In college admissions essays, students are asked to identify their core traits, explicitly and implicitly. However, most teens I know don’t sit around thinking about this. Despite the myth that they are completely self-absorbed, I believe teens are often thinking about self relationally.
For example, like my stepson, they might be spending their time in awe at human talent, watching people chase a wheel of cheese down a hill. (Go ahead, take a look.)
It can feel really hard to dig in and identify personal descriptions, even armed with lists of adjectives or exploratory worksheets to help you choose.
Not sure how to figure out what your core qualities are? Feeling kinda flat and regular?
I’ll give you the secret trick to identifying personal characteristics for your college essay:
Text your besties to ask them about your core traits!
That’s right, do it now! I’ll wait…
Choose 1-3 friends who you think know you best. People who really get you.
Text them this:
“Hey, what are the first three words that come to mind when you think of me?
How would you describe me? No cursing: it’s for my college application!”
Then wait. See what they say.
Once they respond, read their words aloud. See how you feel when you read them.
If they don’t text you back quickly enough, text them again: “U R RUINING MY COLLEGE ADMISSIONS PROSPECTS. PL REPLY.”
(If they still don’t text you– bite it, and call them. Write down what they tell you, verbatim).
You could also ask, “What is the best thing about being friends with me?”.
When my stumped stepson tried this, his besties answered in about 5 seconds, eliminating many hours of agony while he tried to get started on his own.
The words they chose for him were completely apt. He turned that frown upside down and started writing a supplement.
Reflect on their responses about your core traits
What did your friends say were some of your core traits?
- Does it feel true?
- Does it feel good?
- Does it resonate?
You might find out or confirm some shining things about yourself– your core traits through their eyes.
Reflect more in depth about the core traits they’ve helped you identify.
- Have you always been like this?
- Where did those traits come from?
- What are some examples of those core traits in action?
Marinate in their responses and your insights about them. Be glad to have friends. It’s the greatest predictor of a happy (and longer) life!
Let it (and your core self) feel Good!
I know it’s rather shocking to think of any aspect of the college applications as feeling good.
Hearing about your core traits in this way can feel really good. You can try it for yourself right now!
Note: this won’t work well if you don’t trust the people you text. Choose wisely! And if they are not helpful? Well, “Thanks anyway.”
This can also be fun to do with other people beyond besties– a mentor, a teacher, a neighbor, an aunty, a cousin.
Where is there overlap? What do their responses have in common? What are the differences?
Honestly, college admissions can feel isolating; it’s all about you. This is about us.
It’s invigorating and moving to hear your people point out your essence. You might just feel melty, seen and known.
It’s not cheating to ask for help identifying your core traits!
Your friends and family sure can’t write your essay for you, but asking about your core traits and getting inspired by their responses isn’t cheating at all.
We need each other to be good mirrors. We need the reflections of who we are in social context. After all– college is a social context.
When we’re comfortable around others, feel like ourselves, they are our people– they might see us more clearly than we see ourselves!
Write what you (now) see.
Still need help figuring out how to say who you are?
We can help you fill in the blanks your besties didn’t, or help you figure out how to describe and portray those traits, now that you have somewhere to start. Contact us HERE or book a complimentary 30 min admissions essay consultation HERE.