By Carol Barash, PhD
Founder and CEO, Story To College
Class of 2013: What’s the most important thing you can do this summer to make a difference in your college applications next fall?
- Write everyday: Aim for 500 words – the length of the Common App personal statement. Come up with something you want to share? Blog it! Or send it to us, and we’ll post it on our blog. Consider this practice for college, where you’ll be writing all the time, and not just 5-paragraph critical papers either!
- Narrow your list: Apply to 8-10 colleges where you are a good fit. Include a range of colleges where you are a strong candidate and can make a difference, and then really research those colleges and connect with their programs and people in your applications.
- What matters to you? Forget about “what colleges are looking for,” and don’t write the essays that were original 5000 people ago (e.g. the engineers’ Lego essay). Make a list of the important experiences and ambitions you bring to a college community, and find moments that convey your unique perspective.
- Take the time to shape strong essays in your own voice: Most students write college essays that are safe and generic – perhaps even edited by someone else – missing the opportunity to connect with colleges genuinely in your own voice. Great essays take time; it makes sense to put that time in before the stressful crush of senior fall.
- Money matters: Talk to your parents about how you’ll pay for college and research colleges where you’re likely to win merit scholarships. There are often extra essays for scholarship apps, another place where your authentic story makes a big difference.
In a recent study of admissions officers, we found that the people who read your applications are looking for “authenticity” and “strong writing,” not “unique experiences.”
“What matters is a student’s unique perspective and voice, what you do because of the difference you can make, not the experiences that others organize for you,” said Joseph Latimer, Assistant Dean of Diversity and Outreach at the University of Rochester.
For more suggestions on how to use your senior summer to have fun, tune your essay engines, and get into your top choice colleges, check out the Story To College 21 Days of Summer, written by Story To College alumna Eliana Kwartler (Andover ’12, Yale ’16).
Carol Barash is a resident of South Orange Village. Her two oldest children graduated from Princeton University and her youngest is headed to Yale in the fall.