When you apply to colleges, admissions officers will look at your GPA and test scores. They will read your letters of recommendation and evaluate your courses. They will look at your involvement in extracurriculars and volunteer work.
They will also read hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other applicants’ files over the course of a few weeks.
Imagine you’re an admissions officer. You’ve been reading files all day. You’re hungry. You could use a bit of fresh air. You’re waiting for an essay that makes you sit up in your chair and take notice. And then, you find it. This student is “that kid” that you want on your campus. You put the application in the “accept” pile.
Back to high school reality.
Summer is a great time to write your essay. Pick a great topic and make your admissions officer sit up and take notice. This is the place for you to stand out among the other applicants who have just as good a record as you. And you don’t have to have a legendary life story to find a memorable topic.
One way to create some essay ideas is to look at what you’ve done in high school. Write down everything you’ve done outside of class year by year. Say you learned how to play the guitar during the summer between freshman and sophomore year. Include that! Maybe you worked as a nanny. Include that!
Now pick one of your activities. Chose something that is meaningful to you. Maybe the guitar wasn’t really your thing. Don’t write about it. Say you babysat for a family of six kids one summer. There have to be interesting stories that may be a seed for your application essay. Maybe you’re thinking about being a teacher and majoring in education. Think about what great teachers do – they inspire their students, they have a great sense of humor, they can roll with the punches, they’re fair. Now think about some of your experiences with the kids you babysat. What was the toughest day you had with them? What was the funniest thing one of the kids said or did?
Brainstorm some ideas. Let those creative juices flow! You want the admissions officers to read your application and remember you. You want them to say “oh yeah, that was the student who figured out how to take bubble gum out of three pre-schoolers’ hair while bouncing on a trampoline!” If you can do that, the admissions officers will know that you’ll be able to solve other problems you may encounter once you get to college. You’ll be someone your roommates can rely on; you’ll be someone your professors will trust. You’ll be a meaningful member of the college’s community. You’ll get to that “admit” pile.
Choosing a great essay topic will not only get you noticed. It will earn the admissions committee’s interest and enthusiasm in your application. It will make them remember you not as just another high schooler who babysat during the summer, but as “that kid” — “that bubblegum kid.”