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Finding Meaningful Moments for Coalition Application Essays

by Will Geiger, on Sep 12, 2016 11:50:24 AM

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It was 2 a.m. and I was sitting in my office laughing uncontrollably. No, there was no need to be concerned about my wellbeing. I was laughing because of the essay I was reading. As a freshly minted admissions counselor at Kenyon College, I was in the thick of my first “reading season”, a caffeine fueled marathon, where I read a few thousand applications and evaluated prospective students for admission to Kenyon.

The essay in question was written by Mary from a suburban town in Tennessee. The actual essay topic was pretty simple, she wrote about driving home from school. The essay was wickedly hilarious as Mary made observations from the driver’s seat. I felt like I was taken out of my office and put into Mary’s world for a few minutes. The essay was the lynchpin for everything and sealed the deal for her as an admit.

This scene would repeat itself many times over the next four years that I worked in admissions. Some essays would inspire me, others would leave me in awe, and some would honestly make me cry. The essay is sometimes the only opportunity for students to speak directly to the admissions reader, so needless to say it is a very important part of the admissions process. In fact, the essay is probably the most important part of the process aside from grades and test scores.

This year, many students will be using the new Coalition Application. Each Coalition Application essay asks students to tell stories by either reflecting on a specific moment experience or moment. Download a brief guide that we created to help you conquer the Coalition Application.

Download My Guide

So what makes for exceptional Coalition Application essays?

What do students like Mary do so well that helps them stand out in an increasingly competitive process? I mentioned that Mary’s essay took me out of my office and put me into Mary’s world when I read it. That is the power of the essay and storytelling, which is the “secret sauce” to the essay writing process.

Humans are storytelling beings. Stories are how we authentically connect with one another. When someone tells you a story, you can’t help but connect it to your own life and your memories, emotions, and compassion.

This is why at Story2, we are all about harnessing the power of storytelling in the writing process. The system that we use is called the Moments Method® and is a fantastic framework for helping students tell the best stories. The Moments Method® is a four-step process:

Step 1: Find A Moment helps you identify moments that reveal your character strengths.

Step 2: Tell It Out Loud teaches you how to use your spoken voice to explore those moments and create personal connection with the people reading your essay.

Step 3: Map It shows you how to structure your essays with a clear sense of purpose and direction.

Step 4: Focus Out gives you strategies to edit your essay, sentence by sentence, to engage the reader in your point of view.

This is exactly what Mary did in her essay as she honed in on a specific time she drove home from school. She was able to connect this to her sense of humor, creativity, and observant nature. All of this resulted in a powerful essay that connected with her admissions reader. A great tool to familiarize yourself with the Moments Method® and get started on your Coalition Application essays is with the EssayBuilder™ tool.

Perhaps the biggest place where students get stuck when writing their essays is finding that important moment. What’s most important is using a moment that’s genuine to you as an individual.

So here are a few questions to ask yourself as you try to pinpoint the most memorable moments to use in your Coalition Application essays:

How do you spend your time?
Most high school students have very busy lives, so think about how you spend your time outside of the classroom. Perhaps you play an instrument, or a sport. Maybe you have a part-time job, volunteered on a political campaign, or take care of a younger sibling.

Who are you?
Reflect upon your identity, values, and background. This can include your heritage, ethnicity, religion, origin, views, or even quirks.

What big questions fascinate you?
College is a time to think big thoughts. What fascinates you? What do you find yourself constantly wanting to learn more about? You can draw upon independent projects, school, books, documentaries, or even thought-provoking conversations.

Recall a time when you failed (and learned something important)
No one likes to fail, but discussing failure can be a powerful way to highlight growth. Try to focus on failures that have led to lessoned learned or a change in perspective.

What experiences you are most proud of?
Success can be just as powerful as failure, but always be conscious of not being too self-congratulatory.

Who or what has served as an important influence for you?
This can include books, mentors, historical figures, fictional characters, classes, among many other things.  

Once you write down responses to these questions, try to identify specific moments that both relate to the actual questions and have helped shape who you are. Once you have done this, you should have a a few interesting moments that reveal your personality and character. This will put you in excellent shape as you begin to tease out potential essays.

Ready to begin on the Coalition Application? Here’s our Guide to the Coalition Application to get you started.

Download My Guide

Image via coalitionforcollegeaccess.org

Topics:college admission

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