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Essay Tips to Consider

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Replies to: Essay Tips to Consider

  • intparentintparent 36291 replies644 threads Senior Member
    This isn't your journal or a memoir you are writing. Colleges spend a lot of money on mental health services for their students, lose a lot of students who drop out due to mental health issues, and do not want to deal with suicidsl students or (worse) students who might harm others on campus. They REALLY prefer to not admit students with past mental health issues for those reasons.

    It may seem like a pure and truthful thing to discuss this in an essay, but it won't help your admission chances, even if you liken yourself to Sylvia Plath or Churchill. It won't change the reality that they'd rather not open themselves up to the possible difficulties it could bring later. Save it for some other writing exercise if you want to talk about it -- not an essay where they are judging your personality for fit with their college.
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  • intparentintparent 36291 replies644 threads Senior Member
    edited October 2017
    Students can write about it. But it won't improve their chances of admission. I'm very familiar with mental health issues; I lost a sibling to suicide. But that doesn't mean that a college essay is the right place to discuss those issues.
    edited October 2017
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  • LindagafLindagaf 10160 replies562 threads Senior Member
    Regarding the statement that colleges consider the essay "last," I am not sure what that means. At most selective colleges, the essay is considered as "very important" or "important." Anyone can look at section C7 of a college's common data set to see how strongly essays are considered by admissions officers.
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  • intparentintparent 36291 replies644 threads Senior Member
    Students can take any advice they like on this forum. I advised my own kids and others to look at the practical side of this. If the goal of their essay is to educate and show their courage, they can go ahead and write about mental health struggles. But most kids just want to get into college. And if that is their goal, then they can take the moral high ground and lower their chances of admission. Why write about something that makes you less attractive to admissions if your goal is to get into college?
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  • wisteria100wisteria100 4352 replies48 threads Senior Member
    Regarding the statement that colleges consider the essay "last," I am not sure what that means. At most selective colleges, the essay is considered as "very important" or "important."

    I think for some schools, if the transcript and scores are not in the ball park and there are no strong hooks in the app, then the essay might never get read. But if you are a candidate who is qualified for the school, the essay becomes important. It's not going to turn a no way into a yes, but it can turn a 'this is a kid we are considering into this is a kid we're going to admit.'
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  • LindagafLindagaf 10160 replies562 threads Senior Member
    @runswimyoga , are we talking about great writers in general? The original post is to give students some guidance. The overwhelming majority of students are not great writers. Sure, a great writer can write about anything. Not sure why this has devolved into thinking that the OP believes people should supress who they are. The problem is that most kids can't write well and if they write about emotionally charged topics, they do not do a good job with it and come across as all the adjectives I described in my previous post.

    I work professionally with students on their college essays. My students have been accepted to all kinds of universities and colleges, inlcuding those with single-digit acceptance rates. I recently worked a girl who wrote a bombshell essay about, amongst other things, how she was approached by a homeless drug addict at the age of 14. Amazing writing. I did not tell her she shouldn't write about a gritty, possibly off-putting topic.

    I worked with another student who wrote an essay about being bullied all through school, and how ashamed and humiliated he was, and the awful things people said to him. I suggested he revise his essay, and he then changed it instead to discuss how his disability led to some unexpected, positive situations. He is not a strong writer. His first essay was, frankly, bad and made him appear to be bitter and resentful. I am currently working with a student whose first draft was so graphic in its description of panic and fear that it nearly made ME feel panicky and frightened. I asked her if that was how she wanted an admissions officer to view her, and how would the essay convey something positive about her. She had to admit that it wouldn't. I helped her find an angle within her essay to work from that would show something positive. Her essay was also not good. She still wants to write about this particualr struggle, and I haven't told her she can't. I have told her that what she writes is how she will be viewed.

    The OP has revealed a deeply personal and sad event and for anyone to be offended by that is taking this whole thing far too seriously. Can we all please remember that this post is to help kids write about the best version of themselves? A student who is a solid writer can write well about anything. But the bottom line is that most kids are not good writers. Writing about mental health is not a great choice, just as writing about politics, abortion, religion, and a first sex experience are also not good topics, UNLESS, maybe, a kid is a great writer.
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  • runswimyogarunswimyoga 974 replies8 threads Member
    edited October 2017
    @lookingforward His essay was really creatively written so it was BOTH about being gay (one line was something like "I rushed home from school in a whirlwind of thought. I researched until my fingers gave out about what it meant to be gay. Everything about it felt liberating. And taboo...") AND being inspired to actual activism in the school and wider community.

    The entire essay had to do with sexual orientation though and everything a gay teen goes through/ the choices you make along the way.

    I am not a writer so I cant say exactly what- but he used a lot of writing tricks he said to paint pictures, tell a story and come full circle. I think the key difference was the quality of the writing in telling a compelling story that had a lot to do with standing out in a positive way too.

    I think you can talk about anything if you do it well.

    edited October 2017
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  • intparentintparent 36291 replies644 threads Senior Member
    edited October 2017
    Except something that makes them say, "That kid is likely to cost our college more to educate" or "that kid is more likely to drop out" or "that kid might self-harm while on our campus" or "that kid might harm someone else on our campus". Those topics will not help. I think you've missed the point. An essay that (1) shows characteristics that could be detrimental to the kid finishing school, and/or (2) that is depressing and/or boring to the reader won't help you get admitted.
    edited October 2017
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35300 replies399 threads Senior Member
    edited October 2017
    Yes, YSM, but your son wrote with a larger and very valid message. Top colleges would like the thinking. Sounds like, from that thinking strength, he then took off.

    Most kids write with less to say about what they actially did, that shows attributes the top schools want.

    Someone other than intparent brought up "hiding."

    Having mental illness is not an attribute colleges seek.
    edited October 2017
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  • runswimyogarunswimyoga 974 replies8 threads Member
    I think the link Bopper shared about writing an essay about you, one that only you can write is the best advice I have seen. http://www.****/uploads/1/0/9/5/109505679/hack_the_college_essay_2017.pdf

    I think college is about fit to a large extent and you want to find a fit. John Green is a very talented young adult author who suffers from OCD. He attended Kenyon College and majored in English and religion. I heard him speak once about how he didn't try and hide his illness to get into college instead shared it with the school and talked about its effects and the effects of bullying on him.

    You have to write about you.

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  • skieuropeskieurope 40797 replies7594 threads Super Moderator
    MODERATOR'S NOTE:
    The original post is one person's advice (and excellent advice IMO). One can certainly ignore it and/or disagree with it. However, this is not the forum to debate it. Write about mental illness if you are inclined. Equate homosexuality with mental illness if that's what you think will put you in the best light. But don't beat a dead horse here. In addition, unless you know a poster IRL, do not say that s/he does not "understand" an issue. Several argumentative posts deleted.
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  • 4MyKidz4MyKidz 480 replies5 threads Member
    I think the basic premise of creating a basic admin essay were highlighted in the OP's post. However I also feel that it is important for students to be true to themselves. The reason YA authors, like John Greene, are so successful and appealing to readers is the authenticity of the writing. Based on my readings of CC posts, students and parents are concerned about how to stand out in the admissions process. Because quite frankly, high stats and a laundry list of unrelated EC's isn't going to accomplish much in setting students apart from the next high stats kid. Well written essays that are personable, meaningful, and brave will set a student a part from others with the same stats. This is the YOLO generation and these kids are in some ways braver at addressing controversial issues then prior generations.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35300 replies399 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2017
    In general, it's meant to be a nice little narrative that reveals the personal qualities and energies your target adcoms want to see. That's not a tell-all, literature, nor expository writing, a book review, justification for your political position, etc. A narrative (with some time sequence,) allows one to follow a timeline to show strengths, responses, growth, and more. And actions that you took that, again, show the attributes they want in the class.

    Nor are those attributes like "honesty," as in, "Let me tell you about stealing a car." Oops. Frankly, nor how tests send you into depression, you can't imagine leaving your siblings, you don't like peers, you like to skip class, etc.

    edited November 2017
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  • IvyGrad09IvyGrad09 235 replies5 threads Junior Member
    Take all opinions on what your essay absolutely "should" or "should not be" with a grain of salt.

    If the school itself makes specific requests, follow those. Even Common App prompts are flexible.

    Ignore other opinions about your essay, they are only opinions. Websites are full of opinions, from anonymous sources you can't determine, who may or may not know what they're doing.

    To your own self be true, student essayists.

    You own your creativity and have your own mind--demonstrating those to a potential school is why the application essay exits.
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  • blockchainblockchain 16 replies0 threads Junior Member
    My son had a retired English teacher and family acquaintance review his essay. 5% of the critique was very good—the rest was a near rewrite that completely removed my son’s voice and energy AND missed the points my son was trying to make. We thanked the teacher for his “valuable” input and used virtually none of it. We also had a family friend who is an author and editor review his esssy and he thought it was wonderful and provided some excellent word choice and structural tips—the type of stuff he should have been taught in 11th grade English, but wasn’t.

    Finally, his 26-yr old 12th grade English teacher assigned a 650 word essay and said a pre-written college essay could be submitted. She gave my son an 83. We told our author/editor family friend and he said the teacher is insane. My son ran a different colored highlighter through each of his teacher’s comments where she said he didn’t meet certain requirements, he then ran the same colored highlighter through his essay where he did, in fact, address the teacher’s requirements, and resubmitted it. She changed the grade to a 97. Not sure what the moral of this story is...maybe trust your instincts and take advice with a grain of salt?

    BTW, he’s already been early-accepted to his 2nd choice school with a generous 4-year scholarship. His SAT and GPA are good, not stellar, but his essay is excellent: it’s a critical (and satirical) analysis of the 50-yr old holiday TV special, Rudolph the Red- Nosed Reindeer.
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  • divergirl101divergirl101 3 replies0 threads New Member
    What if writing about your mental health has to do with a future career choice
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  • intparentintparent 36291 replies644 threads Senior Member
    If it is your mental health, I'd avoid it.
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  • OTTO_thefriendlyponyOTTO_thefriendlypony 41 replies2 threads Junior Member
    IMO, Don't be afraid to say who you are to the admissions committee otherwise you will continue to run away from the fear of being accepted or rejected based on who you are - be proud of yourself, mental issues and all.

    mental health is all about perspective, whether we think it is a problem or drum roll.....a unique gift. it shapes minds and thoughts differently. Lincoln - depressed. Einstein - genius with mental issues.

    if mental health has somehow influenced your life, why do we have to perceive it as only creating problems? why do we allow ourselves to believe these diseases will hold us back from success?

    accept and embrace your mental issues. manage your health in healthy ways, be aware of your feelings, reach out for help and most importantly, join the fight in changing the world

    written from someone with anxiety, depression and ADHD - I'm proud and lucky to be born exactly the way I was and for having the family I have (mental health issues and all). thanks for reading.
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  • intparentintparent 36291 replies644 threads Senior Member
    Be as proud as you want with people who know you or new friends. Airing your issues with college admissions officers does not help you get into college. Save it for others. There are appropriate forums for revealing and discussing those issues. The application isn't it, at least not if you want to maximize your chances of acceptance. You aren't running away at all -- I assume no one wants to be known as just their mental health diagnosis or issues. Everyone has other interesting things about themselves. Discuss those instead.
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