Some Advice for Essays on Applications

Today I visited a high school class in Paraguay via Zoom to talk about writing personal essays for the college application. What a thrilling time to connect with brilliant students and offer my favorite prompts for their portfolios of personal essays. We enjoyed talking about these prompts based on what I hear people caring about most on the college campus: curiosity and human flourishing. So I asked these questions:

What is the story of how you first became curious about something and your process of learning more about it? 

What do you do every day to improve your own well-being?

What do you think helps people belong? When did you feel like you really belonged somewhere? How will you help others belong in college? 

I also had everyone finish this sentence: “When I’m a student in college, I intend to add to campus life by________________.” It works as a variation of my favorite Name Game question of “What changes when you enter a room?” In other words, what changes on the college campus with you there? 

In the past 25 years, I’ve helped with hundreds (if not a thousand) of college, graduate school, internship, and job applications. I shared with students my insights into the current trends on campus to care deeply about belonging and human flourishing. I also shared my best tip of all: Tell a college (or job) why they need you, not why you need them. Tell them how you will add value and contribute to the goals of an organization and not what the organization must do for you. 

I loved connecting with younger students at the beginning of their college journey.

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