Use Your College Essay Like An Insane Vertical Jump

Football Field

Back to one of my favorite things to do ever – making sports analogies fit in any situation.

There are a lot of people out there that can throw a baseball really hard. But there aren’t many like fellow Vanderbilt alum David Price and fellow Chicago resident Jake Arrieta that can throw fastballs in the 90s with unbelievable precision, buckling knees and making batters look like my uncle trying to hit a piñata. There are thousands of football players that can throw a football a million miles. But only 32 of those are good enough (and I use that term loosely) to be starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Those 32 are more than just a big arm; they demonstrate a depth of understanding of the game that sets them apart from their million-mile-throwing peers.

Our friends at Shmoop did the math for the NFL. The odds of a draft-eligible player getting their name called by the commissioner on draft night is about 7%. Start there and think about how many of those drafted players actually make an NFL roster after training camp. That “acceptance rate” is lower than most of the Ivies. The players that do make it? They stand out. They’ve pulled away from the rest of the pack of talented athletes and convinced the franchise’s decision makers to take an (educated) gamble on them. They’ve convinced a scout, a GM, a head coach, and/or an owner that they will make the most of their opportunity by making the biggest positive impact on the organization as a whole. They’re going to be a great locker room presence, even better teammates and members of the community, and forces of nature on the field. They’re going to bring championships to the organization, which in turn will increase the profile of the team, the city, and the people around them. Sound familiar? It should.

When you’re applying to top universities, you should know already that you’re competing against some of the most accomplished applicants in the world. Your job? Stand out. Much like a NFL prospect must convince team decision makers, you have to convince an admissions committee that if you are given the opportunity to set foot on campus in the incoming freshman class, you’re going to make the most of it. You’re destined for and motivated to achieve greatness, and by association you will bring notoriety to the university’s brand name and community. Unfortunately you don’t have the luxury of standing in front of Princeton’s admissions committee and demonstrating your insane vertical. So how do you stand out? There are a number of ways to do this, but one of the things we like to focus on is the dreaded application essay.

The essay is your chance to demonstrate to an admissions committee that you are a unique, thoughtful, mature individual that has a clear ability to introspect. It’s your chance to tell your story, and show why you clearly stand out from the rest of the talented applicant pool. Writing a college essay is unlike anything most students have worked on in the classroom. It’s not a 5-paragraph essay. It’s not a research paper or book report. It’s not a long-form resume. It’s a very personal narrative that students often struggle with. What do I write about? How do I start? Is this a “good” topic? Writing an essay that really connects with an admissions committee member can serve as the edge a student needs to get that coveted seat in the incoming class. It can also serve as a means to overcome weaker aspects of a student’s profile. So if you’re not too busy working on your 40-yard dash time, check out these blog posts about putting your best foot forward in your college application essay:


How To Write Personal College Essays