The Personal Statement of the Common Application is the perfect place to discuss your accomplishments over the course of your high school years, right? From being named National Honor Society president to leading your school’s Key Club to playing three varsity sports, fitting as many accomplishments in the Personal Statement is the way to go. Right? Wrong, wrong, wrong. Accomplishments have zero place in the Personal Statement. In fact, accomplishments have zero place in any college admissions essay.
College admissions essays are not a place for you to brag about all that you’ve achieved in life. Who likes somebody who chooses to brag about their accomplishments? Nobody. Rather, college admissions essays are opportunities — incredible opportunities — to be a storyteller, to share a window into your world so admissions officers can find out what you’re all about and what makes you tick. They’re an opportunity to tell small stories, powerful stories that show your character and even your humor and personality. Being the president of your National Honor Society doesn’t impress anyone other than possibly your mommy and daddy. Who cares about National Honor Society. You think most students who get into Harvard aren’t members of their school’s National Honor Society? Being a member of your school’s National Honor Society is as meaningless as being named to the “Who’s Who” list. That should never, ever be on your application, by the way. Talk about meaningless!
Anyhow, we hope you get the idea to never brag in your college essays and instead choose to be a great storyteller. Share a narrative. Change the emotions of the admissions officer reading boring college essay after boring college essay about sports, grandpa, and that service trip to Guatemala in which you learned firsthand about poverty (you should absolutely avoid all of these topics, too). The best writing is — quite often — about nothing. Like the NBC show “Seinfeld.” That show was essentially about nothing. Good writing, too, can often be about nothing for in those small moments — not the big ones — one can glean a lot about who you are and what you’re all about.
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