On Being Yourself in College Essays

Be Yourself in College Essays, College Essay Advice, College Essay Help

Don’t be completely yourself in your college essays. Seriously.

You hear the old refrain a lot in life: Be yourself. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. They say it’s true on job interviews. They say it’s true in dating. And there are many within the college admissions community who say it’s also true in college essays. Want to know what we at Ivy Coach say? These people couldn’t be more wrong. On a job interview, it might be very “you” to show up in red flip-flops. But Ernst & Young is not going to give you a good evaluation on your case interview if you show up in red flip-flops. Neither will McKinsey. On a first date, it might be “you” to chew your food with your mouth open. It might be “you” to talk about all of your previous relationships. Wearing flip-flops won’t land you the coveted job. Chewing with your mouth open and talking about previous relationships won’t land you a mate.

So how does this relate to college essays? Well, most high school students aren’t all that  interesting. That’s right. We said it. There are too many kids out there who are doing the same things. Sure, many of them get great grades and great SAT scores. But that doesn’t make one interesting. Neither does being a member of Key Club or doing a service trip to Guam. Boring, boring, boring. More of the same. If it’s you to be boring, to write about the same thing that just about every other applicant to highly selective colleges is writing about in their college essays, then you should absolutely not be you.

Be someone else. Be another version of you. A better version. A more interesting version. A version of “you” that someone — namely an admissions officer at a highly selective college — might actually enjoy reading about. We’re not saying to write untruths. Don’t do that. That’s bad. Just figure out a way to showcase “you” without being 100% entirely yourself. Think of your college essay as a job interview in this way. Or a first date.

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