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Cultivating Individuality in College Admissions Essay Composition

The Supreme Court made an impactful decision in June 2023 to end affirmative action as a consideration in college admissions. The ruling stated that race-based affirmative action programs in admissions processes violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Meanwhile, Test-Optional applications continue to be submitted in droves, further muddling an already complicated process.

In a day and age where social media boasts influencers who strive to achieve the spotlight and stand out among peers, individuality in college admissions is a formidable task.

As a result of legislative changes, colleges like Cornell, Tufts, Rice, Villanova, Syracuse, and UMass Amherst (to name a few) revamped their admissions process, specifically with supplemental prompts, to allow students room to share more personal information regarding their cultural and community backgrounds.

Consequently, student attention has increased significantly on all facets of application composition, from the activities to the admissions essay to the supplements; how a student's specific story is cultivated requires immense focus. This focus doesn't just come from the students; Admissions Officers, who are fielding increasingly larger numbers of test-optional applicants, also emphasize the priority of personal statements. According to recent NACAC data, 19% of schools assign “considerable” importance to essays, 37% consider them of “moderate” importance, 27% consider them of “limited” importance, and 17% don’t consider essays at all.

Understanding the increased significance, many applicants wonder: Is the admissions essay appropriate to discuss race and identity?

The answer is that it is at the discretion of the author. Cultivating a response to the admissions essay requires knowledge, insight, reflection, and deviation from a student's academic transcript. Compositions are meant to share experiences that showcase the uniqueness of the individual student. The biggest stories will often have less to do with their subject than with their significance, which may include, but are not limited to, cultural significance, adversity, and diversity.

The 2023-2024 applications pose supplemental prompts focused on topics related to DEI, such as:

  • Community

  • Cultural Diversity

  • Equity

  • Inclusion

Which opens the door for students to discuss diversity from personal perspectives and experiences. Students may choose to share not necessarily what they did in a particular situation but how that situation affected them and shaped the person they have become.

We believe that it is important for the student composition to be thoughtful, reflective, and compelling, delivering a story that provides evidence the student can handle college (socially, culturally, rigor of coursework) while bringing an evolved perspective to the campus.

However, it is essential to note that topics of diversity should not be forced, snuck in, or even encouraged. Our CBCR consultants advise students to be authentic. We urge our students to discuss diversity only IF there is relevancy to the student’s personal story and what they feel compelled to share with admissions.

As students read admissions essay prompts, personal statement outlines, and supplemental prompts, we coach our students to aim their understanding to thoroughly consider:

  • What are they asking?

  • How am I like students at this specific university?

  • How am I different?

  • What has my life experience been?

  • What have I done with what I have been dealt?

  • Has life been a barrier or an advantage? How?

  • What am I comfortable sharing?

Content may have resulted from adversity or may convey a story of inspiration. Regardless, composing a compelling narrative that will garner attention is critical to the resulting decision of the student's application.

When you're ready to write, we're ready to encourage you and guide you through the process. How will you reveal your best characteristics, showcase intelligence, create diversity, and purposefully tell the university of your choice that you are College Bound, Career Ready?

Contact CBCR for college admissions counseling and essay writing support by submitting a request for a Free Consultation utilizing the Contact Us page on our website. We want to ensure that you, too, are College Bound, Career Ready!

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Sarah K. Cook

October 20, 2023


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