Crafting Your Narrative: Sharing Diverse Experiences in College Essays

Join our webinar, ‘Crafting Your Narrative: Sharing Diverse Experiences in College Essays,’ tailored for high school students and their parents navigating the college application process. In this insightful session presented by former admissions officer Anissa Waterhouse, we’ll explore how to authentically convey your unique journey through compelling college essays. Key learnings include:

  • Understanding the importance of diverse narratives in college applications.
  • Uncovering strategies to identify and highlight personal experiences.
  • Exploring effective storytelling techniques to captivate admissions officers.
  • Navigating cultural sensitivity and inclusivity in essay writing.
  • Gaining insights into the dos and don’ts of sharing personal stories.
  • Crafting a narrative that stands out in a competitive college admissions landscape.

Don’t miss this opportunity to gain valuable tips and insights that will empower you to articulate your individuality and experiences effectively in your college essays.

Date 02/25/2024
Duration 1:01:17

Webinar Transcription

2024-02-25 – Crafting Your Narrative: Sharing Diverse Experiences in College Essays

Hi, everyone, and welcome to tonight’s webinar. My name is Anesha Grant. I’m a senior advisor at CollegeAdvisor, and I will be your moderator today. Today’s webinar is “Crafting Your Narrative: Sharing Diverse Experiences in College Essays.” Before we get started, I just want to orient everyone with the webinar timing.

We will have a presentation with some guidance. Some tips and some advice, and then we will open up the floor to respond to your questions in a live Q&A on the side where you can download our slides whenever you get a chance under the handouts tab, and you can start so many questions whenever you’re ready under the Q&A tab.

Now let’s meet our presenter, Anissa. Hi, Anissa. How are you doing?

Hi. It’s a pleasure to be with you tonight, Anesha, and it’s a pleasure to be with all of you joining us tonight as well. Awesome. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. All right, well, I am currently in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where I live with my three cats. Um, I have been college advising since the year I graduated from college in 2017.

I attended Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Um, it was my dream school, um, with that being said, it was quite the journey, um, but I am excited to be in the college advising field. Um, I received a lot of support, um, applying to college and throughout my college experience. And I really enjoy working with young people and helping you all figure out what’s next for you in your life.

Awesome. Thanks so much, Anissa. I’m looking forward to tonight’s webinar, but before we get started, we do have a quick question. poll. So for those of you who are out there, let us know what grade level are you in. If you are a parent or a student, we welcome, I’m sorry, a parent or a teacher, we welcome you, but you don’t have to select a grade level.

You can go ahead and just click other. While we’re waiting, I always talk about food during the poll time. So I will ask you, I also went to school in the Boston area. Do you have preferred restaurants or favorite spot near campus that you like to eat when you were at Tufts? All right, so there is a place in Medford.

Oh, I cannot think of their name right now, but they had the best tortas, um, which is a traditionally, um, Latin American meal or sandwich. Um, I’m not sure of the country of origin, but But it is delicious, amazing. So I love me a steak torta. Nice. Oh, that’s interesting. I’m going to look for that. I live in California.

I feel like I will, should be able to find that, um, somewhere in California, though it is not, um, in Medford. All right. Well, thank you for indulging me. I love it. I love learning about food. Um, but we will go ahead and stop our poll. Uh, so right now the majority of our audience is in tenths. And 11th grade of about 33 percent coming from 10th grade, 67 percent in the 11th grade.

We welcome y’all. If any other folks join us later on, we welcome them as well. Um, but we’re excited to get started. I will stop talking, hand it over to Anissa and be back a little bit later for our


All right. So tonight’s session, crafting our narrative, sharing diverse experiences, um, is, is really about how to. Um, really highlight, talk about yourself, talk about the uniquenesses of who you are in your college essay and personal statement. Um, speaking specifically on what role diversity and inclusion play in the college admissions process.

Um, these are very important. Um, concepts, not just in college and college admissions, um, but really in ensuring that all people have equal access to resources and opportunities in society. Um, the earliest higher education institutions were founding specifically for the advancement of the Of white wealthy men, women, people of color, people with disabilities and many other historically marginalized groups were long excluded and as a result, um, some of those many of those inequities actually still have grave impacts today.

So by championing diversity and inclusion in, um, higher education. Um, it’s really. Uh, what colleges are looking at to ensure that everybody has access to their institutions, to their resources on campus, and not that just that everyone has access, but everyone feels safe, comfortable, and affirmed on their college campuses.

So in recognizing, um, many, much of the history of inequities in our society, um, there can be a lot of barriers in just getting into college, in applying to college, things that, um, you may not have thought about, things you may not have learned about, um, such as Academic preparation. Um, I am first generation in my family to go to college.

I didn’t have parents who went to college. Um, a lot of my friends also came from backgrounds where their families hadn’t gone to college before. So it’s, it’s something that I didn’t really know what to focus on. I didn’t really know where to start. Students go to All sorts of different schools, some schools that have a lot of resources and opportunities for support other schools that don’t have a lot of recess or resources and opportunities for support.

Wealth inequality can also be a huge thing. College. Might have been a lot less expensive when our parents or grandparents were going to college. And now it can cost as much as a new house to go to college. So there are a lot of things that have nothing to do with an individual person, but a lot to do with their circumstances that can impact whether or not someone is able to access higher education.

And in the admissions process, colleges want to do as much as they can to really understand what your unique experiences were. And if there have been systemic barriers, they really want to understand, um, how they can support you through that process and what you may need to not just succeed, but to really thrive in that college environment.

So these two concepts of diversity and inclusion, I’ll start with diversity. Um, and diversity is really the range of human differences that a person carries. There are many aspects of our identities that, that we might not be able to change. Things like our race, our ethnicity are things that, um, will stay the same over time.

Things like our age, things like our physical ability, those are things that might change over time. Diversity is really speaking to all of those different identities and all of those different experiences that really make us unique. Diversity and having a diverse student body is really important for colleges because having a diversity of experiences of perspectives of folks from different backgrounds really creates a space where we can learn from one another.

It leads to a lot more innovation. It helps us to to learn more about the world around us and to really understand how different people make sense of the world. for your time. Oftentimes, diversity is kind of used as a code for racial diversity, and racial diversity is, has been a huge conversation in the last, you know, decade, 10 years, but that is not the only form of diversity.

And while Diversity is often used as a code for racial diversity. We want to ensure, um, we want to remember that diversity is speaking to a wide range of experiences.

So looking at inclusion, um, inclusion, Really refers to, um, how people feel accepted or a part of a certain community. So if we say that diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is really being asked to dance. So what you, you make it into the college of your dreams. Colleges also want to ensure that you feel safe, that you feel comfortable, that you feel a sense of belonging on that campus.

You could go to the, the top schools in the world. However, if, if you don’t feel comfortable on that campus, if you don’t feel safe around your peers and your professors, that can really impact your educational experience. So, ensuring that our colleges are diverse and inclusive is a really important aspect of making sure that everyone can thrive on a college campus.

So, a little bit of my own experience with diversity and inclusion. Um, I myself, I’m a mixed race Black woman. I am also a transracial adoptee. I myself am Black, and both of my parents are white. Um, I grew up, um, formerly unhoused, um, from a low income background, and I’m neurodiverse. Um, All of these different identities of mine, many of which I was not able to control, have had a huge impact on how I see the world, and how I navigate the world around me.

So, in college, as I was beginning to, to understand more about my identities and the impacts they had on me. Um, I, I turned that into my, my major, that’s study. I studied sociology, um, and more specific urban sociology. Sociology is the study of people in societies. So if you’re really curious, if you’re always looking out for other people’s perspectives, if you want to know more Why do people do the things they do and how do we respond and grow in society?

That’s what I studied. Through my sociology major and specifically studying the experiences of people of color in society, I, I myself ended up working in equity, inclusion, and justice work, which means I’ve spent a lot of time learning myself about systems in society and how people navigate them. And I turned that into a profession, racial justice practitioner, which means I Work with people, organizations, college institutions to help folks understand the importance of equity, justice, liberation, and to really, um, bring to light some of the aspects of our history and our society that we may not have learned about in school.

So diversity and inclusion has played a huge role, not just in my personal life, in terms of me coming to understand who I am, but also in my professional life in working across many levels to ensure that everybody has access to resources, that everybody feels included. Included that everybody has, um, equitable treatment, meaning we all get the resources that we need to thrive.

So, diversity in college admissions, um, a topic that has really, in the last year, Um, really impacted the college admissions process is the case around affirmative action. And affirmative action really means race conscious admissions. Recognizing that for hundreds of years, folks, um, folks of color, folks of non white races have been systematically excluded from higher education.

Colleges want to level the playing field and they recognize that structural barriers have denied underrepresented groups. So, race conscious admissions creates, created an extra layer of consideration for admissions officers to see how might a person’s race, how might a person’s background really impacted their ability to thrive and see themselves reflected in higher education.

Last year in June of 2023, the United States Supreme Court overturned the use of affirmative action in college admissions, which meant that it was no longer legal for colleges across the country to consider a student’s race as one factor in what we know as a holistic admissions review process. Now, this doesn’t mean that students of color were receiving preferential or better treatment than others.

It simply meant that colleges were using it as a way to ensure that there was more representation, recognizing that there are many systems in play that make it more inaccessible for students of color, students from low income background, students with disabilities, to really work Navigate the admissions process.

This is one thing that was used to support that, and the United States Supreme Court overturning affirmative action does not mean that those structural barriers have been eliminated.

Now, even though colleges cannot explicitly ban this, ask you what your race or ethnicity is on the college application, there are still a lot of ways, um, that you can talk about the impact of your racial identity, of your background, of the environment you were raised in. And the number one place to do that is really in your college essay or your personal statement.

While Affirmative Action specifically, um, provided supports in race conscious admissions, again, I want to highlight that race is not the only form of diversity out there. And college admissions officers really want to know. who you are and what identities you carry. So some other historically underrepresented groups that might be considered diverse groups in the eyes of college admissions are students with disability, first generation students, low income students, non traditional students that might be a little older, Then what we consider a college student, um, children of immigrants and refugees, LGBTQ plus students, students in foster care, formerly incarcerated students, veterans, or women.

Again, diversity represents a myriad of experiences. And if you have an identity that is not reflected in this list, just know it is not all inclusive.

These historically underrepresented, um, groups. May also be known as protected classes. Again, recognizing that many historically underrepresented groups have had additional barriers in terms of going into higher education. There are many different ways that we want to ensure that you still have access to get there.

And once you. do get into a higher ed institution, you continue to have the support that you need, whether it be financial aid, whether it be, um, student support services and getting an accommodation, whether it’s mental health support, um, or even just advocating for yourself in a new environment.

So, what can students do to reflect on their experiences and what makes them unique? At the end of the day, colleges want to know what makes you stand out and what ideas and unique perspectives that you will contribute to the campus culture. They want to know who you are. They want to know What makes up the 24 hours in your day?

Oftentimes, when students think about the college essay, they might be thinking about, what does the college want to hear? What is, what is a good college student like? And at the end of the day, there, there is no There is no image. There is no perfect college student. Different students will have different impacts on campus.

Different students will bring different perspectives on campus. And colleges want to have that diversity of perspectives, of ideas, to really build a strong, critical, um, and inclusive campus.

So the best thing you can do, um, in order to highlight your diverse experiences in the college essay is really lean into them. Talk about how different identities might have impacted your upbringing. Talk about, um, challenges that you might have had to overcome. Talk about, um, Um, the way certain circumstances have led you to a certain belief system or have inspired you to go into higher education.

Colleges are not looking for one type of student. And through the holistic admissions process, there are a lot of different things colleges look for. They really try to go in with an open mind and a blank slate. That’s why in your college essay, in your personal statement, it is really important to be you.

In terms of reflecting on your experience, the best way to do this is to start the college essay process early. Now, I myself was and am a procrastinator. I tend to leave things to the last minute because Even though I do them at the last minute, they still get done. However, when it comes to personal reflection and really preparing for the college essay, you want the time, you want the space to, to really be able to think deeply and reflect on yourself from many different perspectives.

There are a lot of, you know, there’s a lot of advice, there’s a lot of tips and tricks about writing the college essay, and oftentimes students really struggle with, well, what do I put? Is it good enough? Does it sound good? And as long as you’re being authentic to who you are, that’s what’s going to shine through for admissions officers.

And remember, unlike many of the essays you may have written throughout your high school career, the college essay is really about you. And who you are. And many of us have not been taught to deeply reflect on ourselves and our experiences. Much of our educational process is taking in information, learning about other people, learning about other concepts in the world.

But this is all about us. So here are some, um, questions that you can begin to ask yourself in terms of how do you reflect on your own experience and what, and what makes you unique. Um, think about this from how other people see you. If someone were to spend a day with you and those closest to you, what would they observe and experience?

And It might sound like going to school, going home, hanging out with friends, not really doing anything. However, you can look at it from, what are some of the conversations that you have with your friends? What are the things that are taking up your mind all day at school? Are there things, are there particular classes that you really like and what those classes mean to you?

Is there a particular hangout spot that you and all your friends go to? Additionally, if someone were to spend a day with you and realize that Right after school, you go home and you care for siblings or you care for other people in your family. That’s okay, as well. I’ve worked with many, many students who have had a lot of familial responsibilities and they might think that colleges don’t want to hear about those things because, you know, 50 different clubs or you haven’t done 100 hours of community service.

That’s okay. But that does not make your identity, that does not make who you are any less qualified than people who do have that stuff or are able to do those things. So be honest with college admissions officers. You don’t have to try to impress them. It’s not all about academics. It’s not all about extracurriculars.

It’s about acknowledging. Your life and your experiences and in many ways taking the time to understand how those have shaped you. How those have shaped, you know, what you want to study or what you want to do in your career. It’s about thinking of who you want to become throughout and after the college experience.

Another reflective question. Is there something that Non academic or extracurricular that you devote a lot of time to thinking about why do you do this? If I were applying to college right now, the thing that I devote most of my time to is honestly During the pandemic, it was me and my three cats stuck inside the house, and I began to watch and, and interpret all of their little actions and think, well, when my cat meows like this, what does that mean?

And when my cats interact like this, like, what does that mean? And I became really, really invested in, into the lives of my cats. Now you might think, who wants to have a kooky cat lady on their college campus? Dozens of colleges. It’s not. You can turn any concept into something exciting. You can turn any passion into something, um, into something really that colleges want to hear about.

They want to know who you are. They want to know what takes up your time. And you might not think that what you do or what you’re passionate about isn’t important, that it isn’t that serious, that it’s super silly, but if that’s something that’s important to you, Talk about it. Talk about why it’s important to you.

Talk about how that helps you cope with different things in your life. I moved across the country from my parents and my family and my cats are all I have and so even though I’m not going to college to study cats, That’s the thing I’m truly passionate about. I, I would probably craft an essay about myself and my relationship to my cats and how I, I really feel like I use my sociological mind to, to kind of understand the lives of my cats.

You can think of things like what has allowed you to accomplish as much as you have in life. Oftentimes, this might be specific people in your life. It could be, um, your favorite teacher. It could be a family member who’s had a great impact on you. It could be a stellar coach that you’ve worked with. And we love, we love to hear about the things and the people that have impacted you.

However, if you’re going to write an essay about that person, it still has to be about you. Don’t take the time to explain how amazing this person is, what color their hair is, how, you know, smart and interesting they are. Talk about who they are to you in life, and how they’ve impacted you, and what lessons you’ve learned from them.

This is your time to be completely self centered, to brag about yourself. And if you feel like there’s nothing to brag about, I promise you, there is. What you love in life, what you are passionate about in life, who you are passionate about in life. Showing that excitement, showing that passion, showing, um, how much those things have impacted you.

That’s really important. And people want to hear, um, what are your biggest challenges right now and how do you want to overcome them? There are people who have experienced and overcome a lot of barriers in their life. It could be, you know, an injury that you had where you had to leave a sport as a result.

It could be, you know, a death in your family. It could be, you know, having to move or having your parents divorce. It’s okay to talk about the things that might be sad, that might not be, um, fun to talk about. As long as, again, you’re bringing it back to how has that impacted you? How have you grown as a result of that?

How do you want to continue to grow? Those are the things colleges want to hear. This is one of my favorite questions that I often use in different, um, writing workshops that I host. When you’re telling your grandkids or even your great grandkids about your life, what do you want to tell them about? And think high to the sky.

What are some of your biggest dreams? What is the, the life you someday want to live? This is really, um, college essays. It, you can be as creative as you want. And I encourage you all to be as creative as possible. And if you’re struggling to, to spark that creative thinking, there are a lot of resources out there, both with CollegeAdvisor.

com and elsewhere that can help you. Really sit down and think and reflect. That’s the goal of all of these questions to help you think a little bit more about yourself and the different things going on in your life. How would you describe the way you interact with others? Do you like this about yourself?

Are you someone that is a caretaker? Are you someone that your friends are always going to for advice? Are you the class clown? You love to joke. You love to make people laugh and smile. That’s a big part of who you are. Showcase it.

When it comes to critical self reflection or personal reflection, honestly, it’s a lot of asking questions to yourself and helping you to try to think outside the box. Reflect on things in different ways. If you have a close friend or family member, interview them. Ask them about what they think of you, what they perceive of you.

That can also help to, to jog some inspiration for you. But remember, it’s all about you and being able to communicate to admissions officers who you are and who you want to become.

My camera’s a little messed up. Sorry about that. I’m gonna jump back on to do a quick poll. So let us know where you are in the admissions process, if you’ve started, if you’re researching schools, if you’re working on essays. Getting your materials together, or for any of those who might be very close to being done.

Um, as we’re waiting for the poll to come in, I appreciate your vulnerability throughout this and a lot that you’ve shared, and it feels like a lot of the questions you’ve structured are also pushing students to be vulnerable in ways that I think sometimes students push back on because of thinking that there’s a specific version of themselves they have to present.

To, um, admissions offices. So I’m wondering because I know one of the questions you had up there. I’ve seen my students struggle and be like, I don’t know how to answer this accomplishment question. So I’m wondering what, you know, what have you, what kind of advice have you given when you’ve seen students kind of, you know, hesitate around that vulnerability in their essay writing.

Yeah. I think one of the hardest parts about the admissions and college essay process is, is that little voice in the back of your head that’s comparing yourself to every other student around you and every other person in the world.

The admissions process There are always students that are going to get in and there’s always students that are not going to get in and the goal is to not compare yourself or not worry about the people around you to, to stay calm and, and to do your best. I think a lot of students become their own worst enemy when, when they feel like they, they don’t have a lot of accomplishments or their accomplishments are not as good as other people’s.

But anyone, admissions officers, there’s, there’s a million different reasons that they look at applications in a million different ways. It’s not just about the grades. It’s not just about the academics, or excuse me, it’s not just about the accomplishments, the extracurriculars. Um, and so when I hear a lot of students struggling with, um, feeling vulnerable or wanting to open up, Or, um, feeling insecure about how they might match up to other students.

It’s really important to remember that they want to know who you are in colleges. They also recognize that not everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. And they do take those things into consideration. So when it comes to vulnerability, if it’s something that has had a huge impact on you, if it’s something you do feel safe and comfortable talking about, Go for it.

And I will say this, I have worked with students who have written about topics that they, they didn’t want to share with their friends or they didn’t want to have their family read. And that’s okay too. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to be vulnerable when you’re writing something that only a stranger thousands of miles away is going to read as opposed to some of your closest friends and loved ones.

Thank you so much for sharing that. I appreciate you taking the time to answer the question. And yes, so many times students want to keep their essay into something private and not something that other people, and I think that that also, to your point, allows for vulnerability. Uh, before I let you finish, I’ll just let you know with our, um, poll that one person is currently working on their essays, which is totally fine.

Um, hopefully some folks will be motivated or inspired after today’s conversation. The rest of the folks, the majority of folks are, uh, working on researching. schools. And so wherever you are in the process, especially because there are a lot of 10th and 11th graders here, you’re totally fine. You’re in a good spot for wherever you are right for right now, as long as you’re thinking about the application process.

All right, I’ll stop talking. I will fix my camera and I’ll be back a little bit later when we open up to the Q&A. Great, thanks Anesha. So in terms of timeline, if you start to brainstorm your college essay during the spring or summer of your junior year, I think you’re off to a great start. Again, you don’t want to put yourself in a position where college essays are due the next week or the next day, because you might not.

Put out your best work. Um, it might feel a little rushed. It might, you might not have time to edit it, but that doesn’t mean you need to have your, your personal statement like done by the first day of senior year. Just begin thinking about it. And if you’re in the process of researching colleges, then take the time to look through their application materials and try to get an understanding So this is a of what questions they might ask or what questions are available.

If you are applying to colleges through the Common App, the Common App usually has at least six different prompts you can choose from to write about. To start that brainstorming, maybe you look at all six of those Common App prompts and you just kind of make a list of things you might be able or you might want to talk about under each of those questions.

You’ll only have to choose one, but start big, put all of your ideas on paper, and then see which ones are resonating with you the most. You can brainstorm, you do not have to write the whole thing in a day.

Alright, so here are the different ways, in addition to the essay, that students can highlight their unique backgrounds and perspectives throughout their applications. Of course, the essays and supplements. Likely, you will have to write at least one personal statement. Can in many cases be used across a lot of different applications, but there are also colleges that will ask you supplemental questions.

The big one being. Why do you want to attend our school? Um, in the common application as well, there is a section for additional information where you can put anything that you would like the admissions officers to know. So if there is an issue, a diverse identity or experience that you want the colleges to know about, but you don’t want to make that the center of your application.

There is a space in the additional information for you to list that. For instance, during the pandemic, a lot of students and families were really impacted in terms of job security, in terms of Online learning, not everyone is, is made for online learning. And a lot of us. We’re forced into that. If you struggle during the pandemic with online learning, you can add that into the additional information section.

Letters of recommendation. This is a great way for colleges to hear about how other people perceive you, how other people see you. Again, if there’s something that you would like highlighted, but you might not want to talk about it, then you can ask one of your recommenders to talk about it. If you had a death in your family in the middle of the year, you can absolutely ask a guidance counselor or another recommender to, to speak to that and to let colleges know that.

Activities and extracurriculars. Colleges want to know, What all 24 hours of your day look like if you had an after school job That you are a dishwasher List it if you go home every day after school and you are babysitting siblings or caring for an elder list it if if you are cooking dinner if you are Supporting friends you can talk about that Activities and extracurriculars do not have to be you know You Cheer squad or soccer or student council.

It’s really, what are the things that take up a lot of your time? It could be fixing the car on the weekends with your dad. And if, um, whenever possible. Go for the alumni interview. If colleges offer the alumni interview, absolutely sign up. It’s, it’s not an interview like a job interview. It’s simply, um, a space for, for you to share and more of the context of your life face to face with the person.

The alumni interview is also a really great place for you to learn more about the colleges and college campuses you’re interested in. It’s a two way street. It’s not just someone asking you questions. It’s giving you the opportunity to ask others questions.

Alright, I do think I covered a lot of this. Um, strategies for highlighting things, highlighting their unique perspectives. Write authentically and true to who you are. Emphasize how you’ve overcome different challenges and barriers you’ve faced. Don’t just describe them, describe how they’ve impacted you, how you’ve grown for them.

Um, paint the picture. Not just of who you are, but who you want to be in the future. And it’s totally okay if you don’t know who you are. And again, think about all the different aspects of your life. The personal, the academic, the professional, the environmental, um, Don’t minimize your perspective and use language or ideas that you think colleges want to hear.

Um, big one. Do not, don’t talk to the thesaurus. Don’t look up how to make a word or an essay sound better, or use language that you wouldn’t use in daily life. Colleges will note that, they’ll see. Maybe this, maybe they’re trying to, to look a certain way. Um, and again, you don’t have to focus on only the positive things you want to hear.

And don’t focus on the parts of your life that solely pertain to school and academics. The admissions process is a holistic process where they’re looking at all different parts of your life. The good, the bad, the ugly.

I’ll kind of close out and say this. This is a quote that I live and breathe by. Please do not internalize these admissions decisions as a reflection of your self worth. Each and every one of you are smart, talented folks with many gifts to share, and whether or not you get into a college is not a reflection of who you are.

It’s not and there are many, many, many different pathways to higher education, whether it means you start off getting a job for a few years, or you started a community college there. There is no singular way to achieve higher education and to get a degree.

Thank you so much for that great presentation. I was really excited for tonight’s. Conversation and you did not disappoint, so I appreciate you. We’re going to move over into our question and answer portion. The way that it will work is that you can share your questions under the Q& A. I will read them aloud and give Anissa a chance to respond to them.

And then, um, I will also paste them into the public chat so that everyone can see them. If you’re having any challenges with uploading your question, just know that you might have to log out and log back in and make sure you are logging in. Through the custom link sent through your email and not through our webinar landing page.

All right. There was a question That just disappeared. I was gonna ask it. Um, but it went away. All right, so I will ask a different one that I saw earlier Okay Someone asked how do I identify and choose the most impactful experiences to include in my college essay? How do I pick a few rather than kind of picking several or I think they were all I think later on, someone also asked, should I focus on one or should I focus on several when it comes specifically to the college essay portion.

In most cases, you have like a 650 word counts, which is about a page. The college essay, um, should have. one focus. However, that one focus does not have to be a specific experience. So you could talk about the different ways you’ve grown and evolved over time, highlighting some, some different experiences that you’ve had.

You don’t want to put every single thing you’ve experienced throughout your whole life in there. You won’t have enough, um, characters for that. Um, and for a lot of, um, applications, what you do is you’ll just copy and paste what you wrote into a little text box. And if you go beyond that 650 word maximum, it’ll just cut your essay off.

So I’ll say this, have a focus. That focus could be an idea. That focus could be, um, ways that you’ve grown. That could be a specific experience, but remember there are a lot of Other spaces for you to highlight impactful experiences. Again, the additional information box, letters of recommendation, interviews.

So you don’t have to put it all into that college essay. And you don’t have to speak to it yourself.

Thank you. Um, there was a next question. Oh, I thought this was an interesting question. How do I strike a balance between showcasing resilience in the face of challenges and avoiding a victim narrative? Absolutely. Um,

so, uh, first of all, I don’t,

I don’t want to say like the victim narrative, um, is. Is necessarily a a bad thing or something to be ashamed about. I mean, your experiences are your experiences. A lot of it is how you write about them. It’s one thing to list all of the difficult things that have happened to you. It’s another thing to talk about those difficult things and then focus on.

How that’s impacted you, how you’ve changed, how you’ve grown, the lessons you’ve learned. We don’t want to get stuck in centering that experience. We want to center how that experience has shaped you. So if you’re describing a specific experience, I would keep that description of that experience like at the most a paragraph, which is really like three or four sentences.

The rest of it should really be you reflecting on again, That impact, how you’ve grown, um, how you’ve shifted, how that’s impacted your life, but it doesn’t have to be just describing all of the different things. We really want to describe it and connect that to, um, who we are and how that shaped us.

Um, the next question I think is, It’s interesting and I also want to share a student example about it, but the question is, is it advisable to address any potential weaknesses or gaps in my academic record within the context of my diverse experiences? And I, the example that I want to share that I had a student who went to a school who stepped back and realized that they were not, that their advanced level classes were not particularly diverse and they, for whatever reason, they They were not promoting students of color into AP classes across the school.

So that student felt like I wasn’t given the chance to pursue a more competitive academic record. I don’t know if that’s where this question is coming from. But again, I’ll just ask it. Is it advisable to address weaknesses or gaps in my academic record within the context of my diverse experience?

I think that’s absolutely something that should be reflected on the application. It doesn’t have to be in that college essay. This could be a great space. For a recommender to help provide some of that clarity, it could be a great space again to use the additional information box. There will usually be a question that says, is there anything else you want us to know as we review your application that might be the section.

And you don’t have to write that like an essay, you can say. Um, as a result of a mental health concern, um, my grades did drop the second semester of my junior year. And, and you don’t have to justify that or talk about how you’ve grown from that, but you can just flat out say. This is something that happened.

This impacted me academically. This, I want you to know that, but it doesn’t have to be a part of your setting. We’re going to take a quick break from the Q&A for a little PSA. So CollegeAdvisors team of over 300 for admissions officers and admissions experts are ready to help you and your family navigate the admissions process in one on one advising sessions.

We have already helped over 6,000 clients in their college admissions journeys and in our 21 through 22 year olds. 2023 data. We found that CollegeAdvisor students are two to four times more likely to get admitted into colleges like Stanford, Vanderbilt, and Harvard. So you can increase your odds and take the step in the next, take the next step in your college admissions journey by signing up for a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session with one of our admission specialists by using the QR code that is on the screen.

During that conversation, we will receive a preliminary assessment of your academics. Profile along with some additional recommendations and at the end you will also learn about the premium packages that we offer and pair you with an advisor who can support you in building your college list, editing your essays and so much more.

We will leave that QR code up on the screen for folks who are interested and want to continue working with us. But I’ll go back to our questions. My next question for you. I think it’s not, it could be controversial, but depending on the world event that folks are talking about. But someone said, can writing about a current world event be okay as long as the focus is on the student and their growth from it?

And attached to that question is how can I ensure that my essay is inclusive and relatable to a diverse audience of college admissions? Complex question. Easy one. I’ll start with the second part first. I would not worry about your essay being inclusive to the readers. Admissions officers. They go through like very, very specific training in order to read things from an unbiased lens and to ensure that their personal, um, beliefs, values or practices are not influencing how they read a, um, essay.

So I might have personal values that might be the opposite of a student whose essay I’m reading. That does not give me the right to pass them along or to deny that. Of course, admissions officers are also humans. and mistakes happen and it’s truly impossible to be unbiased, but there are a lot of different safeguards put in place to ensure that admissions officers are being as unbiased as possible.

So don’t worry about making this, uh, making your essay accessible or inclusive for them as Their personal values or beliefs really should not impact how they read your essay. Absolutely, I think it is okay to write about current world events. There are things we, we simply cannot ignore, and even something happening hundreds and thousands of miles away from you can still have a very real impact on you.

And again, you can write about how you’ve learned, how you’ve grown, how that impacts you. What we don’t want is just a news article explaining this. This world event. Absolutely. And I think, in fact, that can be something helpful to to even represent a global mindset. You know, if you’re, if you’re invested in the news, if you’re interested in what’s going on around you, um, that that’s a really important part of why a lot of students get involved.

Go to college to, to gain more information, to gain more awareness of the world around them. And that’s absolutely something that will be built in to your college going experience. I love the use of term global mindset because that makes me think of the fact that there are Phrases that colleges use a lot to describe their values to describe what kind of community they’re building and global mindset I think is one of those to make sure that you’re aligned with what that college is looking for and perhaps Yeah, that addressing that type of essay question can help demonstrate that alignment as well Our next question is as an international student How can I write about wanting to go to college abroad but not give a bad image or underestimate where I’ve grown up?

I hear that I hear that. And here’s, here’s the thing, um,

if you are writing about wanting to go to college abroad, that’s, that doesn’t have to reflect anything negative about where you are now or the environment that you are raised in. If you were to just talk about all the things you didn’t like about where you were raised or the environment that you’re in, That might give, um, a little insight, but wanting to go to college outside of your home is It’s understandable, and it doesn’t have to reflect badly, and if you’re nervous that it might, you can put things in there about how, um, about how important it is to remain connected to your home environment and culture.

I am, I went to high school in Las Vegas, Nevada on the west coast of the United States. I went to school in Medford, Massachusetts on the east coast of the United States. I went as far away from my town as possible. And I don’t think anyone thought that’s because I hated Las Vegas or Nevada. I get there because it was super hot all the time.

I wanted snow, um. So please, please, please don’t worry, um, that anything you put in there is, is going to be judged, is, is going to be misconstrued and taken out of context. Again, admissions officers go through a lot of training and professional development to, to essentially train them on how to read these essays without imparting their own thoughts or beliefs on them.

Thank you. So if you want to go to college abroad, you absolutely can, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed of that. And if your home or your culture is something that’s really important to you, and you want to remain super connected to that, even if If you go to school abroad, then you can highlight that.

Absolutely. But just because you want to go to school abroad does does not mean that anyone’s going to assume that you don’t value or you don’t love where you are from. Yeah, I think it’s coming at it from an asset base of what is the value you can get from going away rather than deficit base of like, these are all the things I’m trying to leave behind.

Um, The next question I have for you are, are admissions, are admissions officers looking for a perfectly written essay? Do you need to be obsessed with grammar? And you, you already said this, use words that sound, sound like a genius, so don’t use a thesaurus, but I guess people are worried about, um, grammar and, and being very, very detail oriented in that way.

Okay, I’m also going to touch on another question that was popping in and out about like the format of your essay. Okay. Most applications, I can’t speak for all of them, I have not looked at every single college application, but most applications, again, there will be a text box where you just copy and paste.

It’s not, um, a system where, you know, you’ll write it in, like, Microsoft Word, and then you’ll download it as a PDF, and then you’ll upload it as an attachment. You really just copy and paste. Um. What I would recommend is absolutely spell check that, um, and here is a pro tip. If you are writing an essay on Google Docs, Copy and paste that essay into a Microsoft Word document.

Because sometimes Google Docs does not catch all of those little grammar or punctuation errors. Um, if you are worried about your language, or, English might be your second or third language. You can absolutely have folks around you read it for you. You could have your English teacher. You could have a different English teacher read it for you and review it.

Um, Some students use, like, online tools, like Grammarly, um, to spellcheck and things like that. Um, so, if you’re, if you’re missing a period, um, it’s, it’s really not going to make a difference. If it looks like you typed your essay on your phone notes app, That might make a bit of a difference. Um, but again, they’re not looking for like all of these big words.

They’re not looking for you to write in a very formal manner. Um, they, but they are looking for, um, that you at least spell checked it a little bit. Um, and there are many, many people in your life. Um, that can support you in doing that, just that grammar check. It could really be any teacher in your school.

Thank you for that. Yeah, and I would also shout out Grammarly, um, especially if you want to do weight and do the free trial right before senior year, um, in order to expedite that. But, um, that will have to be our last question. So thank you all for joining us. That is the end of our webinar. Thank you, Anissa, for a really, really great presentation.

We hope that you enjoyed this opportunity to hear from Anissa and to learn a little bit more about crafting your narrative. We also hope that you’ll join us for our remaining February sessions. We’re going to end the month with a session on how to get strong letters of recommendation, and that will happen on February 27th.

Hope to see you soon, but until next time, take care and have a great evening, everybody. Bye, folks.