Make Your College Essay Stand Out: 3 Ways to Be Likable

Chase Yano
December 28, 2023
College Essays

When you make your college essay stand out, it is important to keep your audience in mind– your audience being college admissions officers. As they sort through thousands of essays, they will have to decide between applicants with virtually identical academic and extracurricular histories. So, you want to view your essay in terms of how likable you come across. 

How would you make this decision if you were an admissions officer? Whether it’s conscious or not, the primary deciding factor is one’s personal preference, which is entirely decided by the voice students use in their essays. In other words, you can think of being liked as the ultimate goal to work towards in your writing. 

In order to break down how you can build likability, let’s talk about three concrete methods to keep in mind as you write your essay.

These tips are ones that I give in sessions to my students as a tutor here at Dewey Smart. Want to work with me? Set up an appointment here. 

  1. Make Them Impressed

The most traditional way of making yourself likable in a college essay is through the tried and true method of showing off. Discuss your greatest achievements, whether it be your comeback robotics championship win to or a masterful performance you gave in a school play.

Ultimately, passionate individuals are memorable, especially to college admissions staff. After all, everybody loves a success story! Demonstrating your dedication, through the amount of time and effort you have put into something you care a lot about, will make your college essay stand out. 

  1. Make Them Laugh

Beyond simply impressing, you should also write with a sense of humor. People like to laugh, and funny writing will always make your college essay stand out. How many jokes you add depends on the type of writing you are striving for and the topic which you’re writing about.

If you’re a strong enough writer where you can produce a piece of comedic writing, then by all means do so. However, most of us are already struggling to write anything at all, so sprinkling a couple jokes throughout your essay will suffice.

The most organic way of inserting humor into your writing is to adopt a more casual or conversational tone in general. If you organize your essay as if it is something you say out loud to someone else, you will naturally be able to insert jokes and sarcasm into your speech like you would in real life.

And, like I said before, remember to know your audience. The majority of college admissions officers are over 30, so stray away from referencing a surreal Gen-Z meme that will go right over their heads. Also, some people aren’t funny, and that’s okay! Don’t feel the need to force humor where it doesn’t come naturally, as someone being unfunny will achieve the opposite of being liked. Writing in a conversational way is hard. Want to work with me to learn how to write better essays? Set up an appointment here. 

  1. Make Them Feel Bad for You

The third, and strongest, way you can make someone like you is to make them feel bad for you. For those of us with trauma, it’s our place to shine. While this is the method that can work the most in your favor, it is also one that can bite you the hardest.

Specifically, you don’t want your readers to know that you want them to feel bad for you. That is, you need to be subtle about it. When you discuss your hardships, don’t use any language to emphasize the severity of your struggle. Instead, just state the facts, and let the reader do the work of understanding and feeling sympathy themselves. If you let them come to it themselves, it will make your college essay stand out and prevent anybody from viewing your writing as overly sympathy-seeking.

Some people don’t have any difficult experiences that they see as worth writing about, and that’s okay, as long as you are appealing to some other aspect of the reader.

Achieving Balance

You don’t need to make a strong appeal to each of these three factors to make your college essay stand out. In fact, most of the time, it would be extremely difficult to do all three simultaneously well. As such, you should aim to cover at least two of these bases thoroughly, though there’s exceptions. You should view these three methods of framing your writing as tool boxes you can draw from as you write, the more the merrier as long as you maintain the quality and flow of your writing.

For more help applying these strategies, book a free consultation to work with an admissions counselor at Dewey Smart!

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