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Question About Essay Topics

okapilionokapilion 31 replies12 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 43 Junior Member
edited May 22 in College Essays
Recently I have started work on my Common App personal statement, and have quickly reached an indecision of sorts in terms of what direction to take my essay. I don't know whether a more positive, funny essay that lets the AdComs see my quirky personality or a serious essay illustrating a "deeper" truth about myself is better. I know for sure that I want to talk about music because in addition to being my primary extracurricular it has really had a profound impact on me and I think to understand me you have to understand my relationship with music. There are two topics I am toying with in those opposite directions.

My more serious idea is to talk about the first time I was brought to tears playing (at an All-State Band), and about how this is a pivotal experience in music that has left me more emotionally vulnerable in art and my life. It also talks about the contrast between my hyper-logical, analytical personality, and my soft-spot for music. I also expand this beyond music just for the record. While this reveals a lot about me as a person and I think is a powerful moment in my life that was a crux for me, I do worry it's a little generic because music is important to millions and in a somewhat similar way. I feel I have a unique perspective, but I am scared they'll have read the essay before.

That is why I've also toyed with a more joking alternative talking about instrument selection. The premise is that different instruments gravitate a different type of person, and many of these fall into easily defined boxes (for instance, everyone probably has the same image when I say flautist or tuba player). I would talk about how on first glance bassoonists may not, but we all (including me) have some commonalities with the instrument itself. I would talk about its false pretentiousness, but underlying quirks. This essay would allow me to talk more about a less serious part of myself, and likely would not have been done before. However, I am scared that I may not be taken as seriously, and it feels really risky to write about such a weird topic. I also worry that the topic doesn't allow quite as much deep reflection to illustrate my self-awareness.

I would love your input on which topic is better, or if there would be any way to improve either topic. Thanks in advance.
edited May 22
7 replies
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Replies to: Question About Essay Topics

  • bopperbopper 13872 replies98 discussionsForum Champion CWRU Posts: 13,970 Forum Champion
    Google "Hacking the College Essay 2017" and read it.

    Write the Essay No One Else Could Write
    "It boils down to this: the essay that gets you in is the essay that no other applicant could write.
    Is this a trick? The rest of this guide gives you the best strategies to accomplish this single
    most important thing: write the essay no one else could write.
    If someone reading your essay gets the feeling some other applicant could have written it,
    then you’re in trouble.
    Why is this so important? Because most essays sound like they could have been written by
    anyone. Remember that most essays fail to do what they should: replace numbers (SAT/GPA) with the real you.
    Put yourself in the shoes of an admissions officer. She’s got limited time and a stack of
    applications. Each application is mostly numbers and other stuff that looks the same. Then she picks
    up your essay. Sixty seconds later, what is her impression of you? Will she know something specifically
    about you? Or will you still be indistinguishable from the hundreds of other applicants she has been
    reading about?"
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  • TheSATTeacherTheSATTeacher 205 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 205 Junior Member
    Without commenting on the topics you have outlined and without knowing how you write, I will say is this: most students are not good at writing essays that try to be emotionally serious or profound; most students are much better at writing upbeat, humorous essays.
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  • LoveTheBardLoveTheBard 2095 replies20 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 2,115 Senior Member
    Another vote for the upbeat, humorous one.

    You may have use for the more serious topic in a supplemental (often there are questions about experiences or moments that motivated you to study or become involved with something)
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  • 4Gulls4Gulls 510 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 510 Member
    edited May 30
    First, it's great that you're starting to think about this and work on ideas now. You've got plenty of time and, most likely, will write 3 or 4 different essays - and multiple drafts of each of these. @bopper's advice on "Write the essay that no one else can write" is spot-on. Your essay should ONLY be able to have been written by YOU. I'm a big proponent of humor and upbeat, too. You need to tell a story. Grab the reader's attention. Make it entertaining. Use specific details. At some point, the essay will pivot - and the deeper message of the essay becomes clear. I've always found that after you have a solid draft (usually around draft #7) of two different essays it's an interesting exercise to give both to people who don't really know you well and ask for feedback. You'll usually find folks gravitate to the same essay. You'll also find that they generally like the same parts and raise red flags about the same parts. Then your job is to think about their comments and go write another draft!
    edited May 30
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  • NicholasCooperNicholasCooper 4 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 4 New Member
    I think it is rather necessary to understand the correct approach towards the topic of the essay. But you can see several additional successful hints for the student described at https://trans4mind.com/counterpoint/index-creativity-career/johnson2.shtml and apply them for your life, as well.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 32224 replies336 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 32,560 Senior Member
    ^ Does that gal have any college admissions experience?

    You can't write a completely unique essay, there are only so many angles out there.

    And the point is to make your writing useful to adcoms reviewing you for an admit. Not sure what I'd say after reading about a pivotal moment in band or that you're emotionally vulnerable in art and life.

    Nor something more expository about instruments and personalities.

    Remember, it's for admission, not an open topic for the hs English teacher.

    More ideas?
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  • intparentintparent 36273 replies644 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 36,917 Senior Member
    I like comparing yourself to the bassoon, for sure.
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