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Is library a good choice for the prompt regarding the place where one is content?

deljodeljo Posts: 24Registered User New Member
edited July 2013 in College Essays
My daughter hates all of the Common App essay prompts. The only one she could answer is: "Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content." My family has a pretty boring life. None of the other prompts apply. Nothing significant or life changing has happened to her. My daughter is in the upper 25% of her class, got a 2190 on her SAT and a 35 on her ACT, but she has no extracurricular activities. She has only volunteered occasionally last year and will volunteer more this year. She plays the piano for fun and is learning the guitar, but the time spent on those is not significant. She wants a top notch school (she really wants Reed or Pomona), but it seems she will probably not make it, because even students with more impressive resumes were denied at the schools of her choice. We are hoping an awesome essay can give her an edge. However, I just found Where Are You Perfectly Content? | Essay Hell, which indicates that this prompt is probably the worst one to choose. Also, based on many previous and successful essays we have read, the subject of her prompt may not do anything to impress anyone. My daughter's only extracurricular activity is more reading to learn subjects not covered in school. That is her passion. That is how she spends her free time. The place where she is happiest, needless to say, is at a library or a bookstore. Info about anything she wants to learn at any particular time can be found there. I read the suggestions on the Essay Hell website, but I don't think there is anything special or unique about her loving the library that will distinguish her from many others who also love the library because they love to learn just for the sake of learning. Also, essays are supposed to show another side of the applicant that is not related to her academics. But since her extracurricular activity is reading lots of textbooks on various subjects not covered in school, all it does is show that she is basically just a bookworm with nothing else to offer a college community. Is this prompt really a bad one for my daughter? Thinking of possible topics for the other prompts is extremely difficult. Nothing at all comes to mind for those prompts. My daughter already has one written for this prompt, but we wonder if she should keep it, since it doesn't really portray anything unique about her.
Post edited by deljo on

Replies to: Is library a good choice for the prompt regarding the place where one is content?

  • JoBennyJoBenny Posts: 762Registered User Member
    I agree with you......me thinks that Admission folk are going to see ALOT of kids who feel content in the library and/or bookstore next fall. ALOT. With that prompt, I predict lots of libraries and Grandma's living rooms. :) I'd go with something way out of the box, or alot more personal. Hate to sound pessimistic, but I'd be way more concerned about her lack of involvement in high school via ECs than with her trouble over the essay prompts.......Obviously her ACT score is fantastic but if she's looking at schools the likes of Pomona that's not nearly enough to get a second glance. Schools aren't looking for "life changing"......they're just looking for examples of engagement in life and efforts, on the applicants part, to make some sort of impact or leave some sort of fingerprint on the people around them.
  • BrownParentBrownParent Posts: 7,145Registered User Senior Member
    It depends on how good the essay is. She needs to personalize it and show her passion and make it interesting. Just because that is the topic doesn't mean it is the only thing allowed to be discussed. Her lack of EC's is going to be noticed at the schools she is applying to, since all the applicants have excellent academic records, EC's are a way to stand out and you are right so is the essay. I wonder if it would work to show why she doesn't have any other EC's than going to her books. Risky but potentially interesting. She can talk about the topics that have interested her and show her wide ranging mind and her way of thinking, her values. This essay has great potential to show herself I think.

    I wonder why she didn't do any summer enrichment on some of those topics that aren't covered in school. Maybe she should explore this summer.

    Oh, and she ought to put the music on her EC list.
  • deljodeljo Posts: 24Registered User New Member
    She was not interested in any of the ECs offered at school. She considered the pre-med club, but they do a lot of dissections and she is an ethical vegan and is totally against dissections. She wanted a science club, but her school only had the pre-med and an environmental club and she was not interested in that one either. She tried baseball, but she wasn't good enough. The Latin and Spanish clubs often involved going somewhere to eat where she would not be able to participate because she is a vegan. We can't afford dance or martial arts. All she ever wanted to do was work directly with kids, but we both tried very hard to find an opportunity where she could work directly with kids and we never found anything. I know lots of teens have volunteered with kids. I don't know how they were able to find those opportunities. There are opportunities at a nearby library for teens, but only for residents of that city and we are not residents. The local libraries in our city do not offer that same type of opportunity. :( College will finally give the opportunities she has been wanting. Some even have vegan clubs.
  • sakacarsakacar Posts: 273Registered User Junior Member
    Well, there's your essay. Although, quite frankly, being vegan does not stop the majority of vegan kids from participating in activities.
  • SoCalDad2SoCalDad2 Posts: 802Registered User Member
    "I am perfectly content at the library. it is my sanctuary. I go there not only to do what I enjoy (reading), but to get away from what I don't like -- stupid clubs at high school, etc. It is also a place from which to contemplate life. I can think about my desire to work directly with kids, but the lack of jobs. I can think about my enjoyment of baseball, but my lack of basic skills. I can think about being a vegan, and how that limits my options. I can also think that perhaps I should be elsewhere -- the library may not be the best place to spend my time. Maybe I should be doing college related ECs -- but should I mold my life to please colleges, or to satisfy myself? Etc."

    Just one idea, which may show I have no ability when it comes to college essays.
  • fall2016parentfall2016parent Posts: 823Registered User Member
    Being vegan can translate into an interesting essay ..
    "• Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their
    application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story."

    Maybe this prompt will apply to her. Why did she become a vegan? Maybe some incident that happened. An essay that captures the audience with humor and insight and tells about her personality..personally I would love to know what led her to vegan and what she can and she can't do given that..again it is not the topic itself, but the actual writing..
  • ADadADad Posts: 4,920Registered User Senior Member
    With regard to what you said about environmental club and pre-med club and Latin and Spanish clubs: DD is being painted to sound so rigid in her thinking as to be unable to collaborate effectively with others. Instead, she is said to withdraw to solitude and textbooks in the library. There, I gather, she maintains total control. She does not have to worry that people near her might eat meat or might have an interest in, or belief about, an aspect of science, or life, different from her own.

    How is she going to get on at a liberal arts college, where she will be in close proximity to people whose views and activities are diametrically opposed to her own?

    To my mind, the big question here about DD, as painted here, is whether she can get along effectively with others. My suggestion is for an essay that would reveal that she can and does get on well. That she can and does have a life connected to peers.

    With regard to her upcoming senior year: I suggest that she start to participate in some clubs and ECs. As a member of the Spanish club, what is so wrong with attending an event and not eating meat? What about educating people about her vegan views, and advocating for vegan events?

    With regard to the environmental club: it is perhaps unfortunate that her particular interests in science do not mesh perfectly with the interests being pursued there, but I strongly suspect she can learn something from being in the club and working with others anyways. Maybe she can advocate for a direction to the club that she finds more appropriate. Maybe she can bring her textbook knowledge to bear in a way that educates and inspires others.

    This is real life, as I see it anyways: one should not just take one's marbles and go home (or to the library) if a club's plans or activities don't mesh perfectly eye-to-eye with one's own. Instead, one works with others, rather than withdrawing from them in seeming self-righteous disgust.
  • sakacarsakacar Posts: 273Registered User Junior Member
    ^^ Great post, and really something to consider as the essay takes shape.

    I'm curious how dd sees herself - did she ever consider forming a vegan club or participating in any activist activities? Is she at all self-motivated? Colleges want to see kids create opportunities where none exist, instead of just bemoaning the lack of perfect ECs.

    Hopefully, her list includes some better fits that she's happy with, as what you've presented so far doesn't really seem like a match for Pomona (I can't speak to Reed).

    As far as volunteering with kids goes, have you tried her school? Your church? Local rec dept?
    Dancers often get free tuition for helping out with younger dancers. Athletes show sportsmanship by working at camps for younger athletes. The opportunities are out there, but you have to want them.
  • redpointredpoint Posts: 1,229Registered User Senior Member
    There are no apologies necessary for being an introvert.

    One is not a terrible person if one didn't feel the need to join high school clubs. In fact, I might rather hang out with that person than one who was cheering on the football team.

    Being an introvert does not mean you don't get along well with others.

    The world needs all kinds of folks, not just extroverts. How much of an extrovert's resume is just padding, anyway?

    I bet JD Salinger would have a terrible time applying to colleges today. I wonder what his essay would have looked like.

    As for the question: Yeah, I don't think the library is the best answer. And I agree that these are terrible, terrible common app essay questions.
  • ADadADad Posts: 4,920Registered User Senior Member
    Dear Solfam's daughter,

    I understand from your mother or father that you are looking for a topic for a college essay. Here is a suggestion.

    I am thinking about the prompt Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea.

    Contact your Spanish teacher as soon as you can and offer to take a leadership role in the organization of a vegan event for Spanish Club. In my mind, you would coordinate with her/him, and with other students, in planning the event, arranging to get food, explaining to other students what is involved, etc.

    The purposes of this event would to help everyone understand an aspect of Spanish culture and food that is perhaps not widely recognized or appreciated, and to educate others about veganism and advocate for it. I have done a basic Google search for Spanish food vegan (or vegetarian) and there are plenty of hits. (I recognize that vegan is not identical with vegetarian, and you may be able to educate others about that point as well.)

    I understand that your teacher may not be able to approve or implement this event. Perhaps another idea would be for you to prepare some Spanish vegan food and bring that in to Spanish Club yourself. That approach would allow similar opportunities to appreciate the food, to educate other students, and to advocate for veganism.

    For purposes of your essay it would be okay, though, if it turns out that you advocate passionately for veganism but are not successful in bringing an event to reality. That is okay: You can still write a college essay about whatever experience you have in passionately advocating for your beliefs in this manner. (You would then, also, have the opportunity to use the failure prompt if you so chose.)

    However, you do need to hurry. In order to get the essay done in time, you will need to aim for a date that is early in the school year. So, if the concept appeals to you, get to work as soon as you can. Mobilize your high principles so that they can gain more traction in real life, so that others may learn from them, and so that others may even come to adopt them.

    Sincerely,

    ADad

    (ETA: cross posted with sakacar)
  • redpointredpoint Posts: 1,229Registered User Senior Member
    Great one, ADad!
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