Does Your College Essay Show Insight?

By Kim Lifton question mark
Wow Writing Workshop

With the first round of application deadlines looming, we’ve been reviewing a lot of college entrance essays that have not been ready to submit to colleges. Most of them lack the insight colleges are looking for. And, at its core, a college entrance essay is all about reflection. If you don’t reflect, you haven’t responded to the prompt.

This is not a new phenomenon. We notice the same trend every October, when scores of students ask us to review essays they think are perfect.

Whether they got help from a parent or favorite teacher, followed advice from an older brother who landed a spot at his top choice college, or worked independently with guidance from books or websites, most of these students at this point are just looking for our stamp of approval.

The bad news: The majority of these essays are not done. Not yet.
The good news: They sent us their essays, and we can help before they make a big mistake.

We read each piece of writing for three things that colleges tell us are most significant:

  • Does the student answer the prompt?
  • Does the answer to the prompt show insight into the student’s character?
  • Does it sound like a 17 year-old wrote it?

Admissions professionals read a lot of descriptive narratives about student experiences; they prefer you dig a little deeper in your answer to any prompt. They want you to use this space on the application to showcase the traits and characteristics you like about yourself—and the ones you want to share with them.

Colleges are interested in you. Focus your answer on what you want to share with them, not what you think they want to hear. Tell them something meaningful that they would not know about you from reading the rest of the application package.

No matter what the prompt, your essay should answer these two questions:

  • What happened?
  • Why does it matter?

Why it matters to you (the reflection) is just as important as what happened (the experience, the activity, or the person who influenced you).

Write an Essay That Will Help You Get In

We’ve read many well-written essays that would make great English papers. They are descriptive and full of beautifully sketched scenes. We’ve also reviewed our fair share of essays that sound sanitized, as if one or several well-meaning adults got ahold of them with their red pens. These types of essays lack real introspection, they don’t answer the prompt, and they won’t help you.

Your essay should help you. Write it yourself, in your voice, using your words.

You deserve to get noticed. So don’t just click send. Not yet. Get a professional review from a coach who can give you peace of mind, let you know if you’ve hit the mark and provide easy-to-follow instructions so you can give colleges something they’ll want to read.

Wow’s highly skilled team of professional coaches can teach you how to respond to any college entrance essay prompt, no matter where you are in the process. We’re here to help. Find out how you can write an essay to get attention from the college of your dreams.