone told us a story that really, you know, drew them in. I think for a lot of people, if you think back to [00:12:00] when you were a child and someone’s reading you a story, especially if they’re reading a story that doesn’t have pictures, um, What was happening in your brain?
What was it about what the person was saying? It made you picture it, right? Um, the reading you Harry Potter. What ha what about that, that book made you picture, um, being at Hogwarts. Um, and I think it’s okay when you start writing to go that simple. To write in the way you would tell your story to an eight year old, because then, you know, you’re telling it in a way where they can picture it and you can always go back through later and say, ah, that sentence, structure’s a little simple.
Let me add some complexity here. Um, But [00:13:00] because telling a story and having that narrative is so important. If that’s something that you’re really working on, that’s my suggestion. Write your story. Like you’re writing it to an eight year old, um, cause eight, girl’s not going to listen if they can’t picture what you’re saying.
So it’s looking like, uh, 29%, uh, haven’t started 58% are researching schools. 10% are working on their essays in 3%. The lucky few are almost done. So it looks like we have a pretty good mixture. Awesome. Well, that’s, that’s really helpful to know where y’all are at. Um, so moving on, so common mistakes students make when they’re writing about themselves.
Um, I’ve talked about this earlier, already, so I don’t want to be too, um, I don’t want to overemphasize it. Um, but the lack of a personal narrative, uh, can make your application just not stand out as much as you’re [00:14:00] wanting it to, um, you know, be really thoughtful ahead of time about what you want them to take away from.
Your application and from your essay, um, these readers are reading hundreds of applications a day. They’re spending. Five to 10 minutes on average per application. Um, so they really don’t have time to remember all the details. They have time to remember the themes. So it’s really important that you think ahead of time, about what themes you want to bring out what’s your candidate brand or profile is.
Um, and then to be thoughtful about including that in your essay. Another common mistake I see, um, is when. You know, very thoughtfully write out this, uh, list. It, it reads like a list of accomplishments. Um, and it’s so [00:15:00] exciting to see all the accomplishments that, that our students have achieved. And if it reads like a list of accomplishments that probably doesn’t read like a story, um, it’s probably gonna be harder to remember.
And remember there are other sections of your application that are supposed to read, like a list, your activities, list, your transcript. This is the ones place. Your assays are the one place that don’t need to read like a list. Um, so we really encourage you to think of ways to make them more engaging, um, and to include a little bit more narrative than a list.
Another mistake. I think I see students, snake is forgetting that good writing is really an iterative process. Now that can be overwhelming and annoying, [00:16:00] and we all have very busy schedules. Um, but the best essays I’ve read have gone through lots of rounds of revisions. So, you know, this requires some foresight, some planning ahead.
Um, so you have time to get that feedback. Uh, it also requires bravery. I think it’s, it can be hard to share our writing with others. Um, it takes some vulnerability and it is worth it. Um, you are all, you know, have amazing aspirations, um, to attend college. And so I encourage you be brave. Ask for feedback.
Um, whether it be teachers, friends, family, advisors, um, you’d be willing to ask for feedback and then make sure you give yourself the time, uh, to, to think about [00:17:00] and to incorporate the feedback that that you’re given.
So how to revise and refine your essays to avoid common man. Um, this goes along with the point I was just making about requiring time. Um, but take some time away. I think when we’re writing, it can be really easy to get like in the, in the weeds and sort of miss the forest for the trees. So if you reach a point where you’re like, I just, I can’t edit this anymore.
I can’t read this again. It’s starting to sound like jibberish. I’ve been there. That’s a sign that you need to take up. Walk away, um, sleep, come back the next day or at least, you know, go get a cup of coffee, um, and then come back with fresher eyes. And then when you do that, you know, ask yourself these questions that we’ve been talking about.
Can you [00:18:00] identify your seat? Do you, do you hear your brand coming through? Is it adding to your application? Um, or is it enumerating your activities list? Um, read it out loud, which I find to be very difficult to do with things I’ve written and also very effective because as you’re reading it out loud, you’re forced to think, does this sound like me?
Is this how I talk? Uh, and if it does. Then it’s missing your voice. And that’s the most important thing I want you to remember from today is that it needs to have your voice. And then a little tip. I give students, especially if you’re, um, working on getting your word countdown, uh, is to look out for passive language.
Instead of saying something like I was running to the beach, you could instead say. I ran to the beach [00:19:00] or running to the beach. I saw X, Y, or Z. Um, not only does this help with word count, it really challenges you to be used more of an active storytelling boys, um, which tends to make essays a lot more engaging.
Um, and then I mentioned this earlier, but ask others for feedback. Okay. Don’t be afraid to ask them specific questions. Um, Hey, can you read this? And can you let me know, does the theme of X, Y, or Z come through, can you read this and tell me, does it sound like me? Do I talk like this? Um, ask them the specific questions, ask them what you’re wanting feedback on.
Um, and then you’re more likely to get.
I think I went too fast. I’m sorry. No, you’re fine. Uh, so that is the end of the presentation part of [00:20:00] this webinar. I hope you found this information helpful and remember that you can download the slides from the link in the handout step, moving on to the live Q and a I’ll read through your questions.
You submitted in the Q and a tab and read them a lot before our presenter gives you. Uh, as a heads-up, if your Q and a is have, isn’t letting you submit questions, just make sure that you join the webinar through the custom links into your email and not from the webinar landing page, because if you join through the webinar landing page, you won’t get all the features of big marker.
So, yes. And so we will get started. So, um, one student is asking, how do we balance the showing with the word count limits? That’s hard. Um, I’m going to go with revisions. Wait, let me back up. When you first write your essay, don’t think about the word count. Get the story out. Say what you want to say. [00:21:00] Use the descriptive language you want to use.
And then. I know it can sound stressful, but I do really believe, and I’ve seen it a bunch of times. It’s a lot easier to go from a thousand words to six 50 than it is, um, to take a 650 word essay and make it sound more storytelling. Um, the storytelling is a hard part relative to word count. So get the story out, use active voice you want to use.
And then you can go back through, you can ask others for help. You know, maybe I don’t need two adjective, adjectives here. One is enough that sort of thing. Uh, you can look for that passive boys versus active. Um, so I hope that answers the question. Um, I hope when you’re writing, especially the first couple of rounds that you’re not worried about working.
Yes. When I’m working with my students, I always tell them to just write as much as they can on the [00:22:00] page, because honestly, working with a thousand sentences is easier than working with two sentences, because then you can get a better idea of where they were trying to go. And usually there are a lot of sentences, like, um, Anna said with the changing, from passive to active voice that can cut down your word count and.
A lot of people say that contractions are informal, um, in don’t use them. I think you can use contractions kind of liberally. Um, as long as it isn’t like an important sentence, like if you’re saying, um, What what’s, uh, I’m going to Jamaica that instead you can say, I’m going to Jamaica instead of just saying, I am going to Jamaica.
Cause that’s not really an important sentence, but if you’re saying something important, that’s like meaningful. Like I will be a doctor. You don’t want to say I’ll be a doctor because that loses its feeling. So if it’s an important sentence, don’t use a contraction, but if it is an important sentence, use the [00:23:00] contraction just because that can help with word count.
Um, going on to the next question, another student’s asking, does the essay have to relate to your plan major? This is a great question. No, I don’t think it does. Um, and I think this is what I tell my students, anytime they come to me with an idea and say, could I write about this? That’s the first thing I say is, yes, you can write about.
Anything, anything you can write about a major experience you’ve had, you can write about why you want to study what you want to study. You can write about your babysitters saying chickens, cure bronchitis. You can write about anything, tie it to your theme, connected to your personal brand. And you know, I think typically students brand does relate.
To [00:24:00] what they want to study. Um, but it can be very high level. Um, it can be, you know, I didn’t believe this chicken story. Um, and that shows I’m an inquisitive person and here’s what I did about it. And here’s why I want to go to law school. Right. Like that has nothing to do with the chicken. Um, but you can make the connection to how the.
The personal traits of yours that come through in that story. And any story relate to where you want to get. Um, for me, I personally wrote about, um, access to call it students getting access to college and like educational issues, even though I applied pre-med and it was really explaining one of the activities on my activities list, though.
It wasn’t. How Anna mentioned a list of all your activities. It was just explaining in more detail, an activity that was important to me that just needed more explanation. [00:25:00] And, um, and my, it wasn’t really just even saying what the activity was. It was more so about my ideas about access to education and how that needs to be changed.
So it was showing another aspect of myself, even though I was applying pre-med it showed that I was still trying to take initiative, work in the community and showed all these other, um, aspects without. Um, outright saying like, Hey, I care about the community. Um, so yeah. So a story about something that you do or something that wasn’t experienced to you can not only if it’s written well and you really just get all your thoughts out, it can show how you think, how you are.
And other traits about yourself without outright saying like, Hey, I’m kind, Hey, I’m smart. Like it shows all these apps. Um, going onto the next question. Is it fine if I am far below the word count? I think it is fine. I think there’s an [00:26:00] opportunity there, um, to, to help the reader learn even more about you.
Um, I don’t want to give like a definite yes or no answer to this question, because I don’t know the situation. Um, I don’t know what you wrote about, I don’t know how far under the word count it is. I don’t think it’s like an immediate don’t do that. Um, but I, I would advise you do. Read through it. Think, are there things I can add, ask someone else like, Hey, is there something here that you think I could expand upon that’s missing?
Um, so I don’t think it’s bad. I think you could think of it as an opportunity to show your reader even more about. And, but for common app, it does have a 250 word minimum that you have to do or else you’re not able to submit at all. So [00:27:00] at the very minimum, you need two 50, but that’s probably not enough space to really get across the point that you want to get across.
Um, so yeah. Um, so next question, uh, when telling your story, do you make it sound professional or do you use your own. Your own words. I love this question, use your own words you want. And you can do that in a professional way. And there’s lots of space to talk about what professional means. Um, you want the reader to remember you, uh, and you you’re writing and, you know, This is how I should talk right now because it’s a college application essay might sound a little robotic, and it’s certainly not going to sound like you.
And they’re not going to remember that the end of the day. So use your. [00:28:00] And some of my students have questions. I tell them to write it, like it’s a journal entry or like a diary entry and then see where they can go from there. Or like write it as if they’re talking. Because a lot of the times when I’m working with my students, they’ll.
They won’t be sure what they want to say. And then I’ll just keep asking them and then they’ll see a whole paragraph worth of words. And then I’m like, right, exactly what you just said. And so, yeah, getting something on the page is good. Slaying is usable. Just make sure it isn’t inappropriate. And remember that adults are reading it though.
Some of them are closer to their twenties, but, um, if it’s like something that’s. Kind of a made up word or it’s a little too much slang or informal. That may be something you want to stare at Clara just in case it doesn’t like sound right? Yes. I actually, I had a student, right. Um, that she had a glow up, [00:29:00] which I love, love that for her.
Um, and I advised her like, you know, not everyone reading. I may know what that means. Um, so let’s think, do we want to put it in different words or do you want to keep this phrase and just explain what it means? Um, cause it’s a cool phrase. It’s not an inappropriate one. Um, but I would not assume that everyone knows what a glow up is.
Um, going on to the next question, if you don’t have any intriguing personal story, what can you write about? Or is there any story that college admissions officers prefer be told by an applicant? I think everyone has an intriguing story to tell. Um, and I think it’s hard to think of them sometimes because they don’t always feel.
Oh, excuse me. Sorry. They don’t [00:30:00] necessarily feel like intriguing stories while they’re happening. Um, I w I would encourage you to, as you’re going about your day, um, if someone says something to you that makes you think, um, what are you thinking about. I’m sorry, can you maybe take this for a second? I’m so sorry.
I need to reread. Um, okay. If you don’t have any intriguing personal stories, there are a lot of things that I have my students do. So, um, first off, Some students may not want to talk about themselves because this is, it is kind of awkward to like talk about yourselves without coming off braggy or just feeling like you don’t have much to say.
So choosing maybe an activity that you’ve done can be a good option such as like, oh, I wrote about my, um, CA I started a club at my school, so I talked about that and. Uh, what the club meant to me, what my reasons behind it were my [00:31:00] opinions on the social issues surrounding it. So it was about, um, access to college resources.
So I was writing about that and why that was needed and why access was just needed in general, um, to everything. And then, so writing about an activity or something more objective, like an object can be a bit easier just to take the pressure off of yourself, but then offering your thoughts, ideas and opinions will show.
Who you are without just talking about yourself. Another thing could be I’m brainstorming some ideas like, uh, with my students, I’ll be like, okay, if you had to give your S uh, make a 32nd trailer about yourself, what will be in it will be the. Or I’ll ask my students, what are three words you’d use to describe yourself.
And then I’ll see if there’s anything from that. And for my shyer students, I’ll just keep asking questions until we hit something. So for one of my students, I, we went, we kept going through questions, uh, and then. I asked her, um, what is something you find interesting to do or something [00:32:00] interesting to you?
And she was like activities or like thoughts or what? And I was just like anything. And then so first she listed reading and I couldn’t really think of how much more to go with that because she didn’t give much detail. The next one she said was like social justice issues. And I asked a little bit more about that.
Cause that sounded a little bit. And it kind of just got halted. There wasn’t much, he could talk about to it. And then she said astrology and I like astrology. So I just started asking her, oh, what about astrology? And then she would just keep going. And then we would talk back and forth about astrology.
And I was like, okay, what got you there? And she taught, um, like how to learn about astrology, how she got interested in it at which how much reading she’s done on astrology. And then. So really just asking, talking to people that, you know, um, and seeing like, what are the things that they notice about you or like having these random questionnaires about yourself?
Like, what do I like to do? What do I think about what are your opinions, your values, just [00:33:00] anything that you can think of about yourself. Just write it out on the page is what I’d suggest is just write a sentence or like a blurb or something about every topic and then take those topics and see how much you can write about it.
Even if you go off on a tangent. I see how much you can get on a page about that topic. And then maybe there’s one sentence in it. That’s more interesting than the rest of what you written. Take that sentence and write more about it. Or maybe it just needs to be a bit more refined and that’s your whole essay.
There are different ways to just get, um, to get ideas going. It’s really just about getting stuff on the page, just so you aren’t in like writer’s block. For me at least, um, uh, working with students as an advisor, I can edit two words on a page and figure out what you meant. I cannot edit a blank page because then I’m just going to be saying my own ideas.
So yeah, those are just some different ways, but Anna, did you have anything that was a much more coherent answer than I was getting out. Thank you. I apologize for that cough [00:34:00] attack. I think it’s under control. Okay. So let’s see. Um, another student is asking, uh, does the, is the, the personal statement, uh, essay sounds like it’s the longest, how long are the supplemental essays and how many supplementals do does a college have really depends.
Yes, personal statement is generally the longest. Um, a lot of supplementals come in between like two 50 and four 50. Um, but this, this is research you want to do ahead of time. So it’s great that a lot of you are researching colleges now, um, when you get down to like a list that you’re more certain of, I would add columns to your spreadsheet of what are the application requirements.
What I say is, are required. How long are they? So, you know, what’s coming. Um, I will say that you can often [00:35:00] recycle some supplemental essays between schools. You might need to tweak them a little bit to address the specific problems. Um, but a lot of times you can use them more than. Anything you’d add to that, uh, for supplements, uh, since most of you are in your junior year, us, the actual sports supplements don’t come out until the application process starts again for y’all’s year.
So next at the end of this year, really like around. The start of your senior year. Um, so, but a lot of schools do have like their own or their, this year supplements up. So you can read them just to get an idea of what the school may ask, but usually supplements change the ones on the actual common app, uh, your personal estate.
They is relatively the same every single year. Um, but some schools have one supplement, some have none, some have as many as eight or four. Um, four is a pretty common number for like big name schools. And then the range of how long they can be. [00:36:00] Depends on what they’re looking for. So like Stanford, I believe was asking, um, like what did you do last summer?
Um, And 50 words. And then they had like five short answer questions that were 50 words each and then they had three. Essay short essay questions that were like 250 words each. And then you also start to do your personal statement and personal statement gets sent to all your schools. So you only have to do the personal, no statement once.
Uh, some schools may just ask for you to submit your supplement and not your personal statement. So you can kind of reuse your personal statement for those. Writing their supplement, depending on what the question is. Um, it really just depends. These are just the things that you find as you’re researching the school.
And if you find yourself struggling to answer the questions for the school, especially like a why school question, like, why do you want to go here that may tell you that that might not be the school for you? Um, [00:37:00] okay. So going on to the next question, um, one students asking, uh, how, how long should the personal statement.
You will be given. Uh, I think, I think at all of the applications for the personal statement, there is a limit. Um, correct me if I’m wrong. Yeah. Common app is six 50. The coalition app might be a little longer. I can’t remember if it was in the eight hundreds or if it went lower, but usually personal steam is between 500, 800 words on average, but common app at six 50.
It’s about a page. It’s about one page single space. Um, pulling a question from our pre panel. Um, how personal should your essays get? That is a great question. And I think it’s really up to you. So very personal preference thing. Um, [00:38:00] I’ve read a lot of essays where students get really personal. Um, and they talk about, you know, major obstacles or challenges or traumas.
Um, that’s all on the table. That’s okay. It’s also really not required, um, at all. Um, so if there are things that you don’t want to talk about, don’t talk about them, please, please. Don’t protect yourselves in that way. Um, It can be as personal or as not personal as you want with the caveat that you want to show them how your brain works.
Uh, you want to show them how you think, but you don’t have to tell a deeply personal story to do that at all. Um, I had a student who did a really good job, um, getting his voice out and showing the readers how his brain worked by. Um, he, he was really into the theory of like, Um, and so his intro is about the theory [00:39:00] of light.
That part was brief. And then he talked all about how, um, he was like a photon. Um, I’ve learned a lot about light working with him. Um, and right. So it really wasn’t. There was no like deep personal secrets, like nothing that, that deeply personal he was sharing. And it really showed how he thought about the world.
And it, it, it had his voice, uh, incorporated really well kind of going off of that question. Is it better to write a sad story or a funny story? There is no right answer to that. It is best to write the story that captures your voice. And I’m sorry if my answers feel like they’re the same and if they feel like they’re not helpful, and I hope that you can take that in a, in an encouraging way and that there really isn’t a wrong answer to that.[00:40:00]
Tell the story you want to tell, tell the story that you feel like writing. If it’s funny, be funny. If it’s sad, be sad. If whatever it is, show your voice, show how you think show who you are. Um, and it’ll be good. I’ve read really good, funny essays and really good statuses and really good. Neither like funny or sad.
One thing I tell my students is like to think about, like, what is something you either rant about all the time? How, um, what’s a story. You tell someone when you’re first getting to know them, like, what’s the story. You just can’t wait to tell someone when you’re making a new friend, uh, or like, um, and like what would you add?
What would you say? Or like, what’s just something that you really wish you could tell someone, but you don’t think anyone would really less than cause this is kind of the time. If it’s you can get it out of them. Okay. [00:41:00] I don’t write those questions down. I know there’s students asking if I apply to 18 schools in some allow common apple applications and some dope.
Can I still use one essay for both sites? I think the question is, can you use the same personal statement for the sites? Yes. Like if they’re on different, like Texas has its own and then common app, and then you see got it. Yeah. Most likely, yes. Um, just pay attention to the prompt. Um, so USC, U Texas, um, their prompts might be slightly different than the common app.
One. I’m pretty confident. You could find a way, um, to make it work, but know that you might need to tweak it a bit to tailor it a bit to the question. Um, and you know, if it’s Texas or UC. You actually could write about this specific school? Um, like on the common app, because you’re only [00:42:00] applying to UT or UC.
Uh, so yes, just pay attention to the prompt and make sure that you’re addressing it directly. Uh, one of my students was applying to like NYU and SUNY hunter, SUNY hunter had their own application portal. So, um, she didn’t have to send them anything through common app, but they did ask for a supplement.
And the supplement question pretty much was similar to the common app, personal statement, um, questions. So she just took her personal statement and submitted it in the box for the SUNY, a hunter. Portal, but sometimes the word counts can be shorter. So if your personal statement is 650 words, but you’re trying to reuse it for another application, just make sure it fits within their word count if it’s different.
Yep. Good point. Uh, is it better to tailor the essay or to completely rewrite it? So I’m assuming, um, using it, um, for [00:43:00] different.
So for using like your common app essay for a different school, should you tailor it or rewrite it? Like, I guess tweak it or just like do a completely new one? Um, I hope I understand the question. I think it depends, uh,
In an ideal world. Um, we all have the time and energy to, to be doing this early enough, um, where you can go through the process of, okay, what story do I want to tell here? What themes do I want to get across? What’s the best story to do that. If it’s this essay I’ve already written, what. What’s making that work.
We’ll tailor it if we need to. And if not, Let’s let’s tell a different story. [00:44:00] And so, um, for the personal statement or the common app essay or personal, it’s called a bunch of different names. Most people call it the personal statement. That one is, it makes more sense when you’re actually on the common app website, there’s like a page where you get to put your common app essay and all your.
Student information, that information in that they get sent to all of the schools you’re applying for. And then there’s another page that says my colleges and it has the list of all the schools that you’re applying to. And, um, under each school’s like name or page, they’ll ask whatever questions they want to know or essays that they have.
And then you click submit for each individual schools. So. If your personal statement is just about yourself, then you can leave it the same for every single school. If your personal statement is about a specific school, which I usually don’t recommend, just because you’d have to change it. Um, then you have to tailor it each time you send to a different school.
So you aren’t saying, I want to go to Georgia tech when you’re applying to [00:45:00] Stanford. Um, And then for supplements, each school may or may not have a supplement. So you have to look at their specific questions. If their questions are similar, usually the ones asking about yourself or an idea about yourself.
You can reuse those without really saying anything. And then change. If you’ve mentioned the school’s name, if it’s a wide school question, it depends on how you answer the why school questions. So if you talk about. Specific courses programs or anything that information has to change school to school.
But if you’re just talking about your dreams, aspirations, the program you’re in the major you’re interested in or career choice, then that can stay the same. Cause that’s going to stay the same, no matter what school you go to. Pretty much. So all of this is very relative to what you’re doing and how you’re applying.
I recommend getting an advisor so you can get all these specific questions. Um, okay. Another question is, uh, does every college requiring.
Um, [00:46:00] I’m sure there are some that don’t. Um, but I mostly do essay work, so I’m not as familiar with the colleges that don’t require those. There are a number of schools it’s kind of schools you don’t really hear about too much, like big name schools are usually going to have an essay like the IVs or, um, the schools that aren’t technically Ivy’s, but everybody wants to go to those.
Usually have an essay. Um, other schools may or may not require it like a big name school that doesn’t, I believe is Williams college. They don’t ask for supplements or your personal statement. Or they may ask for your personal statement. Actually, some schools won’t even ask for your personal statement and won’t have on supplements.
So those schools, you just hit submit once you’ve finished your application, those are the quickest to apply to, and you should not wait until the deadline for those. You should just get it done as soon as your applications lit at night application, as soon as your application and activities list, look how you want them [00:47:00] to look.
Um, and there are some schools where you get automatic. Uh, as long as you have a certain GPA, those may not be the schools you want to go to. But, um, yeah, uh, honestly, in my opinion, the schools that have essays may be the ones that are usually going to be the more competitive schools, but there are some like really good schools that don’t ask for anything.
Um, going on to the next question and we will be wrapping up soon. So. If you have any last minute questions, please do ask. Uh, if you have a perfect GPA and a great sat is a good essay. Still very important to get into top schools. Yes. Um, good question. Uh, you’ll probably start to hear this a lot as you Wade into the college application world, um, application committees, take a holistic review.
Uh, that’s the phrase. You’ll hear it. Which means, yeah, they’re going to look at your [00:48:00] grades. They’re going to look at your activities, your sat there going to be impressed by all that. And they want to get to know you as a person through your application, and they can’t get that from an sat score. It tells them something, but it doesn’t really tell them who you are as a human being.
That is the job of the essays. Um, so yeah, work for all those things. Kudos. If you get them, it’s amazing. It helps and holistic review. Uh, they want to get to know you as a person. Yes. And in a nutshell, the application process has multiple parts. So your grades test scores and transcripts are pretty much going to tell them, like, where are you being a student, or where you slacking up?
Like, where are you a good student? Those just show that you, and depending on what courses you take, like if you [00:49:00] take AP or IB or higher level courses, or you took college courses, depending on what your school offers or what you did those just show like, are you able to keep up with rigor? Do you. Are you just a good student in general letters of recommendation, uh, from like your teachers or other adults, tell them like who you are as a student or community member, depending on who you’re asking or as who you are as an employee, um, to give them a better glimpse into how you function in the classroom besides getting a good grade.
Like, did you just get a good grade because you did your work or did you get a good grade because you were really leading class discussions or being outgoing or helping. Students in the classroom, those are the things that teacher recommendations will show. And then you have your activities list, which shows what you do outside of school, whether that’s something at home or something outside like work, um, what else or stuff that you do at your school, but it’s like extracurricular, um, your.
Other the essays show are your time [00:50:00] to tell something about yourself. No one else can really control that part too much. That’s whatever thing you want to show about yourself, um, Yeah, I believe those are all the main parts. And they sorta all add together because colleges don’t just want someone that’s going to be in their books, studying.
They also want to know like how you’re going to be around campus. How will you interact with professors and other students in your clubs? Cause colleges really want active people because those are usually the ones that are going to be great alumni. Their school look better because you’ll have their name on your resume with all the extra things and you’ll make their school look like they produce the best people, even though you’re already great.
This school just kinda added a little something extra. Uh, so yeah. So if anyone had any last minute questions and since we are coming to a close Anna, did you have anything, um, that you wanted to like close off with you? Show them who you are. This is [00:51:00] your chance to do it. Tell the story you want to tell whatever it is, and just give them a sense of you as a person.
That is what makes a good essay, the topic, all of that lesson plan. And you got this so real quick for those in the room who aren’t already working with us, we know that the college admissions process is overwhelming for parents and students alike. Our team of over a hundred, 300 of former admissions officers and admissions experts are ready to help you and your family navigate.
Uh, navigated all in a one-on-one advising sessions. Uh, in last year’s admission cycle, our students were accepted into Harvard at a three times the national rate and accepted into Stanford at 4.4 times the national rate sign up for a free consultation with us by registering for our. Uh, web [email protected] [00:52:00] advisor.com their students and their families can explore webinars, keep track of application, deadlines, research schools, and more alright at, uh, all right on our website.
And our advisors are really great with helping with things like the essay, because they can really get to know you and, um, be able to pull some of these topics that you may not even know. There, um, from you and they really get that one-on-one time to really help with editing essays. And we also have a, uh, essay review team that can help with additional edits.
Um, and they’re really just there to help you throughout every process of the application. Our webinars are a great platform for information, um, but definitely the advising and being a part of the company gives you a bunch of resources that can really help, um, tailor the admissions process to your specific needs.
And so I guess just to end it off, I know you had a great and that’s huge. Um, but one question that a lot of students always ask [00:53:00] is, is there anything that you should avoid in an essay?
Um, I think the things we talked about already, um, I don’t, I don’t think there’s topics to avoid, uh, I th I think there’s downfalls to avoid. Um, and that’s not, not having a developed brand that you’re bringing out in your essay, um, not using your personal voice, um, and not doing the storytelling. Um, so tell a story in your own voice about.
That matters to you and it’ll be a great essay. So that is the end of our webinar. Thank you, Anna. And thank you everyone for attending. I hope you found [00:54:00] this information helpful and remember that you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab, and you can watch the recording of this webinar as well as our other webinars on our [email protected] slash webinars.
And here’s the rest of our January series on new year, new you discovering yourself in the college admissions process. We do have a bunch of webinars. Other topics, other aspects of the application process. And then next month we will be bringing a whole new set of webinars. So please look out for those and make sure to register for them.
So thank you everyone. And good night.