Many high school seniors have difficulty recognizing their own uniqueness. After all, the last four years have been tough. There was the volleyball team you didn’t make, that “A” in Calculus you missed by a point, that boy you couldn’t get to notice you. But the fact is, every high school senior is brimming with distinctive talents, skills, original ideas, and a view of the world shaped by his or her not-to-be-duplicated background. Part of the challenge of writing the college application essay is capturing that individuality.
In terms of the essay, what distinguishes a student is often not the “what” of the past four years. After all, the events of high school life are similar for many people. Classes, sports, extracurriculars, striving to achieve, individuating from parents, frustration, accomplishment, bad days, good. What makes every student unique is more the “how” and “why” of these events, plus the specific details surrounding them for you. For example, most seniors go to the prom. But your perspective on it on it belongs only to you. Many students do community service. Again, your thoughts and feelings on the activity are unique, driven by your experiences in life.
In writing your application essays, it’s important to find, embrace and communicate that individuality. Reveal your innermost feelings and goals. Let your personality shine through. Use your own vocabulary and turns of phrase (within reason). Take chances. Dream a little, too. You will, of course, be guided by a prompt that will provide structure and direction. But in both searching for topics and the execution of the essay, always go beyond the events themselves to find your own, distinctive ideas and point of view. That’s what colleges want to see; that’s what will help you the most in getting into the school of your choice.