Your Voice. Your College Essay.

June 28, 2017

What do you want colleges to know about you when they read your essay? The college essay is arguably one of the most important parts of the application. Learn what makes an essay stand out to college admission officers and what to look out for in your writing.

Colleges want to see students who are good at what they do. They want students with a variety of skills and it is imperative to show each one what you have to offer. Some skills, such as the ability to understand science, mathematics and the humanities are a given when you apply to colleges. Your academic performance shows colleges how proficient you are in these subjects.  However, other skills, including leadership, public speaking, organization, teamwork, etc. are not calculated in a transcript. Instead, you must show them what you are good at.

When I applied to colleges, one of the first tasks that I gave myself was to make a list of words, adjectives and phrases that I wanted colleges to notice. I wanted them to know about my leadership in the classroom and outside, my ability to speak to large audiences easily and my undying passion for teamwork. These were the three skills that I thought were most important to communicate to colleges, so I constructed responses and described extracurricular activities relevant to those three skills.

Each time you write an essay or add an extracurricular activity, think for a moment what this tells colleges. Does it demonstrate one of your skills? or does it just give them a fun fact about yourself? Each sentence you write should be strategically placed in order to demonstrate your skills. There isn’t a better way to show colleges what you are good at than through extracurriculars and responses to various essay prompts.

By the time I have completed my application, I asked my sister, brother, family members and close friends to review it. I only showed them extracurricular activities and responses to the essays and asked them what they have learned about me. I also asked specific questions, such as what skills they thought I had, and what skills they thought I lacked.

One of the best ways to show colleges one of your strengths is through the “overcoming a challenge or ethical dilemma” question. Answering this question tells the colleges three things: a personal story about yourself and the types of activities that you perform, the way in which you think under stressful conditions, and what skills you have used or learned in order to overcome that challenge. This is perhaps the best out of all the application essays for you to show the colleges what your biggest strengths are.

At the end of the day, the college admissions officers will see the applications through their lenses. By presenting yourself in the way described above, you quietly suggest to colleges that you would be a great addition to their campus. Each item is crafted to point them in the right direction.  Hopefully, those extra skills and traits that you include will convince admissions officers to accept you.

Applying to college?
View the app files and essays of accepted students.

Conveying the right message in your essay is essential to getting a college’s attention.  Make sure that your combined essays allow each facet of your personality to shine, whether in strong extracurriculars, word choice, or compelling stories.

About The Author

AdmitSee Staff
AdmitSee Staff

​We remember our frustration with applying to college and the lack of information surrounding it. So we created AdmitSee to bring much-needed transparency to the application process! Read more about the team here.

Browse Successful Application Files

UC Berkeley ‘20

Accepted to UC Berkeley, Brown, Claremont (CMC), Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Northwestern, Pomona, Stanford, San Diego, Vanderbilt, UCSC, UCSB, UCSD, UCLA, Cal Poly, Cal Poly Pomona, Washington

Los Angeles kid attending UC Berkeley, Class of 2020! Planning on studying business or economics. Go Bears!
Tufts ‘18

Accepted to CMU, BC, Tufts, Northeastern

Just a rising sophomore trying to help my peers find a school that fits them best! Ask me about engineering, essays, or life in general.
Rice ‘19

Accepted to Rice, Rochester, Case, Emory, Hamilton, Pitt, Union, Miami

Experience applying as daughter of first generation US immigrants. Aspiring physician interested in double majoring in Acting and Cognitive Science.
USC ‘19

Accepted to UC Davis, UCLA, UCSD, USC, Emory, UMich, UNC, Pepperdine

Although very hardworking, I love to socialize with friends and make time to just relax. Also, I've always been interested in cars and working in the business aspect of the automotive industry.

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