Meet Paul, a Senior. He's from Michigan.

Academic Strength

Bioengineering whiz

Biggest Weakness

Telling his story

Extracurricular Strength

State tennis champ

Well Roundedness 9

The Challenge

Paul is one of those clients you dream about —great test scores and an incredible variety of academic and athletic extracurriculars in addition to being an all-around great guy. There was no doubt that Paul was going to get into a very good school, but we were aiming higher than “very good.”

The challenge was getting Paul to see the forest for the trees, i.e., to see his experiences as part of a larger narrative. Without pushing him to do so, we risked a situation in which college admissions committees might view him as a highly accomplished, but generic applicant. We had to help Paul tell his story and communicate what a passionate and irresistible addition he would be to any campus.

Possible Approaches

When you’ve got a student with such an incredibly impressive résumé as Paul’s, you’ve got choices when it comes to presenting that student to a college. Do you “geek out” and focus hardcore on their academic achievements, turning each essay into the recap of a bioengineering research project? After all, Paul had won multiple awards for engineering innovation and was performing world-class research as a summer intern at MIT.

Alternatively, do you “bro out” a bit and focus on athletic successes, turning each essay into a cleverly worded “humblebrag” of recent accomplishments on the tennis court? After all, Paul received the highest award the state gives in that sport…

The Admissionado Approach

“Geek out”? “Bro out”? We felt there had to be a third way.

Working with Paul, we made sure that every piece of writing on every single application resisted falling into the “and then I did this” trap. Early drafts were informative, but lacked what made Paul special. In pushing him to understand what truly motivated him in each of his activities, we ensured that top admissions committee members saw Paul’s personality, passion and drive in every sentence.

With a student like Paul, that’s what you need to be assured of. This isn’t some automaton with a laundry list of extracurriculars; this is an intellectually curious, highly motivated student who is ready to take on the world. This is what we needed to capture on the page, and this is what we spent months developing together. (And in the end, it was gratifying when Paul thanked me for “making him a genuinely better writer.” What a wonderful bonus!)

The Result

Paul nailed it. Didn’t get rejected from a single school. Looks like he’ll be attending Caltech in the fall.

Personal Shoutout

Knowing Paul will soon be out there tackling some of the biggest problems in medicine makes me sleep better at night.

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