I believe that, if approached correctly, working through the components of a college application helps a student reach a deeper understanding of his or her talents, goals and needs. In this way, the pedagogy of the application drives toward identification of a compelling topic (often a key challenge for students), and a successful essay. This, in turn, gives a student a sense of satisfaction with the self-portrait painted in the application, a sense of agency in what can be a very disenfranchising process, and ultimately a satisfying acceptance outcome.
There's a long-form for the "how," including understanding how the essay fits into the application as a whole, analyzing the reasons colleges have been prioritized on an application list, and paying attention to technical elements of writing but, for today, I give you the second slide in the essay writing section of an admissions presentation I am preparing. Invite your stressed-out high school senior to stop thinking about how-to-impress admissions officers and consider this: