College Admissions Essay Blog

Qualities Admissions Officers Look for In Applicants

Making Connections Between Your Experiences And Personal Qualities

The essay is one of the most important parts of your application. It is your opportunity to reveal the thoughtful side of yourself. The essay is where your voice is heard most clearly—where you can state something that only you can write about.

People generally write best when writing about topics that are of personal interest or that have personal meaning. When you are offered a choice of topics, decide for yourself what to write about, based upon what is personally meaningful and interesting to you. Be careful not to allow your parents or others to determine the subject of your essay. Take full advantage of any opportunity to choose your own essay topic. Most colleges allow applicants a great deal of flexibility as to the subject of the essay.

The Personal Qualities Admissions Officers Look For In Applicants

  • Concern for others—either by devoting time to social service activities, such as tutoring, or by being considerate and empathetic to others’ feelings
  • Confidence—in your ability to handle difficult situations
  • Creativity—as reflected in the way your mind works to solve problems, and/or a talent in the arts, such as theater, music, writing, painting, dancing, etc.
  • Diligence/Persistence—as demonstrated by your ability to stay with a task until you complete it
  • Enthusiasm—as demonstrated by your eagerness to engage in activities
  • Initiative—as in the ability to start a project or assume a responsibility
  • Insight—as reflected in your ability to use introspection to understand aspects of yourself, such as your preferences and your motivations
  • Intellectual Ability—to handle college-level work
  • Intellectual Curiosity—about ideas, academic subjects, people, trends, etc.
  • Leadership—as shown in your ability to inspire others to work together to reach a mutual goal
  • Maturity—as demonstrated by being responsible and trustworthy
  • Open-mindedness—to ideas, people, and circumstances different from your own
  • Optimism—as reflected in your ability to find positive aspects in seemingly negative situations
  • Organization—as in the ability to stay on top of multiple tasks
  • Overcoming Adversity—as demonstrated by your resourcefulness in dealing with serious problems, such as divorce, death, illness, etc.
  • Risk Taking—as shown in your ability to deal with uncertainty to reach your goal
  • Sense of Humor—as in your ability either to find humor in difficult situations or to make others laugh
  • Seriousness of Purpose—to pursue a college education

Qualities Admissions Officers Look for In Applicants - EssayEdge

EssayEdge Extra: Words of Wisdom from Admissions Officers

“Applicants think we are looking for “specialists” and for students who have been involved in world-changing sorts of activities, and that their essay should reflect this. To the contrary, some of the most effective essays talk about things that are quite ordinary in life but are interesting in the way the applicant chooses to pursue the topic and to share his or her observations about an everyday experience. So the events discussed in the essay need not be world shattering; they can be very ordinary events. When we read a thoughtful essay that exhibits curiosity, is well written, and makes us more interested in the way that writer is thinking about the world, then I think that applicant has written a successful essay.”—Admissions Officer, Amherst College

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