Tell Your Story in College Essay

In a draft of a college admissions essay for the University of Michigan, Danny wrote a story about a building at the Ross School of Business.Danny became enamored with the building during his campus tour; he  had a  feeling he belonged there and felt at home.

“Do you want the school to know how much you love the business school’s design and decor?” I asked him. “What do you want colleges to know about you after reading your application essay?”

College admissions officers do not want to read a story about the great buildings on campus, but they  do want to read an essay that is reflective and shows something meaningful about you.

At first, Danny couldn’t recall a single business idea he had as a child, and he wasn’t sure what type of business he dreamed of running. He was excited by the prospect of running his own business (the what), so we continued brainstorming to find a story that could show his passion (the why). At one point,  he  casually mentioned he was doing the job of CFO for his high school youth groups. He kept the books.

Aha. The story emerged. He first realized he had skills and interests that would serve him well in the business world while overseeing the finances of this organization. He helped build up the group’s savings account, managed the checkbook, tracked expenses and assets, made sure every cent was accounted for.

Turns out, he did have a story to tell, and it was specific. He wrote it in his voice using his words. It was powerful, too.

At Wow, we talk to admissions officers all the time. We ask them what they want in a story. They all say the same thing. They want to know who you are. They want you to show them who you are with compelling stories written in your own words, in your own voice. You don’t have to survive cancer or climb a mountain to have something real to share.

Our business school prospect told a focused, poignant and genuine story about himself. Write your story about YOU.

It’s crunch time for colleges with end-of-the-year deadlines approaching. If you are stuck, or just procrastinating, you might want to try Wow Writing Workshop.

You can read Kim Lifton’s blogs and get useful tips about the college admissions process by signing up for Wow’s weekly newsletter; Wow is also on Facebook and Twitter.

Kim Lifton

Kim Lifton

Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop. Perceptive, resourceful and curious, Kim can get a story out of anyone. Kim is a former newspaper reporter and corporate communications manager. With Susan Knoppow, Wow’s CEO, Kim developed the Wow Method by combining her journalistic training with Susan’s organization and instructional design skills. She holds a BA in Journalism from Michigan State University. Kim’s articles on the college essay appear regularly in print and on the web, and her work has been featured in a variety of newspapers, magazines and online publications. Kim and Susan have co-authored three books – How to Write an Effective College Application Essay (The Inside Scoop for Parents, Students, Counselors). They are members/affiliates of the Michigan Association of College Admission Counseling (MACAC), the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA).
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