Throughout history, various people have studied the hero’s journey narrative, but it is most commonly associated with Joseph Campbell’s work. There is a common arc to most journey:
- It begins with an initial catalyst for the hero to start an extraordinary adventure
- While on the adventure, the hero overcomes challenges
- The hero completes the adventure and returns home
You're the hero of your college essay, which means you’ll have to tell the reader about your journey. Therefore, applying this framework allows you to step through your story in a logical and broadly appealing way.
It is often difficult to write a cohesive essay that will explain why your accomplishments are important, how you got through challenges, or what you did to influence an outcome. Furthermore, college essays often have strict word count limits, which emphasizes the importance of succinctly conveying your message.
How To Apply the Hero’s Journey
Apply the lens of the hero’s journey arc to your story, and tell the reader how you completed your quest.
- What prompted you to begin on this journey? What did you observe or experience that created an initial push to go down this journey?
- Who else was a part of this? Did you start with a team? Was there someone that helped to guide you? Were there others on the sidelines that offered to help along the way?
- After embarking on the journey, what challenges did you encounter? What did you have to do to overcome these challenges? Were there any failures?
- When did you achieve the goal? Was there a particular moment when you succeeded or was it more ambiguous?
- What did you learn? How did your perspective change? What is different about your life now?
- How does the future change for you? What impact does your journey have on the future?
- Begin an essay outline with those paragraphs, and you’ll find it easier to tell your story.
- Start early. No, start early, as in six months early.
- The Ugly First Draft is the hardest.
- Use simple language.
- Allow time for great ideas to surface.
- Have people of different ages, cultures, religions, and perspectives read it and provide feedback.
- Have someone proof the last three drafts and then let it sit for three days to make sure there isn’t anything to add.
- And one more thing, please do yourself – and every college admissions reader – a huge favor. Unless you have an incredible and unique twist, don’t write about sports. Even if you choose to write about My Little Pony, it will make a more memorable impression on evaluators as they wade through a half-filled pool of essays about sports.