The Life Events That Prepare You For College and Beyond

St. Agnes Academy
There are many life events that prepare you for college, and admissions officers want to hear about them! If you’re preparing to jump into college applications, read our tips to stand out.
College admissions season is coming up in early August, and we know that many of our students (and their parents) are hard at work preparing for what’s to come.

Prior to starting this process, students should understand exactly what will be expected of them in terms of admissions criteria and application components while continuing to invest in their academic studies.

In addition to focusing on grades and overall academic performance, soon-to-be high school graduates should familiarize themselves with common college application requirements as they prepare for the admissions season. For example, you may be asked to address life events that prepare you for college.

Thinking ahead is crucial because the vast majority of colleges require students to submit essay compositions as part of their admissions packages. Essay topics can vary significantly between institutions, but students can get a head start on crafting their writing samples by researching common essay prompts and giving some consideration to their responses.

Let’s review some common college essay topics and how students can respond thoughtfully to these writing challenges.

Common Topic: Life Events That Prepare You For College

College admissions essays commonly focus on certain life events and experiences that have impacted students and helped shape their views of the world around them. For example, the UT Austin and Texas A&M Prompt for the Class of 2025 reads: 

“Tell us your story. What unique opportunities or challenges have you experienced throughout your high school career that have shaped who you are today?”

This prompt is fairly open-ended, so students can describe a life event that has prepared them to be successful in college, describe a person who has most impacted their life, or share additional personal challenges, hardships, or opportunities that have shaped or impacted their abilities or academic credentials.

Some other common essay prompts from higher education institutions may include the following:

1. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

2. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

3. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

4. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

5. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

As you can see, many of these prompts focus on particular figures and experiences that have shaped you. Even if you have only begun thinking about applying to colleges, it is well worth it to set aside time to consider how you would respond to these prompts and the kinds of experiences and relationships you might wish to focus on.

Tips for Writing Impactful College Essays 

With so many students applying to colleges every year, students must find ways to stand out to admissions officers and other university personnel. Here are a few of our go-to tips for writing effective college essays.

1. Be Yourself!

College admissions officers want to know more than just your grades and test scores—they want to know about you.

Don’t be afraid to be honest and vulnerable when crafting your responses to essay topics or short answer questions. The more admissions departments learn about you, the easier it will be for them to determine whether you might be a good fit for their academic community.

When you let your personality shine through your words, admissions officers feel more connected to who you are as a person and the insights you wish to share. 

2. Don’t Be Afraid of Humor

Contrary to popular belief, college admissions teams don’t expect every admissions essay to be 100% sad or serious. During a lengthy review process, admissions officers are often grateful to encounter levity in an applicant’s composition.

Writing essays about funny, joyful experiences can make you seem personable and relatable while still conveying important information about your values and personality. That’s why you should never shy away from telling stories that bring a smile to your face when crafting your college essays.

3. Play With Style

The average admissions official is estimated to review roughly 50 applications daily during admissions seasons. That’s a lot of essays to read! So, another way you can set yourself apart from the rest of the applicant pool is by playing with the form and style of your composition.

Unless otherwise specified, there is absolutely no reason you cannot respond to an essay prompt with a fictional short story or long-form poem. These kinds of submissions can make for a more engaging read and set you apart as a student who values creativity. 

(Please note that you should always carefully review the requirements for an essay submission to ensure there are no format restrictions before playing with your composition style in this way.)

4. Ask a Friend/Family Member

If you’re like many students, you may find it difficult to describe the challenges and hardships you’ve experienced due to imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome can make it challenging to recognize the value of your experiences and achievements. When crafting your college application essay, it's essential to acknowledge and address these feelings of self-doubt.

Don't hesitate to ask friends and family for guidance when you feel stuck or uncertain. Their fresh perspective can unlock new ideas and insights, helping you showcase your character and experiences more effectively.

However, be mindful not to involve too many people in the review process, as it's essential to maintain the authenticity of your voice. While external input can be helpful, your essay should ultimately reflect your individuality and personal journey.

With the support of your loved ones, you can confidently craft an essay that leaves a lasting impression on admissions officers.

Need Help With Your College Applications?

If you are a St. Agnes student applying to college, our College Counseling Department can help you throughout the process. During senior year, we can help you journey through college admissions with one-on-one advising, senior workshops, and Senior Family Night.

If you have any questions or concerns about your applications or need help crafting your essays, the College Counseling team can offer you the resources and support you need. Let us help you capture certain life events that prepare you for college.

Our faculty and staff are happy to lend a listening ear to ensure our students reach their fullest potential during admissions season.