How Living “The Good Life” May Just Help You Get Into College

The Good Life

Aristotle’s theory, The Good Life, presents all we ever hope to attain as an end, goal or purpose. For example, I want a new backpack for school. The way I reach this goal is what is known as the means. This could include borrowing, earning or stealing the money necessary to buy the backpack. However, suppose I get the backpack. The backpack is itself the means to hold more pencils and notebooks → which is itself a means of doing well in school → which is itself a means of getting a good job → which is itself a means of buying food, clothing, and shelter → which are the means to staying alive. This metaphorical tree of life with its infinite number of branches (means and goals) begs the question: is there an ultimate end for which everything else is a means? Or in other words, is there an ultimate purpose in life?

The answer is yes. He came to the conclusion that the ultimate goal in life is to flourish, to live well, “to have a good life”. If you are at all skeptical of this conclusion, you’re right. How can such a general statement apply to each and every human being on this planet? A blanket statement of this nature is impossible as there are infinite variables for each and every person. Yet still, the mantra holds true today because exactly that. The good life is different for everyone. It is finding ways to employ your individual strengths in service of the values important in your life.

Michael, if you, like the rest of us, have ever wondered how to get more satisfaction out of your life and reap the benefits of your hard work, then you should care. More specifically, the central ideas behind the good life can help us focus our end goals around the values important to us. Specifically, one goal many of you reading this have either just reached or will be striving towards soon is getting into…

While, like the minions, I too am super excited for this next stage in my life, the 6 months between the end of junior year and college application deadlines were extremely stress inducing, mentally draining, and worst of all, left me insecure in my sense of self.

Between personal statements, supplemental essays, testing and interviews, it is easy to lose track of ourselves. As we become more and more of an “applicant” it seems that we become less and less individuals. In an attempt to fit in to some obscure mold of the “perfect applicant”, we forget to showcase ourselves as the idiosyncratic people we are.

This is where our friend Aristotle and the good life theory comes in. If we can identify our individual skills and the overarching values they support, we can enrich our applications and present ourselves as the amazing and unique candidates that we are.


Class of 2018 Students accepted to Colleges ranked in the top 10 according to US News and World Report


(some asked to remain anonymous)

Essay Topic Notable Activities

Curren Life Satisfaction 

(measured using the life satisfaction scale by Doctor Ed Diener)

Matthew Taking care of monkeys in Colombia
  • Basketball Team
  • Leadership Board of the club – Girl Up
  • Growing and finding unique fruit trees
  • 29 (out of 35)
Hayley Excessive Sweating
  • Create Studio Steward
  • UCLA Health Clinic Volunteer
  •  33
Joaquin Comedy Sports (an improv troupe at my school)
  • Improv
  • Basketball Team
  • Poetry
  •  31
Jonah Shopping at Goodwill
  • Hanging out with animals
    • Worked as a veterinarian over the summer
  • Playing Video Games
  •  30
Emma Jewish Heritage
  • Trying new  restaurants
  • Dancing
  • 32
Anonymous Fantasy Football
  • Riding their bike
  • Walking dogs
  •  28
Anonymous Driving with the window rolled down
  • Creating different fashion outfits
  • Sewing
  • Spending time with their grandma
  •  32
Anonymous Feeling Anxiety when asking a teacher for help
  • Playing Soccer
  • Cooking
  • Working at a summer camp
  • 32

































In addition to this survey I also asked 8 students (who were unhappy with their essays) to fill out the life satisfaction test as well…

  • Shockingly enough, the average for the students unhappy with how they portrayed themselves was a 27.23 while the average for the high achieving students was a 30.87

If nothing else, this survey shows that students who express their quirky and unique traits in their college applications not only are more successful in this process but also more satisfied with their life

Yeah, who would have known it pays off to be yourself?


The Game Plan

The answer to that question seems to be very few high school juniors and first semester seniors. Due to this, I have created a monthly workshop focusing on leveraging students unique interests and quirks as a means of showing colleges what values are important to them and why

  • For Example: Colleges don’t necessarily care that someone likes going to new restaurants and cooking. What colleges do care about however is what this tells them about a student’s values and personality. This information tells them that you leave your comfort zone, are extremely curious and can experiment with new things knowing they won’t always work out. All extremely valuable traits any admissions officer is looking for.

However, The Good Life theory extends far beyond just college applications!!

  • Leveraging your unique interests, skills and virtues in promotion of certain personality traits or values is key to developing any diverse and healthy community

As a practice in the promotion of individuality and diversity I ask YOU to post a picture in The Good Life Padlet below that represents something you are either interested in, fond of or hold in high regards (anything you like!)


Made with Padlet

Citations –

Share this project
  1. April 27, 2018 by Summer

    As a junior in high school, this presentation was really helpful for me! I have been a little stressed thinking about what I want to write about for my college essay, thinking I might have to find a great topic, but it is nice to hear that it is best to focus on a smaller topic, but make it individual to you. Thank you for sharing!

  2. April 27, 2018 by Emma.Healy

    Hi Coley! I really enjoyed your project because this is a super relevant topic to me. Like Summer said above, I’m a junior and thinking about my college essays has made me only more uncertain and stressed about my future at college. It’s definitely true that how you feel you perform on a test (or in this case, an essay) has a huge impact on your overall satisfaction with yourself and your life, and I think your stats were definitely indicative of that. How do you think the “Good Life” theory applies to other aspects of school and life other than just college applications?

  3. April 27, 2018 by Banah.Khamis

    Wow! Great work, this was really interesting to read!

  4. April 27, 2018 by Mandy.Friedlander

    Coley, as a senior that is almost completely done the college process, I understand exactly where you were junior year and the beginning of this year. I find it very interesting that you link essay topic to current life satisfaction. This made me really consider how I felt after I finished my college essay, I don’t think I was satisfied with it. Is the “good life” a sort of chain reaction that follows you as soon as you begin making your own decisions?

  5. April 27, 2018 by Sydney

    Hi Coley! I think that your project is definitely relatable for high school students. During my junior year and the first part of my senior year, I remembered feeling very stressed out about the college process because of the competitiveness and the idea that a good college education means a good job and a good life. I feel like this stress makes school less enjoyable because it seems like we learn more for the grade and not because we want to. This was a very interesting project! Good job!

  6. April 29, 2018 by Ella.Kohlman

    Hi Coley! Thanks for this project it is already helping me relax a bit when it comes to thinking about the college application process or where I want to go. I also love your photos! Do you think the “good life” theory will continue to be important for studies in College?

  7. April 29, 2018 by Madeline.Burke

    This is so interesting! As most high schoolers, the college process and essay writing specifically has been something I’ve been thinking about for a while and something that has been increasingly stressing me out. This theory is really interesting and it definitely makes me less intimidated.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.