For many students who travel with RLT, the experience they have is life changing. It’s a unique learning experience that opens their eyes to a whole new way of thinking and seeing the world.
So when it comes time to write that open-ended college application essay, those student service stories are the ones that stand out as interesting, compelling, and worth writing about.
But the question remains: How do you craft that story to really stand out on college applications? What areas do you talk about? What details do you leave out?
We’ve come up with a few tips to help you craft an essay that’s strong, well composed, and really grabs the attention of the admissions office.
1. Be unique with your theme
You’ve had a very special experience with your student service program, and few students can say they’ve been fortunate enough to do the same. Leverage that experience by focusing on a unique perspective you gained while on your journey.
That might look like:
The important thing to remember is that your student service program taught you something you couldn’t have learned at home or in a classroom. Ask yourself: “What is the one takeaway that really stuck with you after your trip?”
2. Focus on you
You might be tempted to write about the details of your trip and paint a picture of the beautiful scenery you saw during your student service program, but for a college application essay, it’s important to leave those details behind.
Admissions offices want to learn about you and your personality. They want to see how your mind works—not hear a complete itinerary of your journey.
Write about what you learned, not everything you saw. Sure, you can incorporate a few descriptive phrases, but focus on big themes over minor details.
3. Be passionate
When you came home from your student service program, you were on fire! You wanted to scream from the rooftops about the amazing world that’s out there and tell everyone to go see it.
Now it’s time to write your college application essay—and you need to call on that passion again. Tap into that feeling of adventure and excitement and translate it into your essay.
Explain to the reader the why behind what drives you. Is it helping others? Is it pursuit of knowledge? Regardless of the why, that fiery passion should be a driving factor as you type.
4. Be honest
Sometimes when we look back on memories, we dress them up to be idyllic, perfect, and wonderful. But while you were on your student service trip, you probably had a few moments of feeling uncomfortable, scared, or completely out of your comfort zone.
Share those moments of uncertainty—and talk about what you learned from them. Be honest about your fears. Talk about how you overcame them. Exposing those weak moments creates a sense of sincerity in your writing.
5. Edit, revise, and re-write
Unless you’re perfect, your first draft isn’t going to be your best draft. Never send off your first version without having several other people look it over and make suggestions.
You’ll want to allow yourself at least a week to write, review, and come up with your final submission. Making lots of changes is normal and only helps make your essay stronger.
Writing your essay for college applications isn’t easy—but with your student service story under your belt, you’ve got great material to work with. The hardest part is getting past the blank page.
If you’re not sure where to get started, check out these snippets from past travelers and parents as a source of inspiration.