7 GREAT College Essay Tips to Help You Stand Out

hey Ethan saw your college essay guy

here I've spent the last I don't know 10

12 years thinking about college essays

and I'm boil down some of my most like

useful tips in this video and at the end

I'm gonna share with you two

exercises that I feel like can help

could you start it and set on the right

path so check it out number one don't

spend too much time obsessing over which

common app prompt to choose so I see

students doing this a lot they'll look

at the different prompts and they'll be

like mmm and they'll start obsessing

over like should I choose prompt 3 or

prompt 4 and I think that's actually not

a great idea for a couple reasons

first of all college admissions readers

don't super care when it comes to the

personal statement which prompt teachers

like they don't care if you're choosing

3 or 4 what they're interested in

knowing is number one can you write and

number two will you make valuable

contributions to their campus and if you

can answer those questions you're doing

great if you're really really wanting a

prompt I love the prompt describe the

world you come from and how its shaped

your dreams and aspirations and the

exercises that I'll talk about at the

end will help you answer that prompt

second and this is maybe the more

important reason thinking too much about

the prompt kind of puts you in the

headspace of what this mythical they

want and thinking about that to me is

kind of like trying to get you know

dressed for the day and you're like

picking out a shirt and you're like

should I wear a blue shirt cuz like

statistically more people like blue I

don't actually know if that's true by

the way or should I wear like a red

shirt cuz that's more like me

and so thinking about they I think it's

problematic the exercise that I'll talk

to about the end will help get you more

in really focus and focused on what you

have to bring to the table consider

being vulnerable in your personal

statement and what do I mean by

vulnerable I just mean that once the

reader has finished with your personal

statement they should not only know more

about you but they should actually feel

closer to you now you might be wondering

do I have to be vulnerable if I'm gonna

write a great essay is that like a

requirement not necessarily having said

that some of the most amazing essays

that I've read do you have a quality of

what I would call vulnerable and there

are actually many different ways of

being vulnerable so the first way is for

example to reveal something about

yourself that you feel like you might be

judged for some students in the past

have written about like mistakes that

they've made things that they wish they

could have taken

or details about their family that they

feel like you know might be stigmatized

and that's sort of like the most common

way but there are other ways to be

vulnerable for example if you reveal

something about yourself

that is like in conflict with another

part of yourself so let's say for

example you really enjoy stability and

you love routine and you have a bunch of

post-its or you've got like a

color-coded organizer that could show

certain values things are important to

you but you could also reveal that there

are ways that you're interested in in

spontaneity and adventure and like these

two things don't necessarily you know

work perfectly like sometimes these come

into tension that's what I'd call like a

productive tension and then maybe at the

end of the essay like you don't tie it

up with a neat little bow you end up

sort of leaving some of that ambiguity

that can be vulnerable especially to

like not wrap things up in a neat little

bow at the end of your essay a third way

to do it and this is one of my favorite

ways this is just like geeked out on

something that you're like a huge fan of

so if you love applied math talk to me

about like what it's like seeing the

world through applied math or through

physics or how is the world all able to

like connect back to chess or cupcakes

or this thing that you love that maybe

not everybody else loves and maybe you

know you feel some type of way about

that but vulnerability isn't the only

thing that I think you need to do in

your essay I think you should also

illuminate in other words give us

insight and another term that I use for

insight is so what moments so how do you

do this basically create an image or

give us an example in your personal

statement that shows some of your

personal qualities but one student that

I knew loved taking apart things in his

garage and is so what mom it was because

I believed that changing the threads on

the stitching of the seats can add a

personal touch and change a generic

product into a personalized work of art

so suddenly I go oh now I get another

like value of that like aesthetic

attention to detail is super important

to you as well the examples you give are

gonna show that you're able to be a

visual storyteller

able to be creative but those insights

those so what moments are gonna show

you're a critical thinker and I think

it's really important to be both next

engage the reader's imagination using

all five senses so what do I mean by

that the biggest photograph is that

my family sitting in front of the

fireplace drinking my brother's hot

cocoa and listening to the pitter-patter

of rain outside our window now just

listen to those awesome details so she

says the biggest photograph of course is

that of my family so we can kind of go

okay the biggest photograph obviously

your family's important to her the

biggest photograph is that of my family

sitting in front of the fireplace so now

we got the fireplace and we see we can

feel that warmth of the fireplace and

she says drinking my brother's hot cocoa

which gives us smell and gives us taste

and then she says and listening to the

pitter-patter of rain outside our window

so it like puts us in the environment

with her with her family huddled in

front of that fireplace and the three

details that she mentions the fireplace

brothers hot cocoa and the sound of rain

were all things that were in her essence

objects box which I'll talk to you in a

minute about the ending of your essay

should feel surprising but inevitable

what do I mean by that well there should

be something at the end that's somewhat

unexpected but it shouldn't be so

unexpected that it feels random it

should have some quality of

inevitability like we sort of saw it

coming like every great movie we've ever

seen to give you an example let's say

the ending of your essay is like you

want to become a doctor well don't say

that in like a thesis at the start of

your essay because it's gonna make for a

really boring essay right if you say

I've always wanted to become a doctor in

fact all my family were doctors and I

really loved anatomy class and I

volunteered at a hospital and that's why

I want to become a doctor it's like yeah

we know that cuz you said it at the

start right instead surprise us so

another student the one that I mentioned

who took things apart with his hand said

you know as a kid I was always curious

and I really loved taking things apart

with my hands and I also loved helping

others and I'm a you know I'm attentive

to aesthetic details and oh I also love

math and then he says you may think I

want to be an engineer which is kind of

where those headed but actually I want

to become a dentist and in some ways all

of these qualities curiosity helping

others working with hands attention to

detail will serve me in that future if

it on the other hand feels like it's too

obvious like oh they know exactly where

I was going then you'll need to pull out

some of those obvious details that lead

to your ending I'm a big believer that

your pre-work shouldn't feel like

pre-work like when you're beginning

those exercise

to start your application that's the

actual work of the application and here

are my two favorite exercises for

starting your application the first

one's called the essence objects

exercise and it only takes like 12

minutes and you can find how to do it in

the link below this video it involves

coming up with your essence objects so

what is an essence object well it's a

term I made up that basically involves

imagining in your head a box with these

objects each of which represents an

important memory an important

relationship or an important quality in

your life let me share with you one of

my essence objects so I have on my wrist

two bracelets and I'll tell you about

one of them this is a friendship

bracelet that my wife gave me she gives

me a friendship bracelet every year on

my birthday

and to me it represents our connection

she is indeed my best friend she

basically weaves it for me every year

and like ties it on my wrist and I can't

help but feel like when she's tying this

friendship bracelet on that like we are

remaking our connection another one

would be like North Carolina basketball

that represents my connection to my dad

growing up he played a lot of basketball

with me so that was like his love for me

for you it might be like a microphone

because that you know represents your

connection to singing or it could be

like a food that reminds you of your

grandmother you know for me that would

be like pork chops and lima beans

so in this exercise it's like I said

takes like 10 minutes you basically

create what I call like a menu of

potential essay topics and they're

useful for describing the world you come


because I really feel like your personal

statement should give a sense of the

world you come from and how those have

shaped your dreams and aspirations so in

terms of your dreams and aspirations

this next exercise the values exercise

is going to help you get in touch with

what's important to you and why it's

important to you and how it manifests in

your life so the values exercise which

you can also find in the link below

basically involves choosing your top 10

values in like three to four minutes and

then giving a quick example at least in

your mind of how that value manifests

itself in your life having a sense of

what values will carry with you into the

future can actually be really useful and

really empowering hope you enjoyed this

video if you liked it give me a little

like little thumbs up I'd appreciate it

you can subscribe for more videos you

can also find a link to my free guide to

the personal statement below and

for more go to college sa guy calm