One of my current clients wanted to write a university admissions essay about how “…despite a global pandemic that impacted his ACT prep courses; he worked very hard and overcame the odds to achieve the coveted perfect score.”

Terrible Idea.

In addition to the fact that writing about a test score is a terrible idea, writing about “working hard” is also a terrible idea. Universities don’t want to hear about your hard work, they want to hear about what makes you smile. They want to hear about the subjects and moments when you are lost in exploration. They seek applicants enamored by the world around them and intent on exploring it.

So, what does this all mean? Should you forget test prep? No, colleges still value strong test scores and if in the midst of exploring a passion you win an intellectual competition, great. But it is essential that prospective applicants change their educational perspective from an achievement-based perspective to an exploration-based perspective. This is a simple but essential change.