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Why College Application Essays Matter
by Vera Murphy Trayner, Co-Founder of Veritas College Counseling

Imagine YOU are the college admissions rep at a university. You have hundreds of applications to review each week. You have to recommend to Admit…Defer…Decline. The applications you are reviewing have similar test scores, similar GPAs, and similar activities listed. What aspect of the application will set a student apart? It’s the essay.

Through the application essay, students are able to communicate directly to the college
admissions rep about who they are, what is important to them and why, what values they hold important, and what experiences they have had that has helped them grow into the young adult they are today. What skills, talents, values, interests, and experiences will this student bring to campus? How will this student build and complement our student body?

Now imagine that you are the high school senior applying to colleges. You’ve decided which colleges will be a good fit for you. The colleges have your desired program of study, are in the location where you would like to live for the next four years, have the student life options that would inspire your passions and growth, and have the students on campus who would be your friends for life and future professional contacts. The admit statistics are similar to your academic profile…plus or minus a little. It’s time to write your essay to secure your admission to the colleges of your choice.

Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has a passion, an experience, and a unique perspective on life. How do you communicate that through the college essay? Let’s take a look at how to paint your own unique picture through your words.

  • If you have a choice, read through the essay questions and pick the question(s) that stand out to you as “easy.”
  • Take time to think about important experiences or people in your life who have changed the way you think and the way you view the world. Who is your mentor, your inspiration? What was that experience that made you stop and think?
  • Write down your ideas. Then look at your ideas and write a sentence or two about why the person was so important and how that experience changed your view? What did you learn about yourself?

You can use this outline to build your essay. Use vivid verbs, descriptive words, refer to a list of characteristics and values, and pick those that identify YOU! Speak from your heart. Take your time, leave your drafts and come back to re-read, edit, and build on your ideas. When you finish, ask a parent, teacher or counselor review your essay. Listen to their feedback and refine your work.

Your essay is a portrait of you, your values, and what you can uniquely bring to the college campus. THIS is what a college admissions rep is looking for! This is how your application will stand out from the crowd.

Vera Murphy Trayner is an Independent Educational Counselor based in Lutz. Veritas College Counseling offers individual counseling for students and parents to facilitate the college application process. Veritas also hosts workshops to highlight best practices for college search, applications and essays. Contact:; call or text 813-545-8178 or visit

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