The "Everything I Want Colleges to Know About Me" List: A Brainstorm Exercise

This exercise is simple, but extremely effective.

Step 1: Make a list of all the things you want colleges to know about you.

How? You can do this either:

  • in a bulletpoint format (organized, easy to read)

  • on a blank sheet of paper (with drawings, get creative)

  • on a timeline (see drawing below)


Note: I don’t recommend a stream-of-consciousness free-write because this tends to get a little messy. By “messy” I mean that this tends to bring forth a lot of words but not a lot of specific, bullet-pointable qualities that will help you get into college.

And that’s the point of this list: to provide your counselor (or yourself) with a solid list of qualities, values and cool stuff that will help get you into college.

Reason #1 that this list is a good idea: It generates a list of details and possible topics for your personal statement, supplements, activities list and additional info section.

Tips for creating a great list:

  • Have fun. This doesn’t have to be a chore. It’s you basically making a list of everything that's awesome about who you are and what you've done, which can be pretty darn affirming.

  • Create the list with a parent or friend. Say to him/her: “Hey, I’m trying to make a list of all the reasons why any college should love me as much as you do—can you help?”

  • Back up general stuff with specific examples. If, for instance, you’re like, “I can motivate people!” or "I stick with things I'm passionate about!" provide a specific example that backs up your claim--or better yet, both claims! (Like the fact that you helped raise debate membership from 19 to 96 at your school over four years.)

Step 2: Once you’ve created your list:

  • If it’s a bullet-pointed list, upload it to a Google doc and…

  • If it’s a drawing or timeline, take a photo of it, email it to yourself, upload it to Google a doc and…

SHARE the Google doc with your friend/parent/counselor (whoever is helping you with your applications and ask that person: “Can you help me make sure that all this stuff makes it into my application?”

Wait, can I do this once my application is almost finished?
Absolutely. In fact, this will provide a checklist for making sure all the important parts of you are represented somewhere in the application.

Another great brainstorming exercise: The 21 Detail Exercise

Step 3: Decide with your counselor where the information should go in your application. 

Some options include your:

  1. Main Statement

  2. Activities List

  3. Additional Info section

  4. Extracurricular essay (required only for some schools)

  5. Another supplemental essay (required only for some schools)

Pop Quiz:
Which of the following details would you NOT include on your application? Which details would you DEFINITELY include? For those details you'd include, on which part of the application do you think each one should go?

  • I am half Filipino and half Egyptian

  • I travel a lot (have been to countless countries such as Egypt, the Philippines, Netherlands, Italy, Jamaica, Bahamas, Mexico, Guam, etc….)

  • I have played the violin for over 11 years and I LOVE IT

  • I can also play the piano

  • I do canoe paddling year round. We once saw dolphins swimming by us as we paddled out deep in the ocean.

  • I have an entrepreneurial mind. I made $300 in a week selling coffee at my dads office when I was 7. I named the booth the “Coffee Cafe” and had my own menu with various drinks as well as a bean grinder. I ended up donating all of the profits to my missionary friend Kate who was leaving for India. When I was 12 I made $70 selling online ebooks about basketball that I wrote. I painted curb address numbers for neighbors when I was 11 and made about $100 off of that.

  • I like weightlifting. I also sell supplements to my friends at school. I buy them in bulk online and mix some, for example, whey with creatine, and re-brand them (not FDA approved, uh-oh) and sell them for profit.

  • I tend to bypass the system (and get away with it a lot) such as sending money to paypal directly from VISA (even though they say it isn’t possible) or finding a way to get past the school’s online filter

  • I love reading (my bookshelf is stacked)

Note: there's no "right" answer for where each of these details should go. No magic formula. Just work with your counselor (or me) to make sure your application shows you off in the most complete way possible.

For more tips, including how to develop your college list and save $3,480, go here


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