3 WAYS TO BOOST YOUR CHILD’S LIKEABILITY
It’s important to make sure a student’s activities list is on point and that all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed on the free response questions, but another important thing I ask myself as I’m reviewing an application is, “Do I like this kid? Do I find him or her a likeable person?” While likeability is largely an abstract quality, a student can try to enhance his or her natural likeability by applying the following techniques to the writing portions of an application.
TIP 1: CONNECTION HAPPENS IN THE ORDINARY, NOT THE EXTRAORDINARY
Connection equals likeability. Many students (and their parents) aren’t happy with the topics of their essays because they feel they need to come up with a “big” experience to write about. By big I mean unique, dramatic, and extraordinary. But the truth is, it’s easier to connect with someone over small, everyday experiences. This means it’s ok for a student to write about normal things. Take, for example, an essay about a part-time job. Regardless of what you do now, everyone has had a first job and can relate to a story about it. Big stories are interesting, but they aren’t necessarily relatable. So in terms of building connection or rapport it might actually be advantageous to write on common subjects such as an after school job or a family tradition. Just make sure your child makes it her own with specific details! Looking for good, relatable story ideas? Check out our Storymoji.
TIP 2: APPEAL TO MY EMOTIONS
Another way to build likeability is to elicit an emotional response such as laughter or empathy. Appealing to emotions is harder than appealing to intellect, so I always hesitate to mention it. We’ve all liked cute and funny (both are emotion triggers) kitten videos on Facebook. Or started rooting for Carl and Ellie after shedding tears during their marriage montage in the movie Up. It’s one thing to elicit emotion if you’re making a Pixar movie with cute animation and a moving soundtrack, but it’s not easy to do in an essay. I particularly don’t think a student should try to be funny if they’re not naturally funny. However, if a student can write vividly, sincerely, and acutely personally about topics such as family, joy, loss, justice, embarrassment, regret, remorse, and disappointment, to name a few, these emotions will transfer to the reader. Where there is empathy there is likeability.
TIP 3: START AT YOUR LOWEST POINT
No one likes a braggart, but everyone loves an underdog. I’m not saying a student shouldn’t write about an important achievement or personal victory, but it needs to be done without coming across as egotistical and self-indulgent. On the other hand, an essay topic that allows a student to be vulnerable will go a long way in making her likeable. Who would you like more? The student who writes about catching the football that wins the state title or the student who writes about dropping the football that loses the state title? It’s easier to relate to the latter because most of us haven’t experienced making the game-winning shot, but all of us have felt the pain of disappointing people we care about. We are hardwired to rally behind people who face obstacles. Writing about a setback, not living up to expectations, or a time a student wasn’t the best version of herself not only makes it easier to show personal growth and maturation, but it makes a student relatable and likeable.
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