Passion. I remember looking online for advice about college admission essays and seeing the word “passion”.  All the articles I read warned me not to write about the death of a loved one, an injury that I had overcome, or what it meant to be captain of the cross-country team. “Stand out, be honest, and above all, be PASSIONATE!” After seeing that word in all caps, I quit my Internet browser and opened up a blank document. During this attempt, I did not stare at a blinking cursor for hours. What I had read resonated with me; I should not have been researching what to write about in the first place. There’s no mold to fill. A good essay is just the opposite: something that makes you stand out among your competition.

Crafting my college essays was one of my favorite parts about the college process. It gave me the window of opportunity to really show them who I was apart from the grades, SAT scores, and rankings that seemed to define me. I am more than just a statistic and the essays were my way to prove that.

After the longest three months of my life, I received an email from the University of Virginia titled: “Tonight’s the Night!” I skipped cross-country practice that cold January day and drove home with my mind soaring a mile a minute. My fate would be determined tonight. Tonight IS the night! I turned on my computer and refreshed my email hundreds of times before receiving the most important letter of my life. All I read was: “Congratulations on your…” before breaking down. I’m in! Someone actually looked at my resume, read the words I was so passionate about typing, and decided to admit me, forever changing my life. This was the best feeling I have ever experienced: a validation that I had worked so hard for this anticipated moment.

When I visited the University of Virginia that spring, it felt different than before. I never really let the beauty of the school soak in during previous visits because I did not want to get my hopes up in case I was denied. The “feeling” that everyone talks about was stronger than ever because it was a mutual feeling. I wanted the school, and the school wanted me. This realization was another one of my favorite moments during the college process.

Seniors currently riding the roller coaster of the college process, remember to tell a story in your essays. Most students applying to your dream school have similar statistics, but everyone has a different story. Be passionate about telling yours and think about the process from the viewpoint of the college admission officers. They are looking for essays that stand out so give them a break from all the “typical” essays they will read. Something I always heard from parents during the three long months of awaiting my fate was: “Everything happens for a reason.” Using your college essays as a window of opportunity, be the reason you get accepted!