Log In
Get Started

Defining Moments: Answering College Greenlight Scholars Application Essay #1

by Carol Barash, PhD, on Oct 5, 2016 6:29:15 PM


Tell us a story about yourself that is key to understanding who you are today and reveals aspects of who you want to become in college and life. This could be a moment when you changed, grew or made a difference or an everyday moment that reveals something people count on you for.

This is your “go to” essay, a story you can tell in almost any situation--in college applications, internship and job applications, you name it!

 A Defining Moment story shows the reader a specific moment when you faced a challenge, took action or learned something new. The Story2 EssayBuilder™--which is free for Greenlight Scholars--teaches you, step by step, how to complete a variety of college essays, including Defining Moments.

Students have a variety of misconceptions about college admission essays: they imagine they have to “show off” their accomplishments, or “highlight” themselves overcoming extraordinary odds to achieve something heroic, or--worst of all--they fear that nothing they have done is “good enough” to get into college.

Colleges look for three things in your essay:

  • a unique perspective;
  • strong writing; and
  • an authentic voice.

The Defining Moment essay allows you to take any moment of your life and turn it into a powerfully written admissions essay in your own voice.

Most of us talk about ourselves  in broad, general terms that apply to many people. Instead, it’s much better to focus in on one or two moments that reveal your character by showing your unique perspective and point of view. To answer this question, you don’t need to use a big, heroic Superman moment. Everyday moments that show you being yourself often make more powerful essays because they feel real.

Remember: whatever story you’re telling--and whatever college essay question you are answering--it needs to be told in your own voice, from your unique point of view. So you need to do the work yourself.

Here are three steps to completing a great Defining Moment essay in your own voice:

    • Find lots of great stories using the 10 x 10 exercise: Imagine your life--from the moment you were born up until today--as a series of moments. Make a list of 10 moments that changed you: moments when there is a clear before and after. And then for each of those 10 moments, list 10 smaller moments that make up each of them.
    • Pick one of the moments from the 10 x 10 and tell your story out loud--to your friends if possible--and record it on your phone or with the Story2 EssayBuilder, which is free for Greenlight Scholars.
    • Use Story2 EssayBuilder™ (free for Greenlight Scholars) to transform your spoken story, step by step, into a written essay.

Save your list of Defining Moments to explore further as you complete other admissions and scholarship essays and to continue your journey to college.

This blog is part of a series to help students complete the Greenlight Scholars application essays originally published on We invite you to use Story2 EssayBuilder™ -- free for Greenlight Scholars -- to plan, organize and complete all your admission and scholarship essays.

Start Your College Greenlight Application

Image via

Topics:college admission