by Writing Focused
College App Essays
I avoided writing about how to brand yourself with these college application essays for years now. The thought of branding sounded crass and commercial.
Truth is, applying to college is a giant sales job. And these admissions essays are your sales pitch. You are selling yourself.
And as all marketers know, the best way is to brand yourself.
What is a brand? It’s effectively an image or message that sums up what you are all about, at your essence. Think McDonald’s Golden Arches, or the Nike “Swoosh,” or the Twitter blue bird, or Apple’s, well, apple.
When you see their logos, you instantly know what they represent. They jump out at you, and you will never forget them, even if you want to.
An effective college application essay does the same thing as these brands but instead of using images and catch phases, they let you use about 500-650 words on average to make your mark.
The very best ones, however, are those that work exactly like a name brand.
One–they pop. That is, what you have to say jumps off the page at the reader, grabs their attention at the start and makes them care about what they are reading.
Two–they sum up what you stand for, at your core. Maybe it’s your quirky sense of humor, or your tendency toward perfectionism, or your commitment to social justice. A strong essay reveals something about your personality and character — both your individual style in the world (personality) and what you care about the most (character).
Three–they are memorable. A great essay leaves an impression that is hard to forget. After reading your essay, a college admissions officer should be able to recall your essay with a simple phrase or sentence when describing it to others. They should be able to call out or refer to your essay (and application) by saying something like this: “How about that girl who smiled too much?” or “Remember the kid who was obsessed with rollercoasters?” or “Let’s talk more about the student who always spilled coffee at Duncan Donuts.” (I have an entire post on this idea of making a lasting impression in How Will the Dub You.)
Four–keep your message sharp and focused. Notice that a powerful brand usually says, actually shouts, only one thing. And that one thing represents everything it stands for. In your essays, the best tip for branding yourself is to say ONE main point about yourself, and then expand upon that idea. You can’t tell a college everything in one short essay, so you must pick one core part of yourself to showcase. This is how you keep your essay focused and on point, just like a name brand. This post about The Main Point of Your College App Essay will teach you exactly how to do this.
How do you brand yourself with your college app essay? Write a good one!
An effective essay will check many boxes, just like a powerful name brand. It will help differentiate you from others, it will convey what you stand for (what you care about) and it will be hard to ignore or forget.
Like creating a name brand, writing an essay that captures who you are at your core takes research, imagination, courage and practice.
Here are some of my best posts I have written to get you on your way: