By Carol Barash, CEO and Founder, Story2
Tell us a story about yourself that is key to understanding who you are today and reveals aspects of who you want to become in college and life. This could be a moment when you changed, grew or made a difference or an everyday moment that reveals something people count on you for.
This is your “go to” essay, a story you can tell in almost any situation–in college applications, internship and job applications, you name it!
A Defining Moment story shows the reader a specific moment when you faced a challenge, took action or learned something new. The Story2 EssayBuilder™–which is free for Greenlight Scholars–teaches you, step by step, how to complete a variety of college essays, including Defining Moments.
Students have a variety of misconceptions about college admission essays: they imagine they have to “show off” their accomplishments, or “highlight” themselves overcoming extraordinary odds to achieve something heroic, or–worst of all–they fear that nothing they have done is “good enough” to get into college.
Colleges look for three things in your essay:
- a unique perspective;
- strong writing; and
- an authentic voice.
The Defining Moment essay allows you to take any moment of your life and turn it into a powerfully written admissions essay in your own voice.
Most of us talk about ourselves in broad, general terms that apply to many people. Instead, it’s much better to focus in on one or two moments that reveal your character by showing your unique perspective and point of view. To answer this question, you don’t need to use a big, heroic Superman moment. Everyday moments that show you being yourself often make more powerful essays because they feel real.
Remember: whatever story you’re telling–and whatever college essay question you are answering–it needs to be told in your own voice, from your unique point of view. So you need to do the work yourself.
Here are three steps to completing a great Defining Moment essay in your own voice:
- Find lots of great stories using the 10 x 10 exercise: Imagine your life–from the moment you were born up until today–as a series of moments. Make a list of 10 moments that changed you: moments when there is a clear before and after. And then for each of those 10 moments, list 10 smaller moments that make up each of them.
- Pick one of the moments from the 10 x 10 and tell your story out loud–to your friends if possible–and record it on your phone or with the Story2 EssayBuilder, which is free for Greenlight Scholars.
- Use Story2 EssayBuilder™ (free for Greenlight Scholars) to transform your spoken story, step by step, into a written essay.
Save your list of Defining Moments to explore further as you complete other admissions and scholarship essays and to continue your journey to college.
This blog is part of a series to help students complete the Greenlight Scholars application essays. We invite you to use Story2 EssayBuilder™ — free for Greenlight Scholars — to plan, organize and complete all your admission and scholarship essays.
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The supplemental essays are an essential part of your application. They may feel like additional work, but the supplements are a great opportunity to express your commitment to a college and show that you match the personality and character that they’re looking for.
Every college has their own supplement questions, and most of them fall into one of eight categories: Defining Moments, Community, Issues, Influences, Why this College, Why This Major, Activities, and Scholarships.
The Defining Moments category is the most important. Certain prompts will clearly ask you to write about a Defining Moment, but there are also more creative prompts like the University of Chicago’s “Where’s Waldo?” to which you can respond by writing about a Defining Moment. In fact, even a supplemental essay that falls into one of the other categories can often be answered successfully by describing a relevant, Defining Moment.
Start by thinking about the moments that have shaped you in a positive way. You’ll know you’ve picked a good moment if you enjoy the process of writing about it! If you’re only writing about something because you think it’s what the college wants to see, that probably won’t result in a meaningful essay.
Here are 3 tips to write a great Defining Moment essay that will tell your story and show your interest in a specific college:
Don’t repeat another essay: Make sure that each essay you send to a college reveals something different about you. If you’re going to use the same experience for multiple essays, then come at it from a different angle.
Connect with the college: Write about a moment that is important to you, and then find the overlap between that moment and the values of the college. Maybe you volunteered to coach a youth sports league, and you helped a player through a tough incident at home. How could you connect this to the college’s commitment to community service? What relevant activities would you do when admitted?
Include specific details--about you and the college: Read your essay as if you’re on an admissions committee. Could it be about lots of students? Could it be about many colleges? If the answer to either question is “yes,” then you have more work to do! Colleges want to see what makes you unique, and they want to know that you’ve done your research about them too. Use specific details to take your essay from “nice to have” to “this is someone we want to be part of our community.”
Want more help? Our founder, Carol Barash, PhD, recently wrote 10 tips to writing supplemental essays. You can also find information about the supplemental essays on our resources page.
Jacob graduated from Tufts University in 2012 with a major in History and a minor in Communications and Media Studies. A lifelong storyteller, Jacob acted throughout his youth and performed improv and standup comedy in high school and college. Prior to joining Story2, Jacob spent two years working in the entertainment industry, where he worked for a Nickelodeon show and a YouTube channel.