Back to posts

Why Does the College Essay Have to be Personal?

College Admissions

Whether you believe it or not, you are a unicorn. There’s no one in the world who shares your exact experiences, passions, thoughts, and feelings. The essay portion of the college application is your time to shine and show the world who you are. This shouldn’t be taken lightly.

It’s hard. We hear you, we’ve all been there ourselves and we’ve seen thousands of other college applicants struggle the same way. In fact, the college essay is the number one question every parent and every student asks about. Rightly so! It’s a big deal.

The essay is the college admissions board’s first impression of you. If who you are doesn't matter, colleges could just create an algorithm to pick out ideal students based on whatever data points they like. A lot of recruitment agencies have similar software to sift through resumes, so it’s not much of a stretch.

Admissions board members want to get to know you. One of the College Shortcuts secrets to essay success is show, don’t tell. It’s easy to rattle off a few shining characteristics, accomplishments, and facts about yourself; it’s much more difficult to craft a story that shows them how these traits were shaped.

Now that the why is out of the way, let’s talk hang-ups. Why is it so hard to write a personal essay?

We’ve heard every reason under the sun and here are a few of the most common ones:

  • It’s too painful to talk about my past
  • I’ve never done anything interesting
  • I hate writing about myself
  • I don’t know who I am

All of these reasons are valid and understandable, but the last makes perfect sense and it’s one of the reasons we hear most often. After all, this is a time in your life when you’re literally just starting to figure out who you are. That’s okay! The college essay is about acknowledging the events, people, and things that helped shape who you are today.

Now, the perfect college application essay is a balancing act between personal and academic achievements. Your personality can shine through without using slang or sharing intimate (rather inappropriate) details of your life. Also, don’t forget clarity over cleverness. It may seem fun to write your college essay in the tone of a thank you as your future presidential candidate self, but colleges are much more interested in learning about who you are now.

Still lost? Not to worry. Recognizing you need help is the first step. Finding help is next. Not only have we mastered and aced our college admissions essays, but we’ve also helped high school seniors around the country do the same! We offer invaluable insight into what admissions boards are really looking for.

You don’t have to tackle the college admissions essay alone. Often we find that all the pieces are already there, we just need to step in to keep students on track and remind them to use spell check. If you’re muddling through your essay just hoping for the best, it may be time to call in the reinforcements. No matter where you are in the essay-writing process, contact one of our certified counselors today to get the professional insight you need to push your essay to the top of the application pile.

Get The Most Important College Admissions Data In The Last 12 Months Delivered Straight To Your Inbox Now.