This past summer on the campus of the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), I worked with College Summit peer leaders, high school seniors, to craft their personal essays for college applications. They joined 70 new peers from around the country who each only knew the other three people from their high school.
They had never met me, and yet we were going to be required to spend 15 hours together over four days. Over the course of the week, the students met the other attendees, worked with college coaches, attended peer sessions, and learned to live in a dorm room with someone they had never met.
When asked what was unique about themselves when we began the writing process, each struggled to identify anything. Since the four in my group knew each other, I asked them to share what they thought was unique about the others. Suddenly, we had a starting point.
They wrote about the topics suggested by their peers that they agreed were unique to them. One student who played football struggled after realizing that many college applicants have also played football. What made his experience unique? He told the story of when one team member had to run 50 laps around the field in the dark. He stood up and said, “I’m running with him because he’s my teammate.” The whole team followed when it would have been easier to go home. The coach stood and watched his players become a team. That was his defining moment.
How do you take this and use it for supplemental writings/requirements?
You extract from an experience a nugget on which to focus. Focus on a specific place and time. You could put us in the moments of running those laps in the dark, how you wanted to quit, how you had a test the next day, how you were exhausted from the workout you had just completed before the run, or how you encouraged others who wanted to give up. Importantly, share what you did, and what that says about your character.
Try working with several trusted friends, parents, or mentors to identify defining moments. Scratch ideas down as they come to you because inspiration strikes at unusual times. Do not let needing to write your supplemental college admission essay cause you to not complete an application. Tell your story out loud. You can edit later.
When I was in graduate school, I needed to write code to complete research assignments. I wrote the end first because I knew where I had to land. Then, I wrote the beginning because I knew where I was starting. I worked my way from each end until they met in the middle. You do not have to write from beginning to end. Start with what you already know and work your way inward.
Some of my most creative time is when I am in the gym. If I am grappling with a challenge, invariably I have the answer when I return from the gym. It always amazes me how simple the answer is and how it was there all along. I just could not see it because I needed to be quiet and listen to my own mind. If you’re stuck, try a refresh, a walk outside, meditation, try ideating on a different topic with Storyscape then return to your essay renewed.
Think of supplement writing as taking a piece of your masterpiece that you completed for your personal essay and enlarging it – giving it more vivid details. Let the reader see, know, and experience you through your colorful, detailed, and captivating story.
For more free resources on how to write your supplements including how to write your about your greatest influence and tips for scholarships, visit Story2.com/Resources.
Nancy Reid is a volunteer College Writing Coach with College Summit and works as a Global Project Coordinator for Deloitte Tax LLP. She lives in Washington, DC where she shares her home with her husband and dogs.
A Defining Moment Essay
755 Words4 Pages
Many people influenced and events my reading and writing development throughout my childhood from my mother, my elementary librarian, and Sesame Street, to getting my first pair of glasses. We all have defining moments in our lives where we can look back and say, “That moment changed my life.” This is the story of the defining moment that changed the way I read and write, and I learned it from a whale!
It was the beginning of my seventh grade year. I was about twelve years old and, I guess you could say a nerd. I did well in school so I was placed in the Gifted and Talented program with other nerds in my class. As part of this program we were required to read at a certain level or read a certain number of books each semester. You…show more content…
I thought to myself, hey, I like whales. I’ve read stories about ships and pirates and stuff before. This looks like something I might like. I can still smell the old paper and threaded binding resonating in my mind as I opened the book and scrolled through the pages, soaking in the vibrant illustrations of what would soon become my obsession for the next six months.
Happy with my selection and feeling fairly proud of myself, I take the book to the check-out desk. The desk is occupied by the stereotypical librarian. She is an older lady probably in her sixties with gray wiry hair and half square bi-focal glasses that sit on the end of her nose. As I place the book on the counter, she looks down her nose and through her glasses at me with a look of skepticism. Frowning as she speaks, she tells me that maybe I should choose something else. Undaunted, I refuse and ask to check out the book. She gives a few other suggestions but again, I refuse. She wishes me luck as she slides it back to me and I stuff the hefty book into my backpack.
I start reading the book and right away it is intimidating from the very first paragraph. I am faced with language and sentence structure I do not understand, what is a bedfellow and why does he carry a purse? Is he gay? Immediately I am second guessing my decision but I am determined to get through this book. It takes me the better part of a week to get through the first chapter. I