An old joke about actors goes like this:

An actor meets a man at a party and before the man can get a word in edgewise, or escape, goes on and on about every play, television show, movie and commercial the actor has ever appeared in. Finally, after about an hour, the actor winds down.

“Well, that’s enough about me,” he tells his new friend. “What do you think about my work?”

It’s a cute joke and here’s its relevance to writing your college application essay: Beware of getting caught up in trying to impress the reader by reciting everything you’ve ever done. Don’t write “The Super Hero Essay.”

The Super Hero Essay is the name I give to those essays that extoll the virtues of the student in a blatant manner that can’t come off as anything but bragging, and boring. This essay doesn’t talk about struggle or enlightenment, deep thoughts or (gasp!) making mistakes. It has no perspective other than, “Aren’t I terrific? Look at all I’ve done and the ease with which I’ve done it. Yay, me!”

The problem with this sort of essay, even if everything the student is writing is true, is that it risks a certain push back from the reader. “You think you’re so great,” they might be thinking as they read. “Well, “I’ll be the judge of that.” And they will. And it might not be pretty.

Of course this doesn’t mean you want to be modest to a fault, or put yourself down or ignore writing about events where you have excelled or shone in some way. The trick in writing about these experiences, however, is to present them in a way that leads the reader to the conclusion you want them to have – i.e., we must have this student in our freshman class – without them realizing that they are being led there. Instead, and ideally, the reader will come to that conclusion on her own. She will feel like it is her judgment and perception, not your hammering away at her, that has determined that decision. That’s where the money is. That’s the stronger, smarter, more entertaining, and much more effective way to write your college admissions essay.

For more personal help with your college admissions essay, contact Craig Heller at 818-340-1276 or [email protected].

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