By Jordan Reichhardt, International Trustee, Rocky Mountain District

“In 300 words, please explain the essence of your personality, detail the meaning of all things you have accomplished in your life and describe all goals you have for the future.” If you have started the college application process, this might seem to reflect what colleges expect from you. Admissions officers can easily see your academic record and standardized test scores. However, it’s up to you to highlight your activities, personal struggles and who you hope to become. This can be utterly overwhelming and feel like an impossible task.

The good news is that most admissions officers don’t expect you to convey your entire existence in your college application. They simply want to understand if your academic record, activities of interest and personality traits will allow you to thrive and add to their school’s overall academic and social environments.

Since I’m sitting in the same position as many of you, I talked to current college students and other applicants who just went through the application process or who are also in the midst of it and are excited to share their advice.

Beginning this process can be intimidating and overwhelming, because you’re choosing from among so many excellent schools. So take a minute to breathe. There is a school that is right for you. Often, reputations of individual schools are overemphasized. Just because a college has the best program in the country in a specific field doesn’t mean it’s the best for you.

Additionally, you should want to go to a school for you, not anyone else. Conrad Gabriel, a past Key Club international trustee and current freshman at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, encourages you to be honest with yourself.

“If you can’t sell your college application to yourself, then you won’t be able to sell it to an admissions officer,” he says. “Be honest with your intent. Be honest with why you chose the school. Be honest with what you would do if you were admitted.”

After you determine a list of colleges that interest you, you can begin the application process. One of the most challenging parts of applying to colleges can be writing personal statements. Andrew West, a current Key Club international trustee and high school senior, advises you to do some advance planning before you pull up the application form.

“Try to brainstorm a big list of times that you feel are important or influential to you, changes that you’ve undergone and more,” he suggests. “Then, pick one of these topics and do a free write: Set a timer for 10-20 minutes and write everything that comes to mind. Do this with a number of different topics and pick the one you like best to use as your first draft.”

These techniques help you dissect individual application tasks and make them more manageable.

Admissions officers review thousands of applications each year. Hannah Spargur, a current Circle K International trustee and junior at the University of Minnesota, remarks, “The most important aspect of your application is to stand out. Everyone has volunteered, but what made your experience unique to you? Write about what you did to impact the activity, what skills you developed through the activity and how you personally grew through applying those skills.”

As cliché as it might seem, colleges want you to be yourself in your applications. You’re not going to impress admissions officers by writing about and emphasizing activities that you think look good if they’re not things you are genuinely passionate about. Get creative and find ways to allow your personality to shine through your college applications.

The college application process is a time for you to reflect on your life, so start writing and have fun! Regardless of where you are accepted or denied, completing applications is an incredible accomplishment, and you have your whole life in front of you.