How to Incorporate DECA into Your College Essays

Dragon Chan | California DECA
Photo courtesy of @harkerdeca on Instagram.

College Apps. Eww.

The two words that can make a room full of high school students empty in less than a minute.

It’s like when your parents forced you to eat broccoli as a child: gross but necessary.

As your list of prospective colleges begins to look legible and somewhat sane, it’s time to start thinking about your college applications, specifically the essays. For a lot of people, the hardest part is finding a subject to write about, something that encapsulates who they are and tells their story.

If you are reading this article, you are likely part of that group, so here are some tips on how you can incorporate DECA into your college essay:

#1 Write About How DECA Changed You

Colleges love to see how you’ve grown, adapted and changed over the years. They want to see how and why something defined you and made you who you are today. A great option is to write how DECA changed you.

This can be something about how DECA expanded your view of the world as you met new friends, how you persevered and improved yourself every year to get that #DECAGlass, how you ran for chapter, district, or even association office and grew as a leader, or how you’ve worked with your chapter to improve the lives of others and your community in your Chapter Service Campaigns or Community Service Project (CSP).

#2 Write About a Challenge You’ve Faced and Tried to Overcome in DECA

Adversity and determination are the two big words that usually make a story stand out. Even if you’ve failed countless times to get on stage, colleges want to hear the story on how you worked hard and always kept trying to get back up – something called “Grit” (See Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk on this, it’s amazing).

Never be afraid to be yourself and present the real you, not a made-up story. Everyone always talks about winning something so don’t be part of the 70% that talk about how happy they were to win a trophy. Instead, be unique to yourself and write about the challenges that got you to the top or why you never gave up. The true secret in learning how to win is to first learn how to fail.

#3 Focus on Your Emotions

High school was ruff. We get it, all bark and no play, but don’t whimper at the thought of it. Instead, turn that frown upside down and look back at how your own emotions changed over time. Try to understand how you developed your own voice and emotional maturity over time.

Focus on being the main character and write to understand yourself at the same time. This is a great time to use anecdotes and add in some vivid descriptions of your own experiences when you didn’t know what you wanted to do with your life to as you now prepare for your next journey with the understanding and experiences that DECA has given you.

Additional Tips & Tricks

Hopefully that’s given you some ideas, but here are some more tips to have in mind when you start typing!

  • Don’t just write about the past, carry on the events of your essay into the present and give life into the future, share with the reader your vision for tomorrow.
  • What’s the one thing you want the reader to remember when they finish reading? Do your moments and anecdotes follow that and stay on topic?
  • Tailor your essay to the school. If you can change the name and it makes sense, you’ve failed. That’s like trying to give an ASM (Automotive Services) role-play as an AAM (Apparel & Accessories) one. It doesn’t make sense.
  • Structure your essay with a beginning, middle and end while focusing on three ideas. Use a common theme, start with a “wow” and interesting introduction, and end by touching on all your main points.
  • Never repeat the prompt, use cliché statements, or be generic. You should avoid bragging, talking about your controversial beliefs, your life story, or describing a relationship with a significant other, to name a few.

Make sure to be detailed, show your true voice, and have others review your essay. By showing through your own personal experiences why you want to attend that school, you’ve just stood out and avoided the circular filing cabinet to their right.

For more #Limitless tips and tricks, be sure to follow @DECA_Dragon on Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat.

This article was written by California DECA Vice President of Southern California, Dragon Chan. You can follow Dragon on Twitter @DECA_Dragon.

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