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5 Tips Every Veteran Should Keep In Mind When Writing Their College Admissions Essays
In honor of the start of college admissions season, I’m offering some tips I learned during my time as an admissions application reader and writing consultant tailored to help veterans write college application essays that actually stand out.
Answer the question
In the military, we’re taught to write memos and SOPs in a straightforward and technical manner. Still, I’ve read dozens of college admissions personal statements from veterans that tell a wonderfully engaging story about their time in the service, but fail to answer the questions asked in the essay prompt.
This issue comes up a lot especially for applicants using an essay template to apply to multiple colleges. Don’t focus on telling me about a personal challenge you overcame while in the military if I asked you to talk about why you chose to apply to X school. As a good practice, go back and read the essay prompt after you’ve written your personal statement or essay, then underline each instance in your essay where you directly answer the prompt. This will tell you if you’re on track or not.
Show, don’t tell
Use every opportunity to tell a story. Admissions staff aren’t interested in reading a list of your accomplishments as if they’re on a promotion board perusing your military personnel file. Instead, tell a story that leaves them wanting to know more about you and what you accomplished during your military service or in your personal life.
As with job interviews, I recommend applicants implore the STAR method – which will provide details about the specific situation, task, action, and result of the story you are telling in a logical order. Reading a list isn’t necessarily interesting, but reading a story can be. Being interesting is what gets you an invite to the next cohort. Give the admissions readers a reason to want to meet you in person by telling them a story that is personal, engaging, and thought-provoking.
Start with bullet points
If you’re having trouble figuring out how to tell your story, I also recommend starting with bullet points. When it came time to write evaluations for my soldiers as a platoon leader, I often started the process by listing 3-4 bullet points under each section on the evaluation form which allowed me to concisely articulate the soldier’s accomplishments and begin to create a narrative about their performance.
For personal statements, outline the story you want to tell from beginning to end using bullet points. Creating an outline will allow you to clarify your thoughts and identify where information might be confusing to the reader (remember most people have not served in the military and have no concept of rank or MOS).
Often, college admissions applications serve as the first-time veterans have an opportunity to write about their service and it can be daunting to get started. The content of the bullet points can become the skeleton for your essay paragraphs and allow you to easily connect ideas and shape your story.
Don’t repeat information
Admissions readers know you have a lot of awards and have traveled to various countries over your military career because they can easily read this type of information on the resume that is submitted with your application. Don’t repeat it over again in your personal statement and supplemental essays. The admissions staff wants to know how you differ from the other 100 applicants who have also won awards or worked in foreign countries, what makes you unique? Talk about what you can bring to the incoming cohort as a veteran and individual that’s going to make an impact and increase the knowledge base, culture, and prestige of the institution.
Colleges are as interested in what benefits you can provide them as you are about what you will get out of the deal. Communicate in your personal statement what distinctive role you will fill, what value you bring to the classroom and your future profession, and how you will enrich the experiences of your classmates.
Be specific and stand out
Most applicants say at some point in their college application essays that they are “hardworking” or “passionate about making the world a better place”. Neither of these attributes is unique to veterans or servicemembers, nor do they particularly stand out as demonstrative of a person’s character to application readers who are reviewing 1000s of applications. To succeed in college, every student SHOULD be hardworking and passionate about their studies or a broader cause. Instead of relying on generic application clichés, write about your personal motivation for joining the military, how your identity and life thus far have informed your professional goals, or about what impact you personally hope to have on the world around you outside of your military service.
Remember, it’s perfectly fine to discuss your military service in your personal statement despite the stigmas veterans sometimes face in our society today. The important thing to keep in mind is that the application essay is a representation of you on paper and one of the only opportunities you get to make an impression before you arrive on campus. Just like in a job interview, it’s essential you demonstrate your unique value and why you deserve a seat in the (class)room.
This is a part of a series on hacking higher education in partnership with Service to School, a non-profit that provides free college application assistance to transitioning service members and veterans
'It just happened' — the Iraq War’s first living Medal of Honor recipient recalls his harrowing fight against 5 insurgents
On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.
Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.
In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.
With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.
After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.
Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.
McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.
Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.
The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.
They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.
It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.
WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) - President Donald Trump imposed new U.S. sanctions onIran on Monday following Tehran's downing of an unmanned American drone and said the measures would target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Trump told reporters he was signing an executive order for the sanctions amid tensions between the United States and Iran that have grown since May, when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil.
Trump also said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone. He said the supreme leaders was ultimately responsible for what Trump called "the hostile conduct of the regime."
"Sanctions imposed through the executive order ... will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader's office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support," Trump said.
While it can be difficult to peg down just how star-spangled a state is, one indicator is the rate at which citizens enlist in the military, especially during the United States' longest period of sustained conflict. At least, that's the thinking behind WalletHub's new study, 2019's Most Patriotic States in America.