She does a good job of summing up the importance of your college essay. It gives you the opportunity to show your real self, the "self" that admissions officers can't get from the factual responses that make up so much of your college application.
Braat recently took part in a Google+ Hangout conducted by U.S. News & World Report. Also taking part were Kasey Urquidez, dean of undergraduate admissions at the University of Arizona, and Katherine Cohen, CEO of educational consulting firm IvyWise.
"Be authentic. Be yourself," Urquidez advises. Use your essays to give examples "of ways you overcame something or something you've done that might set you apart.
"Remember, they're reading a lot of essays, so it's important to set yourself apart and not just recreate your resume," she said.
Watch the full video here:
Plenty of so-called experts -- yes, including me -- are eager to tell you all about your college essay: How to title it, how to organize it, how to write it and how to edit it. But what do we know anyway?
How about listening to a high school senior who's going through his essay struggles as you read this?
"You will not stand out if your grammar is so correct, and your narration so generic, that there’s no soul in the writing," says high school senior Paul Vedier, writing in the Times Union for the Albany (N.Y.)-area Journalism & Media Studies Program. "Colleges want to see you in that paper, so assess the essay as if it were a looking glass."
"Make sure that the quirky things about you, no matter how small, shine through the words," Vedier writes. "Hit them with this light, but don’t blind them with it. Treat it like looking at the sun in the sense that when someone looks at the sun they don’t get the chance to look for very long, and they don’t really see the whole sun, but they walk away from the experience going, ''Yeah, I got to witness that, and I wish I could see more.'”
Great analogies. And great advice.
OK, you put in all this work, but do colleges really read every essay they get?
They definitely do, according to Kim Lifton, president of WOW Writing Workshop.
"We talk to admissions officers all the time," says Lifton. "Public. Private. Small. Liberal arts. Ivy League. They would not ask you to write an essay if they were not going to read it."
She quotes Amy Hoffman, assistant director of admissions for Miami University of Ohio: “Last year we received 25,000 applications, and we read 25,000 essays.”
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.