Writing a great college essay is a lot like writing a Match.com headline.
From a great article in Fast Company:
As a dater on Match.com, you have two key ways to
communicate something quickly about yourself: a picture and a headline… Given the stakes, these headlines should really zing. They
don’t. We examined more than 1,000 Match.com ads—from men and women,
old and young. Our search yielded headlines like this one: “Hey.”
Folks, if your opening line is “Hey,” you better be hot.
said “Looking for love.” Well, duh, you’re on Match.com. At least
two-thirds of the headlines said nothing—and did it poorly.
do these headlines suck so much? Fear. Fear of saying too much. Fear of
saying something clever that someone might think is stupid. Fear of
saying something revealing that might turn someone off. The headlines
try desperately not to exclude anyone. In doing so, they succeed at
…Some singles have figured this out. Here's a brilliant example: "Athletic math nerd seeks someone to hum the Seinfeld intro music with." While excluding, he's simultaneously becoming more interesting to potential soul mates."
If your college essay starts out with, "I have been on the basketball team for three years and it has taught me many important lessons about hard work and commitment," you might as well have just said, "Hey."