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The College Essay - Let the Student’s Voice be Heard!

Maryline Michel Kulewicz and Tracy Sullivan of College 101 Admissions Consultants

My favorite pastime is reading students’ college essays and essay tips from the experts - Admissions Officers. Does this make me a college nerd? Probably! But it certainly is why I do what I do! 
Selecting a college essay topic can become the most challenging aspect of the application process. Students tend to search for the perfect topic that is not cliche, layered with the pressure to create a fascinating story that has never been told before. The truth is, all stories have been told before: the comeback story after a basketball injury, the mission trip that changed your life, the patience you showed after vacationing with 30 family members in a small cabin with one bathroom. The lesson is that there is no one unique topic - they have all been done.  
Does this mean that you settle for mediocrity? No, but it does mean that you need to differentiate yourself by finding YOUR voice, make sure it is heard, and unveil the fantastic and authentic YOU in your story.  Here are a few tips from the experts.  FREE RESOURCE: email me for the full list of tips. 
1. Just make sure that the story you’re telling is uniquely YOURS.
“I believe everyone has a story worth telling. Don’t feel like you must have had a huge, life-changing, drama-filled experience. Sometimes the seemingly smallest moments lead us to the biggest breakthroughs.” Maggie Schuh, high school English teacher in St. Louis.
2. We want to learn about growth. 
“Some students spend a lot of time summarizing the plot or describing their work, and then the “in what way” part of the essay winds up being one sentence. The part that is about you is the most important part. The majority of the essay should be about your response and reaction to the work. How did it affect or change you?”   Dean J, admissions officer, and blogger from University of Virginia. 
3. Tell a good story.
“Most people prefer reading a good story over anything else. So... tell a great story in your essay. Worry less about providing as many details about you as possible and more about captivating the reader’s attention inside of a great narrative. I read a great essay this year where an applicant walked me through the steps of meditation and how their body responded to it. Loved it.” Jeff Schiffman, Director of Admissions at Tulane University
4. Write like a journalist. 
“The first few sentences must capture the reader’s attention, provide a gist of the story, and give a sense of where the essay is heading. Think about any article you’ve read—how do you decide to read it? You read the first few sentences and then decide. The same goes for college essays. A strong lead will place your reader in the “accept” mindset from the beginning of the essay. A weak lead will have your reader thinking “reject”—a mindset from which it’s nearly impossible to recover.” Brad Schiller, MIT graduate and CEO of Prompt 
5. Write like you speak.
“You should use words and phrases that you would actually use in everyday conversation. The most meaningful essays are those where I feel like the student is sitting next to me, just talking to me.”  Kim Struglinski, admissions counselor from Vanderbilt University.
6. Read it aloud. 
“Reading your essay aloud is the best way to corroborate that your essay is revealing your voice. Do you feel the emotions? Is it a good story?  Is the reader learning something valuable about you? And, will the admission reader say ‘yes, I can see this student making a difference at our college’?” Tracy Sullivan & Maryline Michel Kulewicz, College 101 Admission Consultants
There are so many admission resources out there. I really enjoy reading Rick Clark’s Georgia Tech Admission Blog. He is knowledgeable, honest, and tells an engaging story. Hint: elements of a good essay!
The college tips were paraphrased from College Essay Guys’s “35+ Best College Essay Tips from College Application Experts”.
College 101 Admissions Consultants LLC. Website:  
Phone: (508) 380-3845.

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