The College Essay: About your “character”, not your “story”

By College Counseling

“The Amazon sounds great. But I know almost nothing about you.”  So was my reaction to an essay written years ago by a student from East Lyme.  She was fortunate enough to travel to the Amazon.  People told her that she had to write the essay about her trip.  She did and it sounded like a travel log. “I saw a jaguar. That was scary and amazing.  I saw monkeys.  Cute and amazing!” And so forth.  She went because her uncle was a well known writer on environmental issues.  Not that she didn’t appreciate the environment but she was not an environmentalist.  The essay did not revel her character.  It just provided a good story.

I relayed my thoughts to her and then a group of students in our Old Saybrook office: write your essay to reveal your character.  The story you tell to show your character is important but it is “you” that they are focusing upon, not your story.

One of my students wrote about his t-shirt collection.  Certainly, this is not as compelling a topic as a trip to the Amazon.  But his essay was…. amazing.  It was funny, in part due to the topic.  It described him because friends/relatives gave him shirts that were meant to describe him.  It showed what interested him because he had t-shirts relate to his causes and passions.

I have been working – somewhat frantically! – with seniors finishing their essays.

Happy to help as needed.