Every college essay needs a story

Written by Mark Ionescu

Every prospective student desperately wants to convey to their dream college why they are special, and what makes them a uniquely perfect fit for the campus they hope to make a home in for the next four years.

It’s an admirable goal, and as we’ve discussed previously, the college essay is well-suited to accomplish it, particularly in the upcoming application season that’s been disrupted by the pandemic.

Luckily there are some straightforward strategies that students can study and adopt to greatly improve the effectiveness of their essay writing. The first, and arguably most important from an overall planning perspective, is to tell a story.

Value of Stories

First, let’s examine what makes stories valuable. Stories with readers emotionally and make them invest in the subject. The better the story, the more the reader is willing to invest.

One of the best concrete examples of this can be found in a study conducted by Joshua Glenn and Robert Walker.

Glenn and Walker took the idea of readers investing in story quite literally: they bought a random selection of objects from eBay for no more than a few dollars each.

They then recruited writers to write a story to associate with each object, turning the items from random junk into what they termed “significant” objects. The stories were posted with the objects on eBay, and Glenn and Walker sat back to see how the value changed.

The objects that were purchased for an original total of $128.74 ultimately sold for a total of $3,612.51.

That’s an increase in value of over 2,500% – just from giving a random object a story.

If a good story can be that successful in enhancing the value of random objects, imagine how much it can do for a person trying to create value with college admissions officers.

Now that we have a baseline for the value of a story, our next College Essay 101 installment will talk about what a story is and how to begin to define yours.

If you’re not sure that you’re crafting the best possible essay and making yourself stand out from the crowd of other applicants, contact us for a free consultation. i2i will happily review options with you to assist in improving existing essay drafts or to help you generate ideas if you don’t know where to begin.

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