What Do You Want Colleges to Know About You?

By Kim Lifton

Recently, I asked a group of Wow students what they wanted colleges to know about them after reading their application essays.

One boy blurted out, “I’m inquisitive.” A girl said, “I don’t give up.”  Another boy said, “I’m hard working.” Several students stared blankly at me; they couldn’t answer the question.

Answer the Question

No matter what the college application essay prompt, clarify what you want readers to know about you, even before you begin brainstorming for essay topics.  The question to ask yourself is not, “What do they want to hear?” or, “What should I write?”

Instead, answer this question: “What do I want readers to know about me that they couldn’t find out from the rest of my application?”

Colleges already know quite a bit about you from your application. They know if you are on the debate team or if you are a top swimmer. They know your test scores, where you live and your GPA – weighted and unweighted.

Don’t Repeat What They Know

You don’t need to repeat any of this information in your college application essays. Admissions officers read essays to find out something they don’t already know about you. They don’t know how your experiences affected you, whom you met along the way or why a particular place is so important to you.

Admissions officers do not know whether you see yourself as creative, decisive, determined, self-motivated or cautious, or how your experiences have shaped you.  They have no idea how you have changed and matured, or why you might be a good fit for their school.  You can share these insights in your application essay; it is an opportunity to showcase what you want college admissions teams to know and remember.

How can you stand out?

Let Wow’s self-guided online tutorial, Wow Online – College Essay, serve as your guide, with four key check-in points, including brainstorming and essay reviews. The question, “What do I want readers to know about me?” is at the heart of Step 1 (Understand the Prompt). You can complete the 10 steps on your own, or with the support of an educational consultant, high school guidance counselor, teacher, parent or Wow writing coach.

Register now, or sign up for a free trial license. Licenses are good through the end of the 2013-14 college admissions cycle. You can also view the 2013-14 Common App prompts here.

Kim Lifton is president of Wow Writing Workshop.  Wow will be leading several FREE webinars in July for educational consultants.  Topics include Brainstorming Like a Pro and Better Essays in Less Time. Participants will also receive a coupon code for $25 off  Wow Online – College Essay. Pay just $109 (regularly $134, even with a consultant discount). The special price is valid through the end of July.