re: «Over these last several weeks of summer vacation, Nicole has been working, and working some more, on her common application essay. She’s gone back and forth between two ideas, trying to perfect both, hoping that the one she ultimately chooses will best reflect who she is.»
If Nicole can give herself “permission” to spot the deeper, unexpected, but always “there” connection between her two “separate” essays, she’ll see that she can meld them into one self-defining piece of writing of inestimable power and supremely serenity-eliciting satisfaction. You too, for that matter, with your own writing.
What are colleges looking for? People who don’t care what they’re looking for. That’s what the amazing process of writing a college essay is really all about.