I recently stumbled upon the laptop I used before coming to college. Greeted by the half-broken screen, a keyboard missing a few keys, and a cluttered desktop screen, everything was exactly as I remembered it. I began to comb through the files that dated back to my middle school years. In the jumble gigabytes, I found my college admissions essay which unlocked a very particular memory.

According to a survey done by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 56.4% of colleges attributed college essays to be of “considerable” to “moderate” importance. The survey also reported that more selective colleges also rated them particularly higher.

As a senior in college, the college application process is not something I have thought back to in a while. I remembered that my mom, an accountant by trade and the epitome of tough love, worked out a deal with me to pay my application fees. For her pay for an application, I had to her write a short paragraph about why I wanted to go to that specific school. When my college acceptance letters came in, she returned the short letters to me. While I thought my mom was trying to make my submissions more intentional, she was helping me subconsciously choose a school and strengthen my admissions essays.

Of course, I also remembered writing my college admissions essay. When I read over my essay I laughed as I thought back to the person I use to be. Or maybe even just the person I was trying to be.

Throughout high school I was convinced I wanted to pursue a business degree in Marketing and Management. After a tough first year in college, I transferred to the School of Mass Communications and switched to a Public Relations major. As I reflect, my admissions essay clearly aligned with someone looking to pursue an education in Publics Relations rather than Business. While it still took me two semesters of economics and accounting to realize this, my essay remained true to this day. I didn’t sell a false version of myself. I didn’t overstate passion for things I did not yet know. I was myself.

This is all because of the advice I was given by a teacher I had grown to know well over my four high school years who also served as one of my references. Her advice: Be Yourself.

Similarly, Jeff Brenzel, the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Yale University, shares the same advice in an interview with the College Board.

“I think it’s actually best to present yourself as you are to a college rather than how you might imagine that they might want you to. First of all, you want a college to take you, not your imaginary friend…presenting yourself as who you are is the best bet in the college admissions process”, he states.

Remain authentic and leave the admissions board with a clear picture of all the things that
make you, you. If I had written as though business was my passion, I wouldn’t have written a

strong essay. I could have even been accepted to another school I applied for that doesn’t even
have a public relations degree.

Read Brenzel’s other six tips and check out Are you Stressed About College Apps? on the blog for more on the college application process.