Application Essay Tips from a Rubik’s Cube Essay

When I was little I solved a Rubik’s cube. If you just rearrange the stickers, it’s pretty easy. The author of today’s essay, however, solved Rubik’s cubes the “real” way. Our application essay tips come from William Wissemann's essay "Accomplishing Big Things in Small Pieces," which explores the Rubik’s cube’s significance to him.

3 Application Essay Tips from William Wissemann

What application essay tips can we learn from Mr. Wisseman’s Rubik’s cube essay? Here are three to consider:

Application Essay Tips | Tip #1: Use an authentic and original image.

The essay’s image is the Rubik’s cube. We know it’s an authentic image because the writer provides details showing the Rubik’s cube’s involvement in his daily life. These details include specific locations where he’s asked others to solve the cube, as well as the fact he carries the cube in his backpack. If you’re going to use an image, you’ll have to “prove” its authenticity by showing how the image affects your daily life. You can't just choose a random image and hope it works. It won't.

Aside from being authentic, your image must be original. The more original the image, the greater its effect. I have read several essays discussing a passion for jigsaw puzzles. Lessons learned from jigsaw puzzles will mirror those learned from a Rubik’s cube, but the Rubik’s cube is more specific, more original, and, therefore, more forceful. Don’t be afraid to be creative. If you’re a runner, your running shoes are not going to make for an original image. You can do much better. What about your shoelaces or the soles of your running shoes? The more specific you are, the better your chance of capturing an original image.

Application Essay Tips | Tip #2: Include personal details.

Obvious, right? You would think so, but you can never assume a reader will understand your point. Just as you wouldn't write an English essay without citing the text for proof, you shouldn't make a claim about yourself (whether your values, priorities, or perspective) without citing a personal detail for proof.

Consider Mr. Wissemann's reference to dyslexia. Sure, he could have just said he was dyslexic and assumed the reader understood what that meant. After all, most people have heard of dyslexia. But instead of assuming we know what dyslexia is, the writer provides details to make sure we understand. These details include an admission that he can’t always spell his name correctly and a reference to the process of learning the phonemes (whatever those are) that make up words. These personal details transform dyslexia from an abstract challenge into a concrete one.

Application Essay Tips | Tip #3: Create symmetry.

By “Create symmetry,” I mean use your conclusion to refer to and expand on ideas you first mentioned in your introduction. Symmetry is a way of showing you finish your thoughts, which colleges tend to like.

Mr. Wisseman creates symmetry in two ways. First, in both the intro and the conclusion, he mentions carrying a Rubik’s cube in his backpack. The conclusion “goes beyond” by explaining why he carries the Rubik’s cube around: to remind himself he can attain his goals. Second, in both the intro and the conclusion, Mr. Wisseman mentions that solving a Rubik’s cube impresses girls. The conclusion “goes beyond” with some humor. Though the essay’s focus is on the writer’s ability to overcome serious obstacles like dyslexia, ending with a surprise emphasis on impressing girls makes the writer seem like a real person.

And that’s your goal – you want to be the Rubik’s cube guy with a sense of humor (or whoever you are), not application #24601. So as you plan your intro and conclusion, think about how you will connect the two, perhaps through repetition of a phrase or image.

As you read Mr. Wisseman’s essay for application essay tips, be encouraged; remember that he wrote his Rubik’s cube essay as a high school student. If you liked today's application essay tips, please recommend them to your friends. Thank you!


Jon Perkins holds a B.A. in English from Stanford University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He helps students with their college, law school, and medical school applications.