How Your College Essay is Like Your Face

It’s that time when many HS Seniors are thinking about writing and revising their college essays.  Some believe that the essay must stand out and be different so that the reader remembers them.  Others feel the need to show a certain kind of perfection and intensity in their essays so they write, re-write, edit and edit again. Still others write it at the last possible moment without giving it any editing in the hopes that they will make the submission deadline. Here’s the thing, the college essay is kind of like your face to the Admissions committee and you should show them your best face.

What do Admissions officers do?

Admissions officers spend weeks and months on the road looking for applicants and trying to find good matches for the school they represent.  Then these individuals feel like they almost hibernate for the winter because they are reading hundreds of applications during reading season.  Some big schools like the Iowa public institutions, simply plug in the numbers to see if an applicant will be admitted.  (See the Iowa Regent Index.) However, most smaller sized schools will have at least 2 readers for each application and their readers determine if a student should be admitted.  These readers look at hundreds and hundreds of essays.  Guess what? They spend maybe 10 minutes on each application which means each essay is just getting a few minutes of their time.  It’s almost impossible for a student essay to stand out in a positive way.  Most Admissions folk are reading about the same topics over and over again whether it’s the student’s service trip oversees or a lesson in failure from losing a sports game. It’s best for most students to leave this notion of being “memorable” or “unforgettable” behind because it’s often an impossible goal.

Is your face and your college essay unique?

Let’s think back to your face for a moment.  Each of us has a one-of-a-kind face, just like each of us has a unique writing style and something to say.  However, if you look at hundreds of faces a day, then no one face might strike you and stay with you for very long.  The point here is that your essay does convey something unique because each of us is an individual.  There is no need to try so hard to make that essay stand out from the rest because given who are, your essay is already special. Just be yourself and write about something important to you!

Can you overdo the college essay and your face?

I am sure you have seen those people with so much make up on that you don’t recognize them without the make-up.  You need to make a true and honest representation of yourself in your essay.  You don’t want anyone to come back and say that your essay doesn’t sound like you or that someone else wrote your essay!  Again, be true to who you are and show the Admissions office that side without overdoing it.

Don’t show an ill-kempt face!

Would you roll out of bed and show up at the door of an interview? I hope not!  Hopefully, you have showered and tried to make yourself look like your best self before an interview.  The same thing applies to your essay.  Don’t write it at the last minute and let it be full of grammatical mistakes and typos.  Admissions officers are assuming they are seeing the best of you because you want to be admitted.  Having a poorly written essay will only show them that you don’t care.  This is not good grounds for being admitted.  So, take some time on crafting your essay.

What does a good college essay have?

At the end of the day, your essay should be well-written, personal, and engaging.  It should show part of you that might not show in any other part of your application or it could highlight something meaningful to you personally.  You are highlighting a positive part of your personality that will show you are a good match for the school you are applying to and want to attend.  Finally, you are articulating something about your values because that is an essential part of who you are as a person.  Yes, all of this is much easier said than done!

Need more help?

Personally, I love the College Essay Guy. He has tons of great free material to get you started on your essay.  If you want a personal brainstorming and/or review of your college essay, please contact our academic team at My College Planning Team.  We would love to help you articulate your ideas and show your best “face” in the Admissions process.



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