What should I write my application essay about?

Marty O'ConnellMarty O’Connell
Executive Director
Colleges That Change Lives

Students who are willing to share who they are as a person, distinct from their academic record and test scores, are the students who stand out. This doesn’t mean  all students have to start a business, develop a solution for homelessness, etc., but everyone needs to write an essay that provides the admission officer a view of who they are—the things that could never be the same as the next file they pick up and read. Students often write about travel abroad that too often ends up sounding like a travel brochure instead of providing an insight into how they really felt about the people they met and places they visited, which should be different experience for each person. The essays I most remember over 30 years allowed me to visualize a real person and their background and why they wanted to continue to learn. Ask the people who care about you what stories come to mind when they think of you—often there are great college essays in those stories!

Karen Schrum
Director of Outreach, Associate Director of Admissions

The University of Chicago

If you are a funny person, feel free to write humorous pieces. If not, don’t feel like you have to be funny for the first time in your life. . . . Remember to filter your thoughts—the essay should not serve as your journal or confessional. Think in terms of your grandmother reading the essay. Make sure you do put personality into your essays so admission officers can easily picture you on their campus.

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