How Can We Find Application Essay Tips from Your Personality Type?

Desirable colleges demand reassurance. They want you to want them. That's why some of them make you write the "Why do you like me?" essay. Today's application essay tips focus on how to handle the "Why do you want to go to College X?" essay.

Let's start with what not to do. Do you suspect hordes of other students will write about the school's "great reputation," "sense of community," "world-class research facilities," and "amazing school spirit"? You're right. The same goes for talking about how from the moment you first set foot on campus, you knew it was the only school for you. These responses are generic. We need something personal. Today's application essay tips explore how we can use a personality assessment to fashion a more compelling response to the "Why me?" essay.

5 Application Essay Tips for the "Why me?" Essay

Here's one approach for finding application essay tips from your personality type:

Application Essay Tips | Tip #1: Figure out your personality type.

To write a great application essay, you have to understand yourself. One tool to help you is a personality inventory, which is a series of questions that reveals your preferences about things like where you focus your attention and how you evaluate information. You can find a downloadable Excel spreadsheet of a personality inventory at Digital Citizen. Take the test, and figure out your 4-letter personality type.

Application Essay Tips | Tip #2: Read about your personality type.

I understand that you are a unique, snowflake-like individual, so you might not like being pigeonholed as one of only sixteen personality types. But this is an exercise to help you brainstorm for the "Why me?" essay prompt, not a permanent label, so just humor me. Once you know your personality type, you can read a short description at Western Nevada College or download a longer one from Digital Citizen. I'm an INTP, apparently. This knowledge is liberating. Don't miss out.

Application Essay Tips | Tip #3: Read about your learning style.

Here's where we start figuring out what to write. Read through what Western Nevada College has to say about personality types and learning environments. Not surprisingly, different personality types prefer different learning environments. So? If you identify the learning environment you prefer, and if you identify a way in which the college offers that learning environment, you'll have an easier time developing a thoughtful, personal response to the "Why me?" question. You don't need to agree with everything that Western Nevada College says about your personality type; you're only looking for one or two insights that resonate with you so that you can figure out your niche at the school.

Here's an example. The description of introverts (I) states that they prefer written work to discussion. After reading that, I might think to myself, "Yes, what a coincidence. The test pegs me as an introvert, and I'm writing a blog entry even now. Incredible!" Then I might reflect on moments in the past when I have succeeded with written work. A feeling of happiness washes over me as I realize that such moments have, in fact, occurred, if only occasionally. By taking the personality inventory, reading about learning styles, and reflecting on my own experience, I have identified one feature of my preferred learning environment: written work. You can take this approach, too.

Application Essay Tips | Tip #4: Determine how the school matches your learning style.

Now that you know your preferred learning environment, you need to figure out what classes, internships, research, or other activities at the school reflect this environment. If I'm likely to succeed in written work, then I might visit the school's website to see what writing-intensive classes the school offers. I might learn that the school requires a first-year seminar with papers due every week. Maybe after finding a first-year seminar that looks interesting, I find articles the professor has written. Maybe I email the professor a question or, if I visit campus, attend a class or office hours. Or maybe I realize how this professor's research might be an extension of a concept I've already studied. By reflecting on my own learning preferences and researching the school's offerings, I'm beginning to develop a personal answer to the school's "Why me?" essay prompt.

Since the "Why me?" essay might require you to understand your learning style, I want to make sure we're clear about what learning is. Learning is not the college pouring beakers of molten knowledge into your empty, receptive vessel of a brain. It's not passive. Learning is billiard balls rolling around on the dorm lounge pool table, colliding, changing direction, each contributing its own energy. Learning is active and collaborative. It requires your participation, somehow. So when you're considering whether a school is a good match for you, don't think only of what you will receive. Also think about what you'll contribute. When you show what you'll contribute, you assure the admission counselor she's not wasting a spot on you.

Application Essay Tips | Tip #5: Write about you, too.

"Why do you like me?" can be a trick question because it makes you think you should only talk about the school. This mistaken assumption leads many students to respond with a variation of, "Because you're awesome." They list the school's wonderful qualities. But trust me, judging from the marketing materials, the colleges already know they're great, which is what renders them, at times, insufferable. What each college really wants to know is, "Why am I awesome for you?" Sure, answering that question requires you to understand the school's great features. But it also requires you to show something of your own personality - perhaps your preferred learning environment, an example of your past success, a hypothesis about your future success - so that you can prove that you're a good match. A good "Why me?" essay demonstrates your understanding of the school's opportunities for you, and it provides evidence that you'll take advantage of those opportunities.

Today's application essay tips have led us to explore personality type and learning environment to help identify specific ways in which a college might be a good match. These specific details will help distinguish "Why me?" essay from other students' generic responses. I hope you enjoyed today's excursion.

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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.