Personal Essay: Show Your Best Traits

When it comes to applying for college, the personal essay can be the element that makes the difference between getting in to the college of your dreams and not getting in.

This is the one place on the college application where you can show off who you really are and make that final impression on admission counselors to assure them that you belong at their institution.

Which is why, probably, it also becomes the most stressful aspect.

When I think back to all those years ago (well, four years ago) that I was applying for college, I remember stressing over what I was going to write on my essay for weeks. I was lucky enough to be in a college preparatory class where we were given successful ideas to use on our essay like talking about a meaningful event in our lives or something that we overcame in the past.

Problem was, I didn’t feel like there was anything significant in my life that I had to talk about. I was a high school senior with a very boring life and probably the most exciting thing I had to talk about was my borderline obsession with Harry Potter. (Which has totally gone away now. Really. I don’t have a problem).

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It wasn’t until I was reaching crunch mode a few days before the assignment was due (they just seem to sneak up on you don’t they?) that it finally hit me what I should write about. As a student athlete, I played on the varsity field hockey team at my school, making little impact as a goal-scorer but enjoying the camaraderie and dedication that was required as being a part of the team. While I overlooked this area of my life at first because of the fact that I’m no stellar athlete, there is one aspect of my field hockey career that I could write about to help me stand out.

Let me mention just one more time for the record that I am not a natural-born athlete. When I first started playing field hockey in middle school, my timed mile was around ten minutes, I tripped over the ball more often than I hit it and I most often played in the position where I stood in the back and attempted to stop people. Fast-forward to JV where they expect you to, you know, play well, I was hit with a major blow when I was cut from the team. I was devastated, but I was offered the manager position and decided to accept. While still I practiced with the team and participated in all the bonding, I missed out on actually playing in the games.

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After spending a year as manager practicing with the team, I continued to improve my skills and when it came time to try out for the varsity level I made it on the team. While in the past I saw my participation as manager to be a small, even embarrassing event in my life, looking back I realized it was a strong example that showcased my perseverance, dedication and the ability to improve my skills. It was at this point that I came up with the topic of my personal essay. These traits that I learned throughout my field hockey career are exactly what colleges are looking for when deciding which applicants will be a good fit for their school, beyond the simple test scores and grades. That’s the reason why I chose this area of my life to talk about in my personal essay.

So, what’s the moral here? While you might be struggling to come up with what to write about on your college application, think of something in your life that showcases the traits you want colleges to know about you. It doesn’t have to be an earth-shattering event or something that changed you forever. Think of what you’re good at and an example of how you want to show it will likely come to you with ease. At the end of the day, college admissions want to get to know you so make sure you show that to the best of your ability in your personal essay.