True Confession: I was a Great Books major; ergo, one of my favorite quotes is from Socrates. “The unexamined life is not worth living,” he said at his own trial. I frequently share this quotation with my students in essay coaching sessions.
Why? Because I want my students to see that self-examination is a major point of the college essay. While college admissions officers certainly look at scores and grades and recommendations, they ultimately want to know that the applicant is someone who has experiences and learns from those experiences. You might be the youngest person to have climbed Mount Everest, or you may have tutored lepers in India, but if you didn’t learn anything about yourself and the world, those experiences are meaningless. If you can’t articulate who you are and who you want to be, your essay won’t be meaningful or convincing to a college admissions officer.
Applicants to college aren’t expected to have all the answers, but they should be able to pose important questions they’re not afraid to ask, such as why is my life worth living? What do I value? What valuable skills or attitude or aptitude will I bring to this college?
Writing an excellent college application essay is a truly introspective process. Not only do the applicants have to choose a significant story, accomplishment, or place, they also have to share how that experience reverberates through their lives. They need to examine their lives past, present, and future. I am always happy to share the timeless wisdom of Socrates.