There's a lot contained in that one sentence, so study it, particularly four key words. There are endless subtleties to the words "original," "creative," "share" and "story."
Make your essay your own work; let your creative juices flow, and don't let anyone -- parents, teachers, counselors, friends -- push you into doing your essay their way; think of "sharing" your experience, your activity, your life, with the admissions officer; and remember that you're telling a "story." This isn't a book report, an academic paper or a thesis. Think of your essay as a story you're telling a friend, and open yourself up with a voice that reveals the real you.
The Johns Hopkins Admissions office has offered up four "essays that worked," essays that helped get students be admitted to the Class of 2017.
"These selections represent just a few examples of essays we found impressive and helpful during the past admissions cycle," the admissions office writes.
I certainly agree that there's some impressive work here. But don't read these as templates to "follow." Instead, use them to get your own creative juices flowing.
Check them out.
Lee Bierer has a simple formula for success on your college essay: 2+2=4. Well, I simplified it a bit, but the concept is straightforward and quite uncomplicated: Come up with your topic, what you want to say and how you want to say it; peruse the five Common App prompts to see where it best fits; put the two together and you've got your essay.
Certainly easier said than done, but it's a reliable road map to success.
Writing in her Countdown to College column in the Charlotte Observer, Bierer, president of College Admissions Strategies, urges rising seniors to get started now.
"Their grades through junior year are set, and while they may be able to improve their test scores in the fall, it’s the essay where they can truly put the spotlight on their personality," she writes.
Step 1, she says, is brainstorming: Find a quiet place where you can think and write, away from distractions. Free-write some thoughts on different or defining moments you’ve had. Have you moved? Did you choose to become vegan? Ask yourself, “What do I want colleges to know about me?” This is a great time to think about what is important to you and how you have changed or matured over the last several years.
Step 2: Read the prompts and see where your writing fits. "Think beyond the literal interpretations for each prompt, i.e., something so central to your identity doesn’t have to be your race, family background or your socioeconomic level. It can be a value or a characteristic that truly defines who you are."
It's as simple as that.
Your college essay, according to The Princeton Review, is "a unique opportunity that can make a difference at decision time." Sure.
But the the test-preparation and college-admission services company doesn't pull any punches, either, in describing one of the biggest pitfalls rising seniors face when they begin (seriously) thinking about this daunting task.
"Admissions officers have to read an unbelievable number of essays, most of which are banal and forgettable," The Princeton Review writes on its College Essay page. "Many students try to sound smart rather than sounding like themselves. Others write about a subject that they don't care about, but that they think will impress admissions officers."
Don't fall into that trap.
"You don't need to have started a company or discovered a lost Mayan temple," the company writes. "Colleges are simply looking for thoughtful, motivated students who will add something to the freshman class."
Arnie Rosenberg is the founder of The Center for Essay Excellence. He writes regularly about college essays and their importance to the college-admission process. Contact him at Arnie.Rosenberg.Editor@gmail.com.
© 2014 The Center for Essay Excellence