Everyone is looking for that magic topic for their college application essay that will help them jump out from the essay pile, and shout, “Yes, that’s me!”

I’ve written a lot about how you can go about landing on that unique topic.

Here’s one way to see if you have found it or not.

In my mind, you want to be the student who writes an essay that captures something original, unexpected or poignant about yourself, which an admissions officer would then use to dub you with a related phrase.

What does that mean?

I picture these mysterious admissions folks gathered in a room, stained coffee mugs, a Starbucks cup and Twizzlers (maybe Red Bull later in the season) on the table next to the stacks of applications.

They pick up one folder and read an essay.

(I’ve heard that the average amount of time one of these officers spends on one application is eight minutes. Who knows if that’s true, but I bet it’s in the ball park. I also heard they read an average of 1,000 essays a piece. You get the idea.)

Anyway, it comes time to thin the pile.

This is where I believe you might hear those little catch phrases where they refer to applicants by their essay topics or new nicknames. I listed some recent topics my students wrote about–these are all great ones, btw–and how I envision each applicant would be dubbed.

I believe that if you are dubbed at all, and especially if with a catchy phrase, that is a GOOD THING.

My point is that after you write an essay, think how the reader would dub you in ten words or less.

If something memorable or catchy jumps out, chances are you have a winning college application essay.

Here are some examples:

One student wrote about his passion for collecting things people didn’t want.

He started with the time he found a rusty, discarded trampoline by the side of the road, and how he talked his friends into lugging it home with him.

“How about that kid who collected junk?”

One student wrote about how he loved tying knots, but got stuck in a tree when one of his knots tightened on him.

“How about that kid who got stuck in the tree?”

One student wrote about her wide hips, and how she noticed everyone in her family had the same shape.

“How about that girl with the wide hips?”

One student wrote about how he learned to love taking the public bus since he didn’t have a car to get to his summer job.

“How about that kid who loved taking the bus?”

One student wrote about how he took up wrestling because he was short and picked on and wanted to prove himself.

“How about that kid who needed to prove himself wrestling?”

One student wrote about how other kids were afraid of him because he was 6-feet-7-inches and weighed 300 pounds. “How about that giant kid who didn’t like that people were scared of him?

One student wrote how he liked baking cakes for his fellow water polo players.

“How about that nice water polo kid who liked to bake cakes?”

Notice I didn’t list any of these kids:

“How about that kid who felt perfectly content hanging out in nature?” Who doesn’t?

“How about that kid who won the state basketball tournament?” Who cares?

“How about that kid who had a meaningful Bar Mitzvah?” Are you kidding?

“How about the kid who tore his ACL?” On no. Not another ACL?

If you noticed, all of these monikers could also include the words, “Can you believe it?” or “How ’bout that?,” almost as if they were surprised or amused by what they read.

There’s a reason for that response.

The students all picked mundane and unexpected topics and told little stories about problems they faced, wrestled with and learned from.

Find your little story and chances are you will get dubbed “that kid who … “, too.

And that’s exactly what you want!

Have any questions or comments? Let me know in the comments box. I LOVE to hear from you!