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Having trouble writing about unique background! Help plz!!

All3spectrumzAll3spectrumz 1 replies1 threads New Member
Without going into too much detail here, I have special circumstances (having to do with my living arrangements) that I think are very important to explaining the person I am today. However, I am really struggling to write an essay that properly summarizes it all. I know that I need to narrow it down to a single element of my experience, but then I wonder if I should focus on the positive aspects of it, or the challenges I have faced because of it? I don't want to come off as negative in my essay, but I wonder if it would have more of an impact if I focused on the more trying aspects of it. I am really just unsure of how to start all of this, and I was wondering if any of you guys had any tips on how to tackle a large topic and craft it to fit a common app prompt with a 650 word limit.
TIA!
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Replies to: Having trouble writing about unique background! Help plz!!

  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7752 replies82 threads Senior Member
    The challenge of writing these essays is not getting bogged down in *telling* the story.

    So, back up for a minute and layout all the pieces of your application: your stats, your ECs, your LoRs and your essays, all in one folder. The AO who picks up the folder to read it is wondering, 'who is this person and what do they bring to our college community?'. So your grades show that you are smart and work hard, your test scores show* your potential, and your ECs show that you are a good member of the community who can commit to things over time, etc. That leaves LoRs and your essay to show something about who *you* are, to add dimension (and, as relevant, to show why somethings might be the way they are).

    Which is why you are unlikely to finish your essays as early as you seem to be hoping- and why you are having trouble getting a shape on your essay: it takes hard thinking, and usually a bunch attempts to work this through. What do you want them to see? What are the things the people who write your LoRs likely to say?** What are things that you want AOs to take from your essays?

    In other words, start at the end: what is it about the person you are today that you want them to see? if it's a list of adjectives, rank them. It's great to know that a person is (trait), but WHY are the top ones important going forward? how do they link to where you are going? is it expressed in the ways your ECs or academic interests are evolving? can you think of an example of when (trait) will be useful in that future (or how it might be expressed in the future)? how it is being helpful in your present? when it's *absence* was a challenge in the past?

    Finally, remember that key facts told by your GC or a teacher with direct knowledge will carry more weight than you telling them. For example, " @All3spectrumz having to move [due to X circumstances] halfway through 2nd semester took a toll on her grades, but I was impressed with how fast she bounced back, rarely losing her trademark good humor and showing [trait from above]". You really *don't* have to "properly summarize it all"- and you almost certainly are better off not doing so. B/c the nuts and bolts of how it all played out aren't really the point: the point is that you went through a transformative experience, and you want them to see some particular outcome.***

    *are thought to show anyway!

    **btw, most schools ask you to prepare a cheat sheet for your recommenders, in which you remind the person of key things about you (w/ specific examples), AND what you are looking for from the school / job and why you are a good fit. Even if your school doesn't do it, make one for anybody you ever ask for a recommendation!! (including grad school & jobs).

    ***lol, after writing all of this a tl;dr analogy came to mind: when you bake a cake, you mix up the ingredients, put it in the oven, take it out & eat it, right? notice how I skipped over all the things that happened in the oven? all the details of the chemical reactions that led to the cake rising? that's the details of how you got there. what matters is that the raw ingredients of you went through a heat conversion process and you rose to the challenge! ;-)
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  • All3spectrumzAll3spectrumz 1 replies1 threads New Member
    Awesome! Your advice was really helpful, thank you!
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