Personality Flaw or Personality Draw?

Chronicling your life challenges is the key to the college application process.

CLASSY+ART--Seniors+Hannah+Seratte+and+Gracen+Russell%2C+both+AP+Art+students%2C+decorate+the+Class+of+22+Signing+Wall+in+the+library.+It+will+be+enough+of+the+college+experience+away+from+home+for+me%2C+said+Seratte%2C+who+plans+to+attend+university+in-state%2C+but+I+can+still+travel+easily+to+see+family.+Last+year%2C+93+percent+of+the+DM+graduating+Class+of+2021+attended+post-secondary+education+%2873+percent+attended+university+and+20+percent+a+two-year+institution%29%2C+according+to+Ms.+Dorsch%2C+DMs+college+and+career+counselor.+

CLASSY ART–Seniors Hannah Seratte and Gracen Russell, both AP Art students, decorate the Class of 22 Signing Wall in the library. “It will be enough of the college experience away from home for me,” said Seratte, who plans to attend university in-state, “but I can still travel easily to see family.” Last year, 93 percent of the DM graduating Class of 2021 attended post-secondary education (73 percent attended university and 20 percent a two-year institution), according to Ms. Dorsch, DM’s college and career counselor.

Cierra Johnson, Opinion Editor

PERSPECTIVE

What a college application sees: I volunteered at the Shea hospital over the summer.

What a college application won’t see: Working with hundreds of people can cause a variety of consequences. Fluent in Spanish, I could translate. I could translate anything. 

Even when what is translated is a wheelchair-bound patient laughing at me to her husband about how I acted like it was my first day–which it was.

Obviously, we can’t include every detail of our 18 years on Earth into an application. However, between two students with identical resumes, the common app essay can shift the scales.

Forging a personal connection between you and the college admissions officer tips this balance. Instead of seeing a transcript and a few notable achievements, admissions officers will view you as well-rounded with potential to join them on campus. While our grades and clubs are undeniably important, the personal essay establishes our character. Are you the type to bite back in Spanish at the woman I pushed in a wheelchair, or the type to make her more comfortable in her surgical process by staying quiet? 

Obviously, we can’t include every detail of our 18 years on Earth into an application. However, between two students with identical resumes, the common app essay can shift the scales.”

— Cierra Johnson

Yes, capturing your identity in a page worth of writing is intimidating. 

“My common app essay is about how my Chinese dress reshaped my perspective on my culture,” says Esther Low (12). “I’m struggling to keep my essay down to the word count because I feel like describing my culture is hard to keep down to 650 words.” 

Every single word in our paper must have a purpose, and by condensing the material to maximize the quality out of a small quantity can help encapsulate your identity. Ask yourself, will my essay work without this sentence? Cut out meaningless words until all that is left is your raw truth. 

Ask yourself: Will my essay work without this sentence? Cut out meaningless words until all that is left is your raw truth. ”

— Cierra Johnson

Easier said than done. And, as you know, everyone (parents, teachers, even your uncle who dropped out) has advice. Here’s some of the best I’ve heard:

The easiest approach to conveying your personality is choosing a theme or story in which you face a hill to climb. The hill can be big-picture (preparation for a career, struggles to develop your identity), or it can be short term (a problem during a trip, a school event, an injury). For my college essay, I initially felt no one story could fully represent me, yet ultimately, I focused on a speech about the theory of consciousness I delivered my junior year for Project Captivate, DM’s TED talk forum. My own hill was expressing the difficult concepts I had researched and understanding how it applies to me personally. 

From this focal point, allow the story to reveal other aspects of your personality. Yes, it sucked you tore your ACL, but maybe you were able to isolate your core values through weeks on the sidelines, or beat your injury through hard work and dedication. 

There’s pressure to be accomplished, wildly unique, and have your crap together.

“My common app essay is about a blanket and I feel like it’s stupid,” said senior Julia Lange. “I feel like it’s not good enough.”

But a good essay is not limited to purely concrete events. Taking an abstract, symbolic approach can even make admissions officers pay closer attention. Focus more on revealing your decision-making skills, personal values, incentive for development, and aspirations through whatever theme feels right for you. A superficial object, such as a blanket, can hold a personal meaning worth pursuing. 

That way, the college will see more than just a resume. They’ll see a person worth exploring.