There are two sides to every story, they say. I say there are two sides to every application essay: (1) your side and (2) the college's side. The New York Times Magazine ran an essay contest inspired by Rick Perlstein's essay, “What's the Matter With College." The 600 or so responses cover some interesting ground.
What you can see in these entries is the contrast between writers who write what they want to say (the winners) and those who write what the contest judges want to hear (the losers). Therein lies the critical key for those of you involved in, or planning to become involved in, the college application process. This is when you will confront the application essay challenge.