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Meet Jessica Peyton Roberts, who is a talented and enthusiastic private college admissions consultant from Tacoma, Washington. Roberts, of Aim High Writing College Consulting, recently wrote a comprehensive guide for students and parents called Navigating the College Application Process.

In her ebook, she has a chapter on writing the college application essay, and graciously allowed me to share part of her sage advice.

I talk a lot in this blog and my guide books about how to find and share your personal stories, usually in the form of an anecdote, to bring your narrative-style essays to life and reveal part of who you are.

 Although Roberts has her own unique approach to writing these essays, she shares my love of real-life stories to illustrate your personality and character. In this part of her book, Roberts, an alum of both Notre Dame and Harvard, revealed how she found and leveraged her own story.

 

Here’s an excerpt from the chapter titled “Writing the Competitive Application Essay”:

STEP 2: WHAT STORY DO YOU WANT TO USE TO ILLUSTRATE WHO YOU ARE?
Step 1 is about figuring out what you want to come out about you to the reader through your essay.

 

In my college essay, I wanted to show the admissions committee that I was prepared to succeed at their school because of my personal traits of resilience in the face of the unknown, adaptability to new situations, and comfort with diverse sets of people and environments.

Step 2 is picking the story or anecdote that illustrates the development of these personal traits, interests, and qualities over time.

I chose to discuss how my family moved several times prior to me applying for college, including to places out of the United States. I learned a little French while I was living in Canada, and a lot more Spanish when I did half of high school in Costa Rica. I also wove in my Native American heritage and standing as a member of the Cherokee nation.

 

This narrative about moving allowed me to talk about how I learned to be comfortable in new and sometimes difficult situations, picked up language skills along the way, and had a proven record of succeeding academically even while adapting to new learning environments.

 

Get it? Your story is really meant to be a prism through which the applications committee can view various aspects of your background and personality as preparing you to be a good fit at their school. 

 

“The single most important component of any application is the (college application) essay. Your ability to effectively communicate your qualifications, personality, and aspirations is what stands to set you apart from your competitors.” Jessica Peyton Roberts