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Please let me know if this is a red flag-raising essay topic.

katnissjulkatnissjul Registered User Posts: 70 Junior Member
I want to preface this by saying that I’m sorry if this question is SUPER dumb and I should know already that I shouldn’t write about this as an essay topic.

Basically, I have gone through my 4 years of high school wondering what makes me stand out from others - what makes me unique. What do I spend my time doing that can’t be paralleled in others? I know what the answer is, and it’s a thing that has enthralled my interests for 5 years now. But I don’t know if I can write about it.

When I was in 8th grade, I started gaining an interest in true crime. I would read books, watch documentaries, read Wikipedia articles for hours of my time. It was my hobby. I would sit there huddled up in a blanket on a Saturday night trying to solve murder cases or try to understand the world that goes on behind the mind of a particular serial killer. By grade 9 I could relay to you the story of some of the most famous kidnapping cases of all time. I have been especially interested in shootings, and what goes into the people that commit them. I have read as many books as I could find on Columbine, and I even have talked to the family of a victim (after talking to others, they definitely advise against talking about this specific part of my interest in true crime). I know that everyone loves true crime and some good mysteries, but this is my hobby, just like painting or basketball might be yours.

My interest in true crime has sparked a huge interest in neuroscience and psychology in that I have always wanted to understand why people are the way they are and what I could do to help. These cases do not only interest me, but through them I have found myself more connected with the world around me. I have learned to think and feel deeply in ways I could have never imagined. I understand pain, life, loss, and empathy in so many more dimensions. It is a defining part of who I am, and I have learned through this the ability to go beyond numbers of victims to understanding the dimensional lives lost to malfeasance.

I have always been told to write in my essay what defines me as a person and what makes me special. I can’t think of much in the past 4 years that can define me much more than my love for true crime. I, however, understand that this is an essay topic that could raise red flags in admissions. I could always write about something that does not matter to me for the sake of not raising red flags in admissions, but if this will not raise any red flags I would love to be able to talk about it. I want to focus on how learning the three-dimensional lives lost to violence and evil has fostered new waves of empathy and how as a neuroscientist I want to use my knowledge and power to prevent these things from ever happening. I would not mention myself as a sufferer of any kind of mental illness as I know that raises red flags and instead focus on how I want to help stop this in other people.

Please let me know your thoughts, and if this is an essay topic I should absolutely steer clear of then, by all means, let me know.
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Replies to: Please let me know if this is a red flag-raising essay topic.

  • brantlybrantly Registered User Posts: 2,749 Senior Member
    I think it's fine, as long as you're not describing how you get a thrill when you think of the blood, guts, and suffering of the victims. If you describe it as you did above, as in interest in what makes people tick, and that your career goal is to help people who are headed in the path of crime, I think it's fine. Focus on the psychopathology and sociopathy of criminality and why that interests you.
  • PetraMCPetraMC Registered User Posts: 330 Member
    I think that topic is fine, especially if you keep in mind what @brantly said. I'd keep it very brief on Columbine, honestly, since a lot of school shooters seem to have an obsession with researching that one in particular.
  • brantlybrantly Registered User Posts: 2,749 Senior Member
    Don't mention any school shootings. At all. You might want to consider incorporating something about professional experts in criminality and how you've read their books and want to follow that type of path and contribute to the body of knowledge.
  • katnissjulkatnissjul Registered User Posts: 70 Junior Member
    @brantly @PetraMC Yup, I was already weary of talking about school shootings in my essay and I don't think I'd want to take the risk. I would definitely try to focus on both solving mysteries, learning victim's stories and learning about the minds behind these killers and criminals, and how as a neuroscientist I want to understand this behavior and develop ways to understand it further and prevent it, and how this interest has led me to further understanding the people around me in a variety of ways.
  • brantlybrantly Registered User Posts: 2,749 Senior Member
    It's good. Just be wary (not weary) of spelling and grammar errors, of which you've had several in your posts.
  • katnissjulkatnissjul Registered User Posts: 70 Junior Member
    edited June 8
    @brantly I mean, this is a forums page, so I don't really double check what I write before I send it. I'm sure I will have my essays checked many times before I submit them to top colleges :)>-
  • SatchelSFSatchelSF Registered User Posts: 645 Member
    I think that's an awesome essay topic! Correlation is not causation, but I had a very very good friend in college who was obsessed with true crime - read everything she could find on the subject every minute she could (even during college when she should have been doing class work). She later won a bunch of academic prizes and awards at her graduation from Columbia Law School....
  • CheddarcheeseMNCheddarcheeseMN Registered User Posts: 2,578 Senior Member
    edited June 8
    Great topic. I would focus on the mystery aspects (who did it) of your interest in crime which would exclude Columbine and don’t dwell on crimes that are known to be especially gory (like the actions of Jeffrey Dahlmer.)
  • bjkmombjkmom Registered User Posts: 6,549 Senior Member
    Make sure the essay focuses on YOU, not on mystery or whodunit or anything else.

    The primary objective of this essay is to get them to say yes to your application. If you've found a subject-- particularly one that involves lots of inductive reasoning-- that has helped you to grow, then write the essay. But be sure that your essay is about your growth, and shows the reader that you would be a positive addition to his campus.
  • GnocchiBGnocchiB Registered User Posts: 1,906 Senior Member
    edited June 8
    I'll be a dissenting opinion. Personally, I find the true crime genre to be upsetting and exploitative - not just reading it myself but knowing there are people who devour it. I think the neuroscience and psychology part of your hobby is noble and interesting, but I would steer completely clear of mentioning true crime as a hobby.

    You have a legitimate academic interest but the hobbyist part of it is problematic and offensive, IMHO. You don't know the background of the admissions committee members reading the application. For instance, I have a friend whose family member was brutally murdered and the story was told in a movie that brought a lot more additional anguish to the family than was necessary. True crime is about real victims.

    It would raise a red flag in my mind.

  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 26,959 Senior Member
    Not a relevant topic for an admissions review.
    You have some mighty competitive colleges listed. You're describing a passive interest, not any good works that come of it. And you describe it as obsessive (oops.) No one should seriously mention wiki as a source, either.

    These colleges are looking for attributes, a higher level of thinking, processing and action. They want kids who integrate well, make contributions. Not sit around reading accounts of lurid crime.

    And not the sort who would admit it to top colleges, thinking it's a selling point.

    "I have always been told to write in my essay what defines me as a person and what makes me special." Who said this? That doesn't mean some odd detail. The points to show them your match. Show, not just tell.

    Pick a topic thst reveals the right traits they're looking for.
  • katnissjulkatnissjul Registered User Posts: 70 Junior Member
    @lookingforward It’s not a passive interest, more so an interest that has really developed my life for the past 4 years in that it has caused me to look at the world around me in so many new ways and dimensions. I honestly just can’t think of anything else in my life that is special or interesting and I don’t have any other interests besides this. Like I have read book upon book, article upon article, had conversations with my mom for just hours at a time, talked to people affected, etc. Would I describe it as an obsession? Probably not. But it’s definitely been an interest that has been at the forefront of my life for multiple years now. It’s hard to think of things I am nearly as passionate about that I could write an essay about. The only thing I can think about is college admissions and obviously I can’t write an essay to colleges about college admissions.

    I wouldn’t say I sit around reading accounts of lurid crime either. I’m not very interested in the accounts of murder, or the gore and blood or anything like that. It’s more so the mysteries of unsolved crimes and also the mysteries of what even causes people to do things like this in the first place.

    Don’t want to seem like I’m shooting down your contribution either. I definitely will rethink my whole idea now since I am hearing from some people that this could be a red flag essay topic. I’d rather not risk seem coming off as insane in an essay, but I’m just worried that there is nothing else about me that is nearly as important as this.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 26,959 Senior Member
    edited June 9
    You don't need something "special." Go back to what these colleges value and look for, figure out the attributes they want to see. College app personal statements need to show the qualities, thinking and more, that they want in their freshmen. Once you understand more about what those are, find a nice narrative that shows some of them.

    "Show, not tell" means not just claiming you're so interested that it changed you or your thinking. And actions are more than talking to someone.

    It's not like this reading has turned you into a justice warrior or you now campaign for laws or victim rights or whatever. You're telling us you just read up, think, and have talked with a few.

    And considering the terrible news today of shootings, the news of teens who are so active and vocal in opposition, just saying you're interested and read a lot may not seem challenging or effective on your part.

    Please take time to consider what traits those colleges want. Go back to what they say and show.
    This isn't like an essay in hs where the assignment is to reveal something unusual about yourself.
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 33,097 Senior Member
    You asked the question because you know it is a red flag issue. Pick something else.
  • CheddarcheeseMNCheddarcheeseMN Registered User Posts: 2,578 Senior Member
    edited June 9
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