This article was originally published on April 23, 2012, and has been updated.
For many students, one of the most stressful and confusing parts of the college application process can be answering the essay questions.
To help you prepare for answering the 5 common college application questions, we’ll break each of them down. We’ll also go over some useful tips for answering these questions effectively and making your application stand out.
The second of the five most common questions you’ll see on a college application is:
“Who is someone you admire?”
On the Common Application, a similar question is worded as, “Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you and describe that influence.”
Even if your college application has the simple phrasing of, “Who is someone you admire?” applicants should go further into detail when they answer the “why” part of that question by describing that influence.
And to elaborate on what I mean by this. . . .
It should only take you about 5-10 words to tell “who” you admire. Then, the other 150+ words should show the readers “why” you admire that person.
As the applicant, you have a lot of leeway here in terms of who you choose, and that means you shouldn’t always opt for the low-hanging fruit.
Wondering what I mean by that?
Opting for the low-hanging fruit on a college essay question means writing about safe people, including historical figures like Gandhi or Martin Luther King, or even your mom or dad.
These aren’t necessarily bad choices, but they’re considered safe options that every other student will likely choose as well.
If you want your college application to really stand out from thousands of others, don’t opt for low-hanging fruit on the essay questions. Instead, dig deeper when you’re choosing what or who to write about.
Now you might be asking, okay, like WHO?
To start thinking about who you should write about, ask yourself these questions:
- What is a meaningful experience I can describe well? (And when I say “describe well,” I mean that you should be able to write about this experience in a way the reader feels they were there with you)
- What happened in that meaningful experience?
- Who was there with me during this meaningful experience?
- What characteristic of a specific person present during this meaningful experience was most memorable?
While you think about your responses to these questions, please free-write your initial thoughts. (And yes, I do mean to handwrite. You can read more about that here.)
Your responses will start you on a path to writing a strong college application essay that stands out above the rest!
Who did you choose?
Next, I’ll cover the 3rd most common essay question: