This will take you 5-15 minutes and provide all the content you need to write your essay.
Here’s a tip: The more time you spend working on this chart the easier it’ll be to write your essay. Students who spend 10 minutes on this exercise will have an outline; students who spend 20 minutes or more will have all the content they need to write their essay.
Once you’ve completed the BEABIES exercise…
Step 2: Choose a problem.
Decide which problem you want to use to start your essay. Some more examples from past students:
“Our campus was divided into separate social groups…”
“Our music program was at risk of being shut down…”
“We didn’t have adequate sports equipment…”
“A hurricane had recently flooded our nearby town and we wanted to help…”
“Maternal mortality rates were extremely high in the community where we were working…”
Draw us in. Get us to wonder how one might solve this problem.
Step 3: Raise the stakes.
Help us understand why this problem was/is important to solve. Why do we need to act now?
Step 4: Tell us what you did about it.
This content will come directly from the first column of your BEABIES exercise. As I’ve said, if you spend some quality time thinking about your bullet points, you’ll have all the content you need for this section.
Step 5: Tell us why you were/are crucial to the project or club’s success.
Many students skip this step, but it can be useful in helping us understand your particular gifts, skills, and strengths. Consider:
- Did you draw on knowledge you’d gained elsewhere (like your musical talents, or your love of research)?
- Did you learn to do something brand new for this project (like coding, for example, or how to ask local business owners for donations)?
- Imagine your team was a team trying to pull off a heist in one of those action movies (not literally, but go with me). What was your special talent that qualified you to be there? Were you the visionary, inspiring the team to dream bigger? Or the team parent, sending reminder texts and making sure everyone was eating enough?
Step 6: Show us the impact.
While this is perhaps the most important part of the extracurricular essay, many students struggle to articulate the impact of their work. And it’s no surprise—even nonprofits and large organizations struggle to articulate the impact of their work.
Here are some ways to think about impact:
- Numbers (Ex: “In the past year, club membership has tripled” or “We raised over $1,200 to buy new books for the library!”)
- Anecdotal evidence of impact, or quotations (Ex: “We’ve received numerous requests to return next year” or “Last week, a first-year student named Elena wrote me an email to say, ‘Thank you for making a difference in my life.’”)
- Personal impact (on you, the author) in the form of lessons learned, skills gained (Ex: “I have come to better understand the pervasive, damaging effects of white supremacy culture.”) It’s especially interesting to note if these skills transferred to other areas of your life (Ex: “The facilitation skills I learned through my work with the Gay-Straight Alliance helped me communicate more effectively with my soccer teammates.”)
Once you’ve brainstormed these elements, you should have everything you need to write your essay.