Watercolor painting of stacked orange road signs on post reading To Be Continued

The Importance of Storytelling on Your College Application

Your college application should be the ultimate story about you! Here's how to tell your story from beginning to end beyond your admission essay.

Your life is a story: it has ups, downs, friends, foes, plots, and plot twists. And every relevant piece of your story as a high school student has a place on your college application. Who you are matters, as does what you have accomplished. Possessing a studious personality may show in your grades, but you are much more than a GPA. You know yourself best, but admission offices don't, and there are many opportunities to share this when applying to colleges—and not just in your admission essay. Perceiving your application from the outside looking in will help shape your story into what you want it to be. Here’s how you can share your story from beginning to end throughout your college applications.

Characterization through your personal brand

Before college admission committees understand your story, they should get to know your character. That’s when the term “personal branding” comes into play. This is more than the type of classes you took or the clubs you were involved in; this is about your traits, values, skills, and interests that shape your image from an outside perspective. You are the creator of your personal brand, and what ultimately will matter is how the public perceives it. Every author and business founder has to be cautious about idolizing their creations in preparation for the public’s candid criticism. Thankfully, authors use editors, and CEOs hire managers. Sometimes it’s better to ask others “Who am I?” than to ask yourself the same question.

Related: What Do Colleges Want in an Applicant?

Rising and falling actions

Colleges aren’t looking for the perfect college application but rather the “did’s” and “tried’s”. Your personality has less merit if it doesn’t show through actions. For example, you may have tried to establish a speech club at your school because you’re the person who loves speaking in front of a large group or presenting to your class. Some students may not have worked hard enough in core classes or undertook any extracurriculars until later in high school. COVID-19 may have done the opposite by canceling activities you’ve done since freshman year. Practice advocating for yourself, and don’t be afraid to address these gaps. Admission officers see the worth in these topics, but only if they can be tied back to being a perfect fit for the school.

Plots can speak without narration

While narration provides more insight to the events that occur in a story, actions should also speak for themselves. Extracurricular and volunteer activities are indicative of “actions” in high school, yet there’s more you can include. A teacher may describe in your letter of recommendation about a moment when you helped another student who was failing their class, revealing that you are considerate. Another instance may be when you were featured on your school’s website or recognized in a publication. On the flip side, be careful about what you or your friends post about you on social media. Everything placed on the internet stays on the internet, and some college admission officers will dig around to learn more about you.

Related: 4 Summer Activities That Will Impress Colleges 

A conclusion to the old story and exposition to the new

On the day you open your college letter that states the status of your application, don’t be dejected if you get rejected. Some stories aren’t the right fit for an institution, whether for college or your future career. Being true to yourself throughout this process will eventually lead you to a happily ever after you may have never expected.

Still looking for your happily-ever-after college? Check out our article on How to Transform Your College Search, Cinderella Style.

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About Nicole Iwuala

Nicole Iwuala

Nicole Iwuala is a six-foot-tall high school student at Village Tech Schools in Duncanville, Texas. She’s an AP and dual-credit student who values hard work and independence. Not only is she a writer for CollegeXpress, but she also writes for her school’s yearbook and news website in addition to working as a math instructor. During her leisure time, Nicole loves to read literature, cook for her family, and study the Bible. Through her future-focused articles, she hopes to give students the knowledge and confidence to enter college like a champion.


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