3. Be an individual. In writing the essay, ask yourself, "How can I distinguish myself from those thousands of others applying to College X whom I don't know—and even the ones I do know?" It's not in your activities or interests. If you're going straight from high school to college, you're just a teenager, doing teenage things. It is your mind and how it works that are distinctive. How do you think? Sure, that's hard to explain, but that's the key to the whole exercise.
Alice falls down the rabbit hole. Milo drives through the tollbooth. Dorothy is swept up in the tornado. Neo takes the red pill. Don’t tell us about another world you’ve imagined, heard about, or created. Rather, tell us about its portal. Sure, some people think of the University of Chicago as a portal to their future, but please choose another portal to write about.
That’s where an excellent scholarship application essay becomes a necessity and the key to winning the money. The scholarship essay provides the scholarship committee an opportunity to learn more about the individual behind the application, and gives them a much more detailed look at your student’s school and home life. Additionally, the essay is your child’s greatest chance to shine and make their case for why they should be awarded the scholarship.
Overall, this prompt is what we at College Essay Advisors call a “choose-your-own-adventure” prompt. It has historically served as a fabulous catch-all for subjects that don’t fit within the confines of the other prompt options. A recent addition to the Common App’s prompt selection now offers even more freedom to applicants (more on that later), but students should still think of Prompt #1 as a topic of immense choice, reeled in by a few helpful guidelines.
Be sure to describe the event or experience that caused you to realize the gravity of the problem, the specific actions you took to plan or execute your solution (i.e., call sponsors, raise money, design graphics, speak at events), explain why solving your problem is so critical, and identify the tangible change your solution would bring to people’s lives. For example, if you care deeply about drug education because of a past experience with a friend or family member, you could outline a plan to bring young-adult speakers to your school to positively influence your peers and stress the real dangers of drugs.
In September 2017 I participated in the HOSA Washington Leadership Conference where 400 officers from all the states learned strategies to improve our leadership skills. These interactive workshops included topics on self-motivation, problem-solving skills, managing others, and professionalism. I collaborated with representatives from many different states in preparation for our meeting with our political leaders both from the House of Representatives and the Senate to discuss with them the value of Career & Technical Education. We explored and presented evidence regarding the importance of funding for these types of educational opportunities. Upon completion of this conference I reported back to the local Board of Education sharing my experiences and the success of our meetings. Both of these conferences taught me what it takes to be successful in healthcare.
However, don’t rely on templates too strongly. The template is there as an aid to your creativity, not a restriction. Use the sample college admission essay template as a scaffolding to build the rest of your essay around, rather than a fence to keep your thoughts contained. College admissions officers see hundreds of essays every year, and you do yourself no favors if you adhere slavishly to a template that the officers have seen before. Depart from the sample essay for college admission whenever you feel that it would improve your essay.