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Secrets of the College Application Essay Process #4

What is the admissions officer really looking for? What is the true point of the essay?

Not understanding the true point of the essay.

I can touch my nose with my tongue: What makes your teen unique and not like every other student who is applying?

When I was five, I was abducted by aliens:  What life experiences imply that your teen will fit in academically and socially?

Read between the lines: What do you really mean by that? There is a sub-text to every essay. A girl is the youngest in her family and relies on her older sisters for help until they leave for college. Now the only child home, she is forced for the first time in her life to be independent and solve problems without her sisters’ help. This tells the admissions officer that she can be self-sufficient and has clearly matured.

The point here is to demonstrate the human qualities developed and honed through life experience.

  • Is this student independent yet a team player?
  • Is this student an extrovert? (Shy is okay, reclusive is probably a red flag…a misanthrope is destined to have a show on Fox News).
  • Does this student seem to have a sense of humor?
  • Will this student handle failure or rejection well or will he be up on the clock tower with an automatic weapon?
  • Will this student add to the community? (He loves to bake cookies….she loves playing touch football…he is really into Angry Birds….she turns mathematical equations into rap lyrics).
  • What kind of character does he seem to have?
  • What are her personal beliefs? (Other than the clichés of hard work, diligence, etc).


Randy Levin has a MA in English and a MFA in Creative Writing. He is a published writer and was a high school English teacher in high achieving North Shore Long Island school districts for close to ten years. He works with students on their college application essays through his company: Persuasive Writing Services. The vast majority of his clients are accepted to the Ivy League or other prestigious colleges.



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