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Personal statement on sexual assault VS my safe personal statement on my fear of stairs

DaisyordailyDaisyordaily 2 replies1 threads New Member
Okay, I have two extremely different topics I want to use as my personal statement for Common App but I can’t decide if I want to go with my personal, risky one (sexual assault) or if I should go with my “backup” essay on my fear of stairs.

My risky one has a brief statement that I was sexually assaulted, which is then followed by an anecdote. The anecdote is of me swallowing my fears and reaching out of my comfort zone by presenting an art piece I painted in front of my class(the art piece symbolizes how the media can encourage/discourage women from coming out about their assault)

The essay about my fear of stairs will include an anecdote of how I first found out about my silly fear. Within the story it will explain how I learned to adapt to this fear and how I live comfortably with it.

Don’t worry, I have ways for both of these essays to explain my growth and who I am as a person because of these.

Any feedback please!!
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Replies to: Personal statement on sexual assault VS my safe personal statement on my fear of stairs

  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8205 replies87 threads Senior Member
    I have ways for both of these essays to explain my growth and who I am as a person because of these

    Without meaning to be unkind, there is simply *no* applicant who has not had to grow (b/c that is simply the nature of children growing into adolescents and then young adults).

    You can be very, very sure that the AOs have read plenty of essays based on sexual assault- I wish that it was a rare story, but sadly it is not- so it is only 'risky' in the sense that you are sharing a part of yourself.

    It sounds as though you get that the point of the essay isn't actually the subject: the subject is just a vehicle for showing some part of you that doesn't come through the rest of your application. Step back and look at your application as a whole, then think about you, as a whole. Where are all your various traits showing up? Which ones can be inferred from your stats? your ECs? which will show up in your LoRs? What aspects of you haven't really been shown, or should be emphasized to pull all the others together? That's where the focus of your essays should be on that, and you choose the anecdotes to make the point. The anecdote itself is really secondary.
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  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 3749 replies91 threads Senior Member
    Step back and look at your application as a whole, then think about you, as a whole. Where are all your various traits showing up? Which ones can be inferred from your stats? your ECs? which will show up in your LoRs? What aspects of you haven't really been shown, or should be emphasized to pull all the others together? That's where the focus of your essays should be on that, and you choose the anecdotes to make the point. The anecdote itself is really secondary.

    Great advice!

    OP, the essay has to sell you to the college (its a sales brochure), not share your secrets. Unless the stair essay is both very well written and highly amusing, I think that could backfire. I agree that, sadly, sexual assault essays are more common than they should be. When well written, they can make for interesting reading and show your personality and how it was shaped. I think the best option is to consider Collegemom3717's advise in her last paragraph. Give it some further thought and let that shape your topic and essay.
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  • DaisyordailyDaisyordaily 2 replies1 threads New Member
    Thank you guys for your comments, I understand mostly what you are saying. But, my main focus is not the anecdote itself, I just gave a peak on what I want my essay to have.
    Also, I’m honestly not quite sure what else I could write topic wise, I am not big in the “slice of life” writing style. I don’t think I could pull it off... I’m thinking of using my stair topic but switching it more into a metaphor (mixed with the little fear of course). My fear of Walking up stairs are more deep than just the stairs itself, but the fear of progressing/change in my life. This will then go on to how I got over my fear of change/progressing which made me go out and get a job and put my self out more in school(as I am pretty introverted).


    I would like to know why the stair topic may be hard to pull off and would a metaphor essay be too cliche? I suppose it depends on my writing style and what I’m confident in.
    Thank you guys again.
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  • me29034me29034 2262 replies116 threads Senior Member
    You do not want to come across as a fearful person who has to overcome fear to try new things. They may worry that you won’t adjust well to starting college. Unless you frame it very well, it could backfire on you.
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  • happy1happy1 24442 replies2462 threads Super Moderator
    edited August 5
    Why don't you write a draft or outline of your two ideas and see where they take you? The essay you want to use may become obvious.
    edited August 5
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  • whidbeyite2002whidbeyite2002 340 replies1 threads Member
    edited August 5
    @Daisyordaily, I am going to not tell you to not write either essay (a double negative). Personally, I would not feel comfortable writing either essay, but I know of students accepted to highly selective colleges with similar personal statement topics.

    I suggest you look at Johns Hopkins’ Essays That Worked. https://apply.jhu.edu/application-process/essays-that-worked/ I found this after my daughter had been accepted.

    Like @happy1 said, you might prewrite both topics and then see where the essays lead you. My daughter had done this, and she knew and I knew that her second essay was it. And who knows? Maybe a third topic will evolve.

    Wishing you the best!
    edited August 5
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  • PublisherPublisher 11914 replies161 threads Senior Member
    edited August 5
    OP: Either "topic" can work. Write a draft & I will give a brief critique.

    I need to know the level of schools to which you are applying.

    I do not want to share with you the critical elements that should be contained in an essay appropriate for the most highly selective schools because I want to see from your own work & your own perspective certain qualities.

    Trying to select the better or best essay topic reveals a misunderstanding of the purpose of a college application essay. The topic can be about almost anything from a broken shoelace to a meeting with the Pope in which you both collaborated to devise a cure for all types of cancer. Both topics can succeed & both topics can fail.

    A current example is from the student of the week. A student from a sought-after, under-represented state with stellar grades, outstanding SAT scores, top class rank, great ECs, accomplished athlete, but a very ineffective application essay even though beautifully written & enjoyable to read.

    This student's well crafted, but ineffective, application essay was praised by family & by her English Literature teacher. But, it resulted in being denied entry into all of the most selective schools to which she applied. The student ended up at one of the least competitive schools in the nation surrounded by sub-par classmates who drop out at an alarmingly high rate from this uninspired academic environment.

    Why did this student who had a winning hand lose at college admissions ? Bad lottery luck ? No. It was what was missing in her college application essay which so many had praised.

    I cringe when I read of students who spend weeks or months writing & rewriting their college application essay. They simply do not understand what certain schools seek.

    Different levels of schools seek different qualities in one's application essay. This is why I need to know to which schools you are applying.
    edited August 5
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  • DaisyordailyDaisyordaily 2 replies1 threads New Member
    Thank you guys! Also, I’m not planning on very selective universities. The most competitive one I will be applying for is University of Washington.

    I’ll take some of your advice in writing both essays and if neither feel write I’ll find something else! Thank you.
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  • blossomblossom 10563 replies9 threads Senior Member
    OP- just give some thought as to how many strangers you will feel comfortable reading about the abuse. It's one thing to write about it for your therapist or with a group of 8 people you know well in a writing seminar-- it's another thing to launch it into the unknown.

    The stair essay could be fun and lighthearted- not too heavy on the pop psychology- so that would be my pick. Not because it's safe- but because you may feel differently about the abuse experience in a year once you've made progress processing it--- and knowing that strangers read about something so personal may give you pause.
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  • PublisherPublisher 11914 replies161 threads Senior Member
    Hopefully, when one writes about sexual abuse, the essay is not about sexual abuse just as when writes about a broken shoelace, the essay should not be about a broken shoelace.
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  • PublisherPublisher 11914 replies161 threads Senior Member
    edited August 5
    OP: Based on the level of school to which you are applying, I cannot be of much help unless you are in competition for a major scholarship award.

    I encourage you to read the six essays shared by Johns Hopkins admissions. The link is in post #6 above which was written by @whidbeyite2002.

    All 6 essays are great models for admission to the overwhelming majority of schools and programs. Two of the essays are superior to the other four.
    edited August 5
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  • GlobalFencingMomGlobalFencingMom 54 replies0 threads Junior Member
    Publisher wrote: »
    OP: Either "topic" can work. Write a draft & I will give a brief critique.

    I need to know the level of schools to which you are applying.

    I do not want to share with you the critical elements that should be contained in an essay appropriate for the most highly selective schools because I want to see from your own work & your own perspective certain qualities.

    Trying to select the better or best essay topic reveals a misunderstanding of the purpose of a college application essay. The topic can be about almost anything from a broken shoelace to a meeting with the Pope in which you both collaborated to devise a cure for all types of cancer. Both topics can succeed & both topics can fail.

    A current example is from the student of the week. A student from a sought-after, under-represented state with stellar grades, outstanding SAT scores, top class rank, great ECs, accomplished athlete, but a very ineffective application essay even though beautifully written & enjoyable to read.

    This student's well crafted, but ineffective, application essay was praised by family & by her English Literature teacher. But, it resulted in being denied entry into all of the most selective schools to which she applied. The student ended up at one of the least competitive schools in the nation surrounded by sub-par classmates who drop out at an alarmingly high rate from this uninspired academic environment.

    Why did this student who had a winning hand lose at college admissions ? Bad lottery luck ? No. It was what was missing in her college application essay which so many had praised.

    I cringe when I read of students who spend weeks or months writing & rewriting their college application essay. They simply do not understand what certain schools seek.

    Different levels of schools seek different qualities in one's application essay. This is why I need to know to which schools you are applying.

    @Publisher this is a cautionary tale. In your opinion for T10 schools what would you advise as the critical attribute types that an AO wants to see communicated as part of the essay?

    I struggle with this. Not being from this country nor being educated here, this is not a concept we are familiar with when applying to selective schools - they are more interested in your academic profile and your academic interest / intellectual curiosity.

    From my browsing on this topic, the ability to "show" and not "tell" who you are is important and clearly to try and highlight elements of yourself and accomplishments that are not covered elsewhere in your application but if you have an applicant who is very accomplished and naturally talented (high achieving global athlete) what would be key attribute to communicate?
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  • SouthernHopeSouthernHope 2133 replies217 threads Senior Member
    FWIW, that stairs essay sounds intriguing to me and I believe - depending on how it turns out - that it could be very effective. One of my favorite essay topics I've seen here at CC is the student who gave a different name every time she went to Starbucks and she would step into a new personality based on that name. It was very clever and well-done. In my own family, my D wrote her essay on adopting a cat from the humane society and she got into 12 of the 13 competitive colleges she applied to (with several of the adcoms mentioning that essay).

    So, bottom line, lots of topics work.
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  • PublisherPublisher 11914 replies161 threads Senior Member
    @GlobalFencingMom: What I will share is that you are correct about intellectual curiosity. Many confuse "academic interest" with "intellectual curiosity" --although the two certainly can be related.
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