At a party last evening, I met a university student who is interning for a friend. I told the intern that I am a College Application Coach and one of the high school students I’m working with is applying to the exact university and program where he is enrolled. I asked about the intern’s college application essays, specifically what was the theme of his Common Application personal statement. Yes, I knew this was one of many essays the intern had written years ago.
This is a fun icebreaker question, especially when meeting college students at a party – try it yourself sometime. Many people remember the theme of their college admissions personal statement essay. It turns out that the question the intern answered had the theme of a lesson learned from a failure or obstacles. The student told me a quick synopsis of the essay, and we instantly bonded. Obviously he was successful in his application and in life.
With five prompts to choose from, only 17% of applicants write on the Common Application Question #2, the ‘lesson learned from failure’ question. This question allows students to write reflectively, to beautifully rise above life’s circumstances, and demonstrate proof in the pudding by moving forward.
My advice to students is to write a draft essay on Question #2. After the brave first draft, read the prompt again and make sure that you answered the question, specifically the part about learning from experience. Before submitting your essay, show your draft to someone who will be somewhat critical of your writing to get feedback on how clearly you communicated your ideas.
Michelle Machiele, mother of four, provides college admissions coaching and application advice. From her 2015-2016 students, 100% attend the college of their choice and 30% received generous scholarships. (This is the second blog in a series on Common Application personal statement essays.)