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Story2 Unveiled: Focus Out

by Jocelyn Johnson, on Nov 15, 2018 6:24:00 PM

Many students fall into the trap of writing their college admission essay like they would write an essay for their English or History class. But when students use interpretations and feelings to describe themselves and their experience, it actually puts up a wall between them and the admissions officer.

Story2 teaches students how to write in a way that will empower them to directly connect with admission officers. One important step in the college admission essay writing process is to Focus Out. This means getting out of your head (thoughts, interpretations, emotions) and into the real world of shared experience (actions, dialogue, physical description). Another way to put it: when writing or revising your essay, stick to facts and things we can see, hear, taste, smell, or touch. 

Focus Out is a tool from the Moments Method® that helps you identify generalizations, interpretations, and cliches and transform them into personal and powerful details.

Here’s how:

1.  In your essay draft, go through sentence by sentence looking for sentences that are describing thoughts you're having, interpretations (you're summarizing or judging the situation), or emotions (telling the reader how you felt about something). Warning signs include sentences that start with: “I thought”, “I felt”, “I realized”, and “I learned.”

2.  Experiment with different ways to present your thoughts and feelings using dialogue, sensory details, and physical descriptions. 

3.  Review your options and go sentence by sentence, choosing the best replacement.

Remember, the goal is to use every sentence of your essay to engage your reader, admission officers, from the beginning to the end of your essay. Neuroscience studies have shown that using cliches, interpretations, and generalizations creates a disconnect between the storyteller (you) and the listener (admissions officers). Revising your essay to be maximally engaging is in your favor. 

Try this exercise. Choose the more engaging sentence:

1.  I was upset when we didn’t win the state championship, but I learned that everything happens for a reason.

2.  Coach said, “The season is over and you’re going to graduate without a championship. What’s your plan B?” I took my time walking home that night.

Which one pulls you in more? Which one leaves you wanting to learn more?

Now that you've seen a Focus Out sentence in action, it's time to start focusing out in your own writing and revising. Focus Out will help you take a story that could have happened to anyone and make it intensely personal and specific, by using details, dialogue or description. Admissions officers will have a hard time forgetting your essay if they feel like they lived through the moment with you!

Focus Out is a powerful tool for establishing meaningful connections with admissions officers and improving your likelihood of admissions success. We encourage you to try it and let us know how it works for you!

Topics:college admission