Channeling Inner Kindness in the Personal Essay

Kindness counts.  That's what this recent post reminds students as they approach their college application essays. "...the best essays are born when students dig deeper and share something that makes them tear up, or causes their eyes to twinkle or their tones to shift," confides Jennifer Winward in this Washington Post article. Greater authenticity emerges when students write about moments of genuine kindness.

 Winward cites the 2016 report by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Making Caring Common,  which found that colleges are drawn to applicants who show concern for others, promote good citizenship and civic engagement, and develop personal responsibility.  The report included specific tips for parents including:

1)     If your teens help to run the household, babysit a younger sibling, or make other significant family contributions, make sure they write about it on their applications.

2)     Alleviate test pressure by discouraging students from taking the same standardized test more than twice.

3)     Have teens engage in meaningful community service not high-profile causes or traveling to exotic countries in the hope that this will make the application stand out.

4)     Encourage students to be authentic and honest about their interests and accomplishments.

 Channel Your Inner Kindness

Indeed, the most compelling essays are the most self-reflective and express ideas and feelings the student has discovered about him/herself in the midst of an experience, event, or activity.  “The students who talk about moments of genuine kindness reveal more authenticity than those who focus on other subjects,” Winward points out.  She advises students to consider situations and times when they have been the kindest and the people who benefited from the kindness. “Being yourself and channeling your inner kindness to build character should be the focus.”

 Winward suggests that students record themselves speaking about something that they love, something disappointing, or something that truly gets them fired up about life.  Upon listening to the recording(s), students find where their voices perk up revealing the event or time, and the accompanying emotions, to write about.  It's a sensible strategy especially for students struggling to find what to write about.  Often the richest essays are about activities the student doesn't consider all that exciting, Yet, the WHY behind the activity can expose a great deal about personality.