As a tribute to that time in my career when I was writing television soap operas, my previous blog contained a cheesy cliffhanger, stating that I would next reveal another important key to having your application essay achieve its objectives. And yet, dated tactics aside, Step 21 of the twenty five ways to make your college application essay the best writing you’ve ever done is, in fact, one of the most important to the success of your essay.

#21. Lead the reader to the conclusion you want them to have (we must have this student in our freshman class), without letting them know you’re doing it.

Although I am firm in the belief that a college application essay should not obviously “sell” a student, why else are we writing them? Of course you are selling yourself! You want in and you want the Admissions Director to raise the gate for you, so you need to present yourself in the most positive light possible. It might not be “Previously Owned Camaros at Incredible Discounts” but it is selling nonetheless.

To disguise these efforts, you need to first know the impression you want to make. “I am…

  1. a leader
  2. compassionate
  3. a person with a clear world view
  4. all of the above
  5. Your choice.

Then you need to be sure your essay demonstrates that quality or qualities, without pointing a spotlight at it. This is what I mean by leading the reader to the conclusion you want them to have, without letting them know you’re doing it. This usually requires a story of some sort but if it’s done effectively, the Admissions Committee member will be silently noting, “This young woman stands up for her values,” or “This young man has a rare empathy for others’ distress.” Allowing them to arrive at this idea on their own, meaning without stating it yourself, will give readers a bigger stake in the conclusion. This wasn’t the student’s idea; it was mine.

This technique can be tough to execute smoothly so, if you decide to go for it, shoot me an email and we can discuss.

(Did I just lead you to a conclusion about me? Think about it.)

For more personal help with the Common Application essay, supplemental or any other college application essays, please contact Craig Heller at, or 818-340-1276.

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