Traveling during your high school years is a fantastic way to broaden your perspective and grow and mature as a person. We’re especially certain of that here at Rustic Pathways! Since travel is such a transformative experience, many students write about their adventures for their college admissions essays. This is a great idea, but it does not make you a shoe-in for your dream school.
It’s important to reflect on your time in a different state or overseas and think about how it has changed you in a unique way. Having an eye-opening travel experience is not exceptional in itself. It is the specifics—and better yet, actions you took as a result of that experience—that will set you apart from the rest of the applicant pool.
Here are some tips on how to write about your travel experiences for a college essay in a unique way.
1) Be authentic and tell your unique story
Don’t be afraid to put in details that tell your unique story. What moments have helped make you you? Even if they aren’t the cliche things that you think sound good to admissions officers, they will show your individuality.
2) Consider weaving your travel experience into a larger story
How does your travel experience fit in with your larger life story? Did it emphasize a passion or interest you already had? Look back and think about how you initially developed that passion, interest, or skill and tell that story, using your travel experience as one supporting part of it.
3) Pick one specific moment to focus on
Again and again admissions officers state that it is often the small things that are more interesting. Not only does writing about small moments show that you can find meaning beyond the big picture, but it will differentiate you.
4) Look deeper and take a different perspective
Take a moment to ask different questions of yourself about your trip. Think not only about how you grew personally while abroad, but consider how your actions and presence abroad are affecting the country and its people. If you took part in service, look beyond the obvious and show that you’re aware of the deeper significance or effects, positive or negative, of your efforts.
Questions to ask yourself about your Rustic Pathways program
What was the most powerful experience or moment you had on the program?
How did your program inspire you?
How did you change during or after your program? Was it an opinion you previously held that was changed? Your worldview? You, personally?
What goals have you created for yourself as a result of your Rustic Pathways experience?
What did you do on your program that was brand new for you? How did you feel doing it?
What advice would you give someone going on a Rustic Pathways program for the first time?
What stands out to you about Rustic Pathways?
What have you done since you’ve been home that relates back to your Rustic Pathways experience?
5) Tailor your essay to the college
Do some research on the college’s mission, what it values, and the kind of students it seeks out and accepts. You don’t want to create a cookie-cutter essay that checks all its boxes, but you should see if there is an authentic way you can build some of those issues into your essay.
Following these five tips should have you well on your way to crafting a stand-out essay. Once you’ve got a draft ready to go, read back through it and make sure it’s free from any of the following common blunders:
- Refrain from saying anything along the lines of “Rustic Pathways changed my life.”
- Be cautious of switching verb tenses. When you list different activities, make sure the verbs are all in the same tense.
- Do not narrate your trip day by day. Talk about specific moments, people, or themes rather than recap your program’s itinerary.
- Avoid the classic “mission trip” essay—as described by Rick Clark, Georgia Tech’s director of undergraduate admissions—a theme he’s tired of reading:
“’You know, we flew down to somewhere in Central America. And we got off the plane. It was really hot. And we got on the bus, and 20 miles outside of the village, our bus broke down. But we got picked up by like a chicken truck and taken into town. And then, over the course of my time there, I went expecting to help others. But it was, in fact, me who was changed.’ And even just when you first start reading that essay, you’re like, oh, here it comes again.”
Once you’ve read back through your essay and made any necessary adjustments, you’re almost at the finish line! Print it off and read a physical copy if you haven’t already; errors jump out at you better that way. Now make a few more copies and give them to people you trust to read over, such as your parents, teachers, and high school counselors.
Take their feedback and edits into account, then read, re-read, and re-read again your completed essay. Congratulations, if you made it this far you’ve certainly put together a fantastic college essay that will surely get you noticed by admissions counselors. Best of luck!
Need help choosing that incredible travel experience? Request a call from one our global travel experts.
Date of Trip: August 2010
My Best Trip in My life!!!
I’m happy to tell you about my recent trip to Morocco. We travel as a group of 8 (4 families with teenage children), always the six of us, and every year we go to a different place. Money permitting, we love to travel, but we tend to stay away from organized tours in the usual sense of the word since so often they tend to protect from really getting into the places, skipping from one tourist attraction to the next. This year we decided to go to Morocco, mainly because it seemed inexpensive, but after the vacation we were definitely in love with the place.
We flew into Marrakech and were impressed immediately upon arrival by the airport building: its incredible roof outside is like lace and the sun shines through it, casting beautiful shadows on the pavement: there already was an incredible atmosphere greeting us. We took a taxi for 6 (a minivan) and for 15 euros were taken to Marrakech, with hundreds of scooters speeding around us! Our hotel was right off the Jeema el-Fna – an orderly chaos of smells, colors and sounds, by day and into the night! We hadn’t yet learned to not fall for taking pictures of guys with cobras (after you do they demand money), but that is how it started! We spent 2 days in Marrakech visiting the traditional tourist destinations (the souk, the Saadian toumbs, the Majorelle Gardens, the Tower of Hassan II and so forth) before we were met by our travel guides (sahara-magic .com) that we had selected for the real tour: Hassan ghana of sahara-magic(he speaks 5 languages, and is half Tuareg, half Berber) and said (he absolutely doesn’t speak any foreign language but drives fine!). From the outset, we found Hassan an incredible person, full of joy, outgoing, but never intrusive.
We left for Ouarzazate where we visited the Kasbah Ait Benhaddou (a lot of movies were made there) and then off to the Todra Gorges. Here we stayed in a hotel built in the caves! How wonderful! If you want I can give you its name. The next legs of our trip were the classic ones: Erfoud, Merzouga, Rissani, Zagora and Ouarzazate: you can do them with any tour operator, but what we experienced is unforgettable. At Erfoud we had lunch at home with Hassan’s family: What a welcome! We ate couscous the way they make it and drank REAL mint tea, his sister’s friends were doing henna tattoos, and did it to us, too. The next evening we headed for a desert oasis on camels, to spend the night in a berber tent distinctly counting every star in the Milky Way (well, almost all). How can we forget, while at his family’s home, how Roger ‘vomited’ from having drunk milk in his morning coffee?!?!? But that mishap actually led to an interesting experience! Hassan ‘s mother massaged special points of Roger’s wrists and feet with ‘magic’ oil, and incredibly, somehow, after a quarter of an hour, Roger was good as new.
And how can we forget our stop on the way to Zagora, stopping to take a picture, when suddenly 2 children leaped out from nowhere offering a pony made of mud, they had made with their hands, in exchange for some candy! And when they accompanied us through the tiny dark inner passageways of a small town in the south, revealing the meaning of poverty, enabling us to quietly and respectfully peek into the everyday life of people in southern Morocco. And how can we forget our lunch, eating Berber pizza, in a small rug factory, sitting in the midst of all those dancing colors and so many types of fabric! I could go on for hours recounting the feelings, more than the places we visited. Thanks to Hassan(organizing everything down to details like cool drinking water, snacks, SD cards for my camera and making us always feel safe in places that are so strange to us in culture and language) and to said, who, though silent and not speaking our language and understanding little, was an incredible and fun travelling companion.
Feelings, understanding the land and the people of the country we are visiting are what we seek when we travel and that is definitely what we got this time. And our children thank us for it, too.