If you took my previous advice to heart, you perhaps arranged for something interesting to happen over the course of the summer (if you need more ideas, here are some summer jobs from the Class of 2017: developing Plug Ins for ProTools at Universal Audio, making/selling bracelets in the streets of NYC, delivering pizzas, DJing, camp counseloring [definitely a word], supervising the parking booths at Six Flags, helping out on an alpaca farm, assorted grocery store tasks, etc.). If you intend to productively harness summer events as conversation topics in the admissions process, the next step is reflection.
Start by mulling over the following questions, just as examples:
Dig deep into your motivation, personality, interests, eccentricities. Ask “why?” over and over and over again (like my four year old twin cousins) until you stump yourself and need to tease out what exists at the next level. Allow the events of the summer to propel you into thinking big-picture about who you are, why you are that way, and what you want to become. You don’t need to have an epiphany, just a thoughtful reflection. And this is the message you want to send us.
The story or framework you use to express it is just a vehicle. Sure, your summer spent grooming alpacas is “interesting” and “neat,” but on its own that’s not worthy of 500 words. It’s your introspection that deserves to be showcased; it’s the self-analysis that we really want to see.
It’s like how bread is perfectly good on its own, but is better utilized when delivering more interesting nosh-ables like cheese, olive oil, and the final dredges of ragù alla bolognese. The cheese (your reflection) is what matters, the bread (your story) is just there because it’s hard to eat Camembert with your hands.
And remember, if you don’t write about “that interesting thing you did,” we will still see that you did it. You’ll list it in your activities, and the sheer fact that you chose it will add a new facet to our impression of you. It is ok to write about ideas that excite you, and to let your accomplishments (aka extracurricular lists) speak for themselves.
Now for a final thought: Not every experience carries or inspires a ton of meaning. We’d be crushed under the weight of our lives if every moment was of serious consequence. So, if no great revelations come from your activities this summer, that’s ok!
Just carve out some quiet time, grab a pen, pencil, laptop, or typewriter if you’re feeling extra hip (I bet the guys in Mumford & Sons write on typewriters) and see what happens. We can’t wait to see where you land!