So many students stress over their college essays.

They don’t know where to start or what to say. They’re afraid their stories don’t matter, or their stories matter too much, or their stories just aren’t good enough.

When I was 17 years old and applying to college, I was that student. I had good grades, so-so SAT® scores and an AP® English teacher and college counselor who said, “You aren’t good enough to get into the colleges you want to go to. You can’t write well enough.”

My father had died just a few months before, and in our last conversation he talked about how important it was to go to the best college you can. He and my mom were first-generation college students with no money, and they had worked and saved for me and my sister to go away to college.

What could I do? I wrote the best essays I could, from my confused and broken heart, and somehow — magically it still feels to me — I was admitted to Yale and Smith, my first two choices. So when one of my children’s babysitters — a shy girl who wanted to become a dentist — asked me to help her with her college essays, I helped her talk from her heart, as I had done.

When the choice is between students who have similar grades, test scores and activities, colleges are looking for the unique voice and character of the student who will show up on their campus.

And then when I was a professor and served on the Admissions Committee at Rutgers University, I saw how those essays really work and how every student can write essays that help them at just that moment: When the choice is between students who have similar grades, test scores and activities, colleges are looking for the unique voice and character of the student who will show up on their campus.

I created the patented Story2 Moments Method® and college EssayBuilder® software to teach every student — no matter what your background or learning style — how to bring your unique voice and experience to your college essays.

Here’s how to build powerful and authentic story-based admission essays:

  • Find Stories from your lived experience: What are the experiences that have shaped you as who you are now and what you want to do in college and life?
  • Focus In on specific moments of growth and change: The strongest essays are built around moments when you tried new things, made big decisions or helped other people.
  • Tell It Out Loud to unlock memories and emotions: Use Story2 software on your phone, tablet or laptop to tell your story out loud. It’s that simple. That’s your first draft!
  • Map It to build the story’s beginning, middle and end: These guideposts — a magnet that draws the reader in, a pivot when something changes and a glow that leaves the reader in the action — are the frame of a strong essay.
  • Focus Out to replace generic language with specific details: Once you have a mapped story, go through sentence by sentence to make sure the story is happening in the world with other people, not in your own thoughts.

Here are some examples of successful essays by Story2 students with notes about what makes them so powerful.

We are delighted to work with College Covered® to teach you how to complete college essays that reveal your unique voice and character. Visit story2.com/DSL to get started today.

Through her company Story2, Carol Barash, Ph.D., has helped more than a quarter million students from 43 countries complete successful college essays. A graduate of Yale and Princeton, Carol wants everyone to tell the stories that define them to live their biggest, boldest lives.

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