Advice for Gettysburg College applicants

We're always telling our Collegewise students that every essay question on a college application is there for a reason.  And for applicants to Gettysburg College, this essay question is no exception.

"Gettysburg College students are engaged learners and 'make a difference' both on and off campus through their academic and extracurricular activities. Describe a situation in which you have made a difference in your school or community and what you learned from that experience."

 

The key to to this question is "…in which you have made a difference."  Colleges like Gettysburg are looking for students who will make an impact on their student communities, students who have passion and initiative to make things happen.  Making a difference in high school is a good sign that you're one of these students.

Think about the word "different."  What is something you did in high school where something or someone was actually different when you were finished?  Show them an experience for which you can honestly say something is fundamentally different today than it was before you got involved.

 

Here's an example.  If you volunteered for three hours one day at a homeless shelter, you should absolutely be proud of that.  But if you were also on the soccer team, and you initiated a fundraiser that paid for new uniforms for the entire team, uniforms that will be worn for years to come by members of the varsity soccer team at your school, you arguably made a pretty substantial difference on your soccer team.

 

I'm not arguing that raising money for uniforms is more important than feeding hungry people (it's not).  But the question is asking for an example of a time when you made a difference, not an example of a time where you did something important.  Do you see the distinction? 

Think of an example where you made a lasting impact, where you left behind a legacy, even a small one.  Those tend to be the places where you made a difference.

And don't forget about the second part of the prompt that asks about what you learned.  Don't hide behind a contrived answer like, "I learned it's important to help people."  That makes you sound like you didn't realize that helping people was a good thing before this experience. 

One thing to consider might be how you are different today as a result of this experience.  If you really learned something, chances are that your thoughts or actions are different today than they were before this experience.  Share those things honestly with the reader. 

Gettysburg asks the question for a reason–to get a sense of whether or not you'll make a difference once you get to their campus.  So think about where you've made a real difference, share that experience proudly in your answer, and don't forget to consider what you learned. 

Note:  Before you follow our tips, we recommend you read our "How to" guide here: Download HowToUse30Guides

And if you have other questions about essays, applications, interviews or financial aid, visit our online store.  We’ve got books, videos and downloadable guides to help you.  Or you could speak with one of our online college counselors.