By Kim Lifton
At Wow, we talk to college admissions officers all the time at large, small, public, private and Ivy. No matter what type of school, they all tell us all want to read personal narratives that demonstrate reflection in any type of application essay, personal statement or supplement.
At its core, a college essay is all about reflection. Spring is a great time of year for juniors to begin the process; we wrote two books to help teach reflection. Meanwhile, here are some tips direct from the college admissions office.
Christina Lopez, Barnard College, Director of Admissions
“The whole application process is one big “Match.com” process. The students are creating their “profile’ within their application and reflecting in the essays on who they are as scholars and people”.
Jim Cotter, Michigan State University, Director of Admissions
“The essay is value added. At a moderately selective school, it can pull a student on the cusp up. At a highly selective school, a poor statement can make the difference between being admitted or not.”
Shawn Felton, Cornell University, Director of Undergraduate Admissions
“What are we looking for? We are creating a class. We look at numbers, grades and test scores. But there’s more to it. We are trying to put a face with all of this information.”
Lorenzo Gamboa, Santa Clara University, Senior Associate Director of Admissions
“Students do not need to compile an entire season into an essay. Just give us one place, one time, one moment, and that will do it for you. The key is to show genuine passion, commitment and that they have what it takes to survive at the school.”
Kim Bryant, University of Michigan, Assistant Director of Admissions
“This is your interview. Let me know who you really are.”
Christoph Guttentag, Duke University, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions
“By the time (the application) comes to us, many of them have gone through so many hands that the essays are sanitized. I wish I saw more of a thoughtful voice of a 17-year-old.”
Calvin Wise, Johns Hopkins University, Director of Recruitment
“I never run into a colleague’s office and say, ‘look at this 4.0 GPA.’ I will run into an office with a good essay to share; that excites me.”
Jan Deike, Vanderbilt University, Assistant Director of
“Sometimes students feel that because they haven’t found the cure for cancer, they have nothing to share. Life is truly lived in the smaller moments, and that can be a powerful essay.”
For more tips and resources, go to Wow Writing Workshop.
Kim Lifton is President of Wow. We are a team of professional writers and teachers who understand the writing process inside and out. The Wow Method has been used by students to write application essays and resumes; by business owners to create blogs, websites and other communication materials; and by English teachers to improve student writing skills. We can even help you write a great poem or short story. If it involves words, we can help!