Meet our College Essay Coach
Hello everyone! I’m Alice Choi, a college essay coach for MEK. As a self-declared bibliophile and cinephile, I spend most of my free time nestled in bed reading books or watching films. When I do choose to leave the comforts of my home, I enjoy visiting art museums near and far. As for books, if I had to pick a favorite, I am particularly drawn to the bildungsroman genre for the journey into adulthood, which is somewhat ephemeral but also melancholically beautiful.
My affinity towards the genre is also a reason why I enjoy helping students with their admission essays. For it is always exciting to learn about my student’s interests and personality and help translate all of it into their writing.
Do you have an extracurricular you are passionate about? If so, here are 3 do’s and 3 don’ts to follow in order to improve your college application essay.
#1. DON’T Appear one-dimensional
When writing about your extracurricular activities, it is easy to focus on what the admissions office wishes to read or on your intellectual pursuits. After all, you are applying to study at the university, so maybe they would appreciate someone studious: someone whose passion is higher education. However, extracurricular essays exist for the sake of showing the readers a different perspective of who you are. So by focusing on your intellectual pursuits, you appear one-dimensional and your essay becomes expendable. Readers can see your intellect through your resume and GPA.
#2. DON’T write sudden epiphanies
Many students write about extracurriculars as epiphanic episodes. For example, “As I was volunteering at X organization, I just knew, I found my passion.” Did you really have a singular “aha” moment when you realized you were passionate about your extracurricular? Although epiphanies do occur in our daily lives, reducing your thought process to just an epiphany is not as effective as explaining why that particular event was so memorable. Readers wish to read about your thought process, and whether or not the event brought forth self-reflections and self-betterment.
#3. DON’T summarize or list your accomplishments
So what if you’re passionate about all of your extracurriculars? Should you write about everything?
No. Pick one.
By listing and summarizing all of your wonderful accomplishments, you are just regurgitating your resume. By focusing on one singular activity, you are not diminishing the amount of work you did, but rather you are highlighting the aspects of your character and personality, the readers might not otherwise know of. For more guidance on how to narrow down topics for your essay, check out this blog on the brainstorming process.
#1. DO be detailed and genuine
When writing about your passions, it is important to be detailed and in doing so, you will be able to reflect your genuine interest in the activity. You want to show the reader why this event was so memorable rather than telling them it was. The more detailed your essay, the more passionate you appear to the readers. For example which one sounds more interesting and genuinely passionate?
Example 1: “During my summers, I studied at a lab researching pancreatic cancer cells. The research was repetitive, and it taught me the importance of hard work and dedication. I was excited when I saw all my hard work drawn up in neat graphs at the end of my research.”
Example 2: “As I conducted my fiftieth experiment on pancreatic cancer cells, I hoped that it would be my final test. Throughout summer, I had a set routine the moment I entered the lab: suit up, test and record, and clean. repeat. It was repetitive and often times inconclusive, but I enjoyed every moment. For there is nothing but content satisfaction when you see all of your experiments summed up in graphics that proved the professor’s hypothesis. My experiments were forever enshrined as little dots on the line graphs.”
Clearly the second example is more compelling. (For more tips on how to “show, not tell” in your writing, click here)
#2. DO focus on the skills you developed
Again the purpose of this essay is to show a different aspect of who you are. What did you gain from your extracurriculars? Are these values unique to that activity? Many students have similar extracurriculars, so it is important to stand out, and you can do so by providing a creative take to the skills you developed.
For example, if you wish to write about basketball, rather than focusing on the predictable skillset of dedication and teamwork, maybe focus on the personal integrity necessary to make the team into a unit or on the amount of discomfort you put your body through to be a better player. The more creative you are, the more you will stand out to the readers.
#3. DO provide a mic drop
So you wrote about your passions and about the unpredictable skills developed from the extracurricular. Now what?
Now, tie it all together.
Why are all your details and all the unique skills you developed so important to you? Why did you focus on this particular extracurricular? What insights and reflections can you share with the reader? In doing so, it is also important to amaze your reader one final time.
When concluding your essay, imagine yourself reading the last sentence to an audience. Could you proceed with a mic drop? You want your reader to be amazed at your accomplishments, your dedication and concluding with a strong sentence will only benefit you.
Ms. Alice out.
Want more expert tips?
If you want expert guidance on crafting strong college application essays from start to finish, sign up to work one-on-one with me or one of my fellow expert essay coaches through our Application Essay Writing Program.