College Application Essays – Find a Selling Point

By on June 16, 2011

This article is in response to the Businessweek interview of “Americas Premier College Counselor”, Michelle Hernandez. The story aimed to capture the strategies that she uses to ensure student’s acceptances to their top-choice school.


Michelle Hernandez is a woman that has a very successful academic track record. She graduated from Dartmouth College with top honors and eventually returned to the college 4 years later to work in admissions. While working in admissions she gained an in-depth understanding of the college process and what it takes to admitted into top schools. Hernandez eventually left Dartmouth to start her own very successful private counseling business.

Hernandez stresses that each student must find a selling point. A  strong selling point will make you differ from the rest of the candidate pool. The earlier you find your selling point the better it is. With admission rates shrinking year after year, competition is getting much stiffer. Having put time into a selling point and really making it complete will better your odds.

Use Your College Application Essays

Find your selling point by evaluating what you love to do and what defines you. Instead of doing the bare minimum with your selling point, try to go above and beyond what any other student would do. “If someone says she likes photography, Hernandez might suggest she take photos of the homeless, then mount an exhibit as a way to raise money”. When a ninth-grade boy said he might be interested in his school’s tech club, she told him: “You can take it over and take it in a new direction.”

Once you’ve established your selling point, use your college application essays to emphasize it. Your college application essays are your only opportunity to add a personal perspective to your application. Hopefully the rest of your application communicates your selling point, and your college application essays can express your passion for your selling point in an authentic way.

With it getting harder and harder to get into top colleges it is essential to take all the advantages you can get while also striving to exceed the norm.


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  1. Andre Tarquinio

    June 19, 2011 at 9:31 am

    The concept of a selling point for colleges is very interesting. The competition in colleges as well as the high percentage of college bound students it is a necessary part of the process.

  2. Ashley Chi

    June 20, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    Wow–this article really pin-pointed one of the shared traits of students I personally know who have been accepted into all of their “wanted” schools. There were those who had near-perfect GPA’s, SAT scores, with a few extracurriculars or two, but didn’t make it into the colleges that they wanted to attend. However, after reading this article, I especially noticed that the students who had all those qualities on their transcript and even more–an unfounded passion for robotics, several Speech and Debate first place trophies on their shelves–were successful, and were accepted into most, if not all, of their top pick colleges. Thanks for this eye-opening article!

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