College Essays: The difference between WHO you are and WHAT you do

<p>In a different thread, I found a question not uncommon to hear when one spends the bulk one one's winter reading college applications: </p>

What are you looking for most in a common app essay? I vacillated between an essay that highlighted an accomplishment, and an essay that was about an experience (and was very natural) but didn't really "toot my horn" I guess is the only way to put it...


<p>And I'd like to take moment to answer this question, and to talk about what we look for in essays and why. </p>

<p>I can't say it enough: we want to know who you are. In our process at Tufts, we use your essays to better understand your personality and perspective, rather than an opportunity to hear more about your achievements. Of course, we want to admit individuals with tremendous academic potential and ability. But that isn't enough; we want interesting people populating our cafeteria and classrooms. People who see the world in different ways; people who see each other in different ways; and people who see opportunity in different ways. And understanding that about each of you requires insight not into your resume, but into your voice. </p>

<p>Do any of you seriously feel that reading a resume provides substantial insight into a person's personality? Do you actually think I could look at your GPA and extrapolate the way in which you learn? Because I don't. Those pieces are important, but never enough. </p>

<p>I know that there is more to who our applicants are than their stats and their resume. And the goal of your essay is provide us with a sense of those less quantifiable pieces. </p>

<p>I invite you each to check out the section of the Tufts admissions where we feature essays that made a substantial impact on the decisions about a student (Discovering</a> Voice: Essays That Matter). What these essays have in common isn't the highlighting of a particular achievement or a story of great meaning. What they have in common is after reading the essay, it is easier to picture the mind of the person that created it. Derek Reedy's essay isn't about anything, really, except how his hands don't stop moving. But I can imagine the kind of person Derek is, so curious about the world that even when he isn't paying attention his hands are "always moving, always transforming, always creating."</p>

<p>What you do is important to us, but the awards you may win or the clubs you may join are a reflection of your identity, not the other way around. Be aware of that distinction.</p>

<p>Thanks so much for this answer... it makes me feel a lot better since I chose to use my "natural" essay!</p>