It seems like to get into college these days students have to be involved in nearly everything: sports, debate team, internships, nonprofit volunteering, honor societies, part time jobs…the list of potential activities goes on. But how do you describe yourself adequately without breaking the cardinal rule of the college essay: Do Not Regurgitate Your Resume? Here’s a little metaphor to help break it down.
Imagine that all the different pieces of you are embodied in ingredients to your favorite meal. Your volunteering is the pasta, your creativity is the tomato, your leadership is the salt, that time you lost the championship game is the garlic…and so on. Now imagine that your college essay is the recipe and it has to tell the admissions officer, the cook, how to make your Mom’s famous spaghetti.
To make her sauce it is important to have the right proportions: how many tomatoes, how much salt and how much garlic? A list of ingredients is nothing without the amounts and neither is your application. Did you spend a year on a research project? Have you volunteered since you were in elementary school? Look to the length of your involvement for signs of character growth, project manifestation, and endurance.
Once you put the ingredients in the pot, you have to heat them up. You have to stir it to just the right temperature so that the scent fills the air around you. The circumstances of your involvement are important too. Did you finish the race despite all odds? Did you try something new? How did it change you? In what way did you interact with your environment to accomplish something?
Then there’s the secret ingredient, the one that Mom’s grandmother’s grandmother whispered in her ear years ago. It’s the ingredient that lets the sauce linger on your taste buds just a second longer so you can savor the taste. In your essay, it’s what creates the perfect picture of you. For me, it was sharing my biggest hopes and dreams, for you it might be describing the way your hands shook when you held the trophy, or the feeling of your first paycheck. It is something unchangeable, something only cultivated by a true connection between the reader and the writer.
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