COVID has been the “great disruptor” of the college application journey.
In 2020, quarantined students experienced an abrupt halt to most extracurriculars, internships and summer jobs as well as college tours, information sessions and interviews.
However, Test Optional (TO) was perhaps the biggest game-changer in the college admission process, as an unprecedented number of students no longer had to submit SAT/ACT scores and were suddenly empowered to apply to competitive schools they used to deem out of reach.
The result? Soaring 2021 applications numbers and waitlists that scroll around the block and show little signs of moving.
Looking ahead to the 2021/22 cycle for rising seniors, the personal statement (a.k.a. The College Essay) will be an especially useful piece of information for college admissions teams, since scores and robust activity lists might be absent from a student’s application.
How do these findings impact students when drafting their essays? Here are three suggestions:
Authenticity vs. Hyperbole
Students should focus on showing admissions readers WHO they are, conveying feelings and emotions about their subject matter instead of telling those readers HOW great they are. In a time when students haven’t had the chance to participate in many activities, “digging deep” to express both their vulnerabilities and strengths will result in an essay that’s placed in the YES pile instead of the NO one.
Ingenuity vs. Accomplishments
As mentioned above, during the pandemic, most students experienced an end to not only their classroom experiences and daily interactions but also their arts, sports, community service and social lives. Service trips, summer camps, jobs, athletic commitments, fine/performing arts shows, robotics competitions, debates — cancelled. How did students make lemonade out of lemons? Did they learn how to bake a pie? Play the flamingo guitar? Did they read all of Jane Austen? Did they make TikTok dance videos with their pod? Did they paint their bedrooms like an aquarium? Writing about an interesting use of unexpected free time will reveal both a student’s creativity as well as resiliency.
Entertain vs Bore
Application numbers are up, which means this is NOT the season to put admissions deans to sleep. Elements of craft, including a strong point of view and tone of voice, can make or break a student’s ability to stave off a reader’s “tired eyes” syndrome. Make readers smile not snooze.