Guiding you on your journey to college and beyond.

Life lessons everyone can learn from a college essay

You know the experience of being in the right place in your life? Not just physically, but in the space of resonating with the core of your being and connecting deeply with the people around you? The sounds and smells of the day reverberate in your bones to the point you relate to what Thoreau meant when he said that he wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life. 

When I wrote my book, My Diary Unlocked, I read thousands of diary entries that women had saved from their teen years on their struggles with self-confidence. I recognized the common thread of a sense of disconnect from the true self. From these insights and my own exploration on the path of self-knowledge, I pioneered the BEING Compass™, a tool I use in my college essay course lessons to guide students to use their essays as personal statements to not only acknowledge the path they have traveled thus far, but to claim their stake in identifying and affirming the person they are becoming … the one that aligns with their dreams and goals. By sharing in this way, they connect with college gatekeepers in a meaningful way, and are far more likely to choose a school that is the right fit for them, not for some illusory concept of what will make them “successful.” The fact is, only when we experience our true nature is any level of success real.

indian college student doing homework

Too many of us don’t relate to this level of aliveness in today’s society. We have fallen victim to the “busyness” of a fast paced and stress-based routine that takes the joy out of the precious moments that have become foreign to us. The scary thing is that we are raising the next generation of school children to be as sleep-starved and spirit-deprived as many adults have become. Kids are learning to look outward for affirmation of their self-worth. Nowhere is this pressure more palpable than in the world of the college application process that students face in high school. College-bound teenagers feel pressure from peers, parents and society at large to place their value on what they look like as a student on paper instead of who they are as a person. The result has undoubtedly played in role in the doubling of teen suicide rates over the past decade. The number one desire to die by suicide is feeling disconnected from others. Is it any surprise there is a disconnect when elite universities are viewed as the holy grail, while the acceptance rate of many of these schools is in the single digits? We’ve seen parents go as far as cheating the university system and the IRS to get their kids into a name brand school, even if it’s not the right fit. It should be common sense that we will feel out of place when we are out of place, yet so many people are caught in a trap.

What needs to happen to stop the insanity and encourage our kids (and ourselves) to embody what Joseph Campbell called the privilege of a lifetime … “being who you are?” We must be willing to shift our values and deepen our level of self-awareness. When we become open to listening to the call of our own heart and soul, we learn that every moment we make a choice that resonates with our own inner truth, we experience peace and joy that can never be found by attaching to a label of any kind. By doing this, we naturally model it for everyone around us, including our kids.

How can each of us apply these lessons to expand our self-awareness? I believe the college essay writing process can be used as a metaphor for anyone who feels there is something more to life. In a way, it’s a rite of passage that presents an opportunity to reveal the true essence that is waiting to bloom. We are all on a journey in life, learning and growing in the direction of the fullest expression of our potential – of being the best version of ourselves. Our life stories have woven the tapestry of our lives thus far. 

Am I saying we all need to write college essays? No. I’m inviting us all to use the principles of the BEING Compass™ as a guide to tune in to every aspect of being and commit to calibrating our inner compass (our soul’s GPS) to our own true north. Here’s how. Start by first asking the question, “What is my state of being? Recognize the key word BEING as a verb, and also as an acronym that encompasses each of the essential elements needed to expand self-awareness in a holistic way. Beginning with body, be willing to listen to the signals of the body’s wisdom. By listening to the signals the body is sending all the time, we unlock the potential to expand our emotional intelligence, because our emotions are interconnected with every cell of the body. Paying attention to physical sensations and the feelings that accompany them, we naturally resonate with the world around us with a more refined sense of reality. Having the courage to process our feelings, we stop numbing out what our intuition is sharing with us. We interpret “gut feelings,” “lumps in the throat,” etc. with a level of understanding that aligns with our personal experience. With this level of openness, the brilliance of human imagination invites us to perceive our world in new ways. Aha moments become natural. New ways of looking at things open up. The seeds of transformation are sown. From that level of expansion, we are inspired to take action as we navigate a new way of being. Old behaviors that no longer serve us are replaced with healthy habits on everything from the foods we eat to the choices we make to speak up for ourselves. Next, we must become friends with our inner genius. When we are mindful of it, we are guided in a direction of fulfilling our life’s purpose. Tapping into the power of our genius mind, we spiral onward and upward by objectively taking inventory of our actions, reflecting on lessons learned and recalibrating whatever we realize will help us lead a more love and joy-filled life. 

With this dedication to a quest of self-awareness, we nurture a level of self-acceptance that allows us to feel comfortable in our own skin. But more than that, we begin to hear the melodic sounds of birds singing, smell the morning coffee brewing, and feel the warm embrace of a loved one in a way that confirms that we are not only connected to others, we are connected in a real way to ourselves.  

Janet Larson, M.S. 

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