How do you answer the demonstrate your character prompt on the Coalition Application?

One of the most important rules of writing your personal essay is to answer the prompt.  Each of the prompts is a springboard from which you can leap into an important story about yourself to share with admissions officers.  These stories help the reader understand more about you.  The essay gives you the opportunity to share information that might otherwise be invisible on your application.  The first of the Coalition Application prompts this year asks you to share these invisible aspects of yourself

Here’s the prompt, along with a reflection on the key words and phrases that are vital to answering the prompt well.

The Demonstrates Your Character Prompt: “Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.”

Character

The central focus of this essay is a character trait you possess or are trying to develop. Perhaps the best way to start this essay is to identify those traits. For example, are you compassionate? amiable? gregarious, sympathetic, or witty? How would you describe your character? Clearly, you cannot describe every aspect of your character in about 500 words, so you may want to settle on a single aspect of your character that can serve as the pivot for this essay. But remember, you don’t just need the character trait, you need the story to go with it. The story is at the center of the demonstrate your character prompt.

Story

As with all the personal essay prompts, the demonstrate your character prompt is very clear that you must tell a story. The story does not have to be heroic or superhuman. The story can be relatively mundane, but it must be told in an interesting way. Like every story, it must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Details in the narrative will help it come alive (although the 550-word limit will prevent you from going into too much detail). The story must also illustrate the character trait you are trying to describe. The story is the example, the illustration, the proof that you possess this trait.

Demonstrate vs. Shape

Our character traits are inconstant. Sometimes we exemplify them well. Sometimes we are actually trying to improve some character traits, such as our empathy, our diligence, or our human courtesy. So perhaps you may focus on a trait that you find to be quite solid—a “rock” at the center of your personality. On the other hand, you may choose to focus on a trait that you are working to improve. The story, then, is one that demonstrates either the “rock” or the ways in which you are developing and improving your character.

Write the demonstrate your character prompt on the Coalition Application with some great college essay advice.
Get personalized guidance on how to respond to the demonstrate your character prompt.

Are you considering any of the other prompts for the Coalition Application? Check out these links to guide you on each of those prompts.

Belief Challenged Prompt

Being a Teenager Prompt

Challenged a Belief Prompt

Meaningful Contribution Prompt

Topic of Your Choice Prompt

Or, are you looking for help with the Common App instead? Check this out.

Mark Montgomery
Educational consultant and admissions expert

Great College Advice offers college admissions advice to high school students and their families around the country and around the world. We help students look differently at college admissions and navigate the changing educational landscape. We give our students a positive and insightful college planning experience with long-lasting effects. Because it’s not just about college—it’s about your life’s journey.

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Published by Mark Montgomery

Mark is a leading educational consultant. His experience as a professor, college administrator, and youth mentor help him guide students from around the country and around the world.

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1 Comment

  1. Such an important post! Students often want to state their qualities directly — but a story showcases traits indirectly while ultimately revealing MORE. Awesome tip for all students writing college essays over the next few months!

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