Ben Borgers

Stories for College Applications

June 15, 2022

While doing college applications, I kept telling two storylines about myself:

  1. I had spent the previous summer calling random friends who I didn’t know as well out of the blue and trying to get to know them better.
  2. I really enjoy doing personal projects, and right now I do that via coding.

I somehow squeezed one of these two storylines into every essay I wrote. I bent supplemental essays’ prompts to fit something around these two, and I wrote my central Common App essay entirely about the second point.

When I had Zoom interviews with universities, I’d answer broad questions with anecdotes that often came back to these two points.

By the end of it, I felt like a political candidate who had really gotten down the talking points. The stories got smoothed out as I told and retold them, and I became skilled at bending conversations with different admissions people back to these talking points.

I don’t think that I did this consciously. Instead, I stumbled upon two things about myself that fit a lot of questions, that were also good stories to tell. I’m naturally a person who retells stories, so when I stumbled upon these stories I just kept telling them. It was easier to tell a story that I knew well than to come up with a new response to a question on the spot.

These two stories definitely didn’t represent the whole me. In a way, it was a caricature of me: two cherry-picked aspects that I was proud of, that I went around telling people about. The two top headlines at the moment.

But there was also some use in it. In fact, I think that I’d recommend choosing storylines like this for college applications. It made essays easier to write because I had topics that I’d already explored thoroughly. It made answering questions in live interviews easier because I didn’t have to come up with something entirely new.

The stories I told didn’t encompass everything about me. In that sense, it all felt a bit manufactured. But they told a consistent story about me, and they made things easier.