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

Stanford ‘20

Accepted to Stanford, Wheaton, Pomona

I love languages, exercising, and eating!
Dartmouth ‘20

Accepted to Dartmouth, Vassar, Kenyon, UVA

I am an incoming freshman from Bulgaria. I have spent one year as an exchange student in Chicago and look forward to returning to the States this fall.
Barnard ‘18

Accepted to Barnard

Barnard '18 | My passions lie in education, psychology, and human rights, all from the lens of an African Studies major. My transcript and application were far from conventional, but neither am I.
Stanford ‘20

Accepted to Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Irvine

Technophile and Starbucks lover majoring in CS with a passion for STEM and the arts.

New Posts

Common App Writing Prompt #5 (2018-2019): Personal Growth
Common App Writing Prompt #5 (2018-2019): Personal Growth
December 05, 2018

The Common Application asks students to choose from 7 essay prompts, each asking for a different type of essay. Prompt #5, which was the most popular prompt amongst applicants from last season, focuses on personal growth. Read...

Dartmouth College 2018-2019 Supplemental Essay Prompts
Dartmouth College 2018-2019 Supplemental Essay Prompts
September 17, 2018

Drafted your personal statement and ready to get started on your supplemental essays? Here are the supplemental essay prompts for Dartmouth College.Dartmouth College requires two additional pieces of writing on top of the Common...

What You Need to Know about Athletic Scholarships
What You Need to Know about Athletic Scholarships
September 14, 2018

For many families, the only way to afford a college education is for their student to receive some financial aid. An athletic scholarship is one way that can help lower the price. Here’s what...

Load More Posts