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Overcoming Drug Addiction as an application essay topic?

CollegeKid27CollegeKid27 72 replies104 postsRegistered User Junior Member
edited June 2012 in College Essays
SO basically, an essay that I have written says the following things in the following order...

-(intro) basically saying that I am not asking for some sort of sympathy, and that I only want to be heard. I also add that I the following is qoute "not the most common approach to exalting one's self".

-(body) Explaining the emotional root of problems I had, turned into disrespect, drug use and family issues.

-Got sent to a school away from my house, and recreated a sense of pride. Came over alot of issues ... yadda yadda, I did an alright job at that.

-Makes references to my family and how highly they think of me; that I agree with them..

-(closing) saying that above all, I believe in myself and what I have done, and that is what it is that makes me who I am {kind of thing}...

So is this a good approach to an essay?? Any ideas???
edited June 2012
70 replies
Post edited by CollegeKid27 on
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Replies to: Overcoming Drug Addiction as an application essay topic?

  • leapinglizardsleapinglizards 92 replies11 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I would only write an essay about getting over a drug addiction if they already knew about your drug use (if you had to explain it after checking the box for "have you been arrested?" or something) Otherwise I would probably not bring it up as it doesn't put you in the best light, even if you no longer use drugs.

    But, then again, I don't know you, and if you think that topic is what best defines you, then maybe you should write about it.
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  • CollegeKid27CollegeKid27 72 replies104 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    maybe i could explain that I just had issues & struggles? but than again it isnt really as powerful that way... hmmm...
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  • artloversplusartloversplus 8512 replies247 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Colleges or businesses do not like to admit/enroll/hire a self purported past, current or future drug additct.
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  • fogcityfogcity 3171 replies57 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I would encourage you to focus your essay on aspects of your life that demonstrate intellectual curiosity, drive (and examples) of making a difference in your community, etc. Start off positive and stay positive.

    I think that your proposed topic is of high risk. You may find some sympathetic readers. More likely you'll find one or two readers who would become concerned after reading your proposed essay.
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  • turbulence144turbulence144 41 replies3 postsRegistered User New Member
    it seems like an interesting, genuine idea that most readers would misunderstand.

    if the essay reader is the stuffy administrator that i always imagine must be the only sort of person who can manage to work in an admissions office, they probably wouldn't fully appreciate the topic.
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  • vincehvinceh 2280 replies11 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    The best advice I ever heard about college essays was, "Don't write about something you wouldn't talk about on a first date." Writing about your recovery from drug addiction is high risk proposition. Well written it can be a compelling story, but depending on the reader it may plant an uncomfortable seed of doubt in their mind. The main point of the essay is to get to the "second date" (admissions), being too personal upfront may be a turn-off.

    The other way to look at it is from a risk-reward basis. If statistically you're at the upper-end (75th%-tile or higher) for a particular school then you're likely going to be admitted regardless what you write about, so why risk turning the reader off? If you're in the bottom quartile for a particular school it seems unlikely that your story is going to be enough to overcome the academic competition you'll be facing. So the only place the essay might work is in a borderline case, some place where you're average but a compelling story of overcoming adversity could be enough to tip things in your favor. But even there the risk is that they'll be turned away by the possibility of your slipping back to your old ways. I just don't see the payoff.
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  • StephenRStephenR 81 replies0 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    The reader of your essay has the privilege of anonymity. They don't have to look you in the eye or even call you after reading it. That makes it easy for them to act on prejudice. And they will.

    Don't do it.
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  • digmediadigmedia 3122 replies209 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    If you read The Gatekeepers, (about college admissions) you'll see this is a bad idea.
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  • sanapplecap2sanapplecap2 91 replies0 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I suggest that you only use an essay like this if you are explaining a period of very poor grades and can demonstrate a turnaround or are explaining a police record - and I would recast the essay accordingly if you do use it. Otherwise, congratualtions on getting your life together.
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  • decrescendodecrescendo 1113 replies47 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I wouldn't do it.

    If you were convicted for drug use, there's a space on the CommonApp where you'll have to explain yourself. So even if you were convicted, that's where you'd write such an explanation. If you weren't convicted, it would be a very unwise move if you wrote your main essay about your former drug use. While it's admirable that you overcame strife and emerged a better person, no college will take what you're saying in a positive light. A former drug addict was still a drug addict at one point, horrible as it sounds. So I'd pick another topic. That's just me, though.
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  • glassesarechicglassesarechic 5471 replies16 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    You could write it well and it would still be extremely risky. Colleges are looking to build communities of diverse, interesting, talented people, a community that won't include drug addicts, past or present, if they can help it. There are more relevant and positive things to discuss in a college essay.

    Congratulations for overcoming your addiction, however. Best of luck with your applications.
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  • Senior0991Senior0991 2362 replies18 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I sadly have to agree with what everyone else has said.

    I will re-emphasize the points that (provided they wouldn't know otherwise about the drugs) you should definitely avoid this essay at safety and match schools. This essay could work at a high reach, and it may be a good idea to use it if you don't think you have a shot at admission using a more typical essay.

    Not saying you should use it at all or even half your reaches, because it's nice to get into a couple reaches. But maybe experiment around with one of the HYPSM-type schools that you think would be cool to be admitted to but you aren't like dying to attend.
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  • ajsz033ajsz033 153 replies16 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I think drugs is a little too much. Some conservative people might not like it.
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  • maddog15maddog15 567 replies20 postsRegistered User Member
    cause if it`s not I suggest you not write about drugs, use of them or overcoming the use them! Why don`t you write the words, I USED TO USE DRUGS, across your forehead!
    Use this topic to motivate people off of drugs but please don`t use this topic to try to get into college.
    This is either a joke or your head is still a bit fogged up!!!
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  • hotpotato1092hotpotato1092 176 replies52 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Honestly I think the college essay is about showing colleges who you are as a person beyond things like stats and EC's. If this is what best defines you, if this shows the person you are, then I think it's the best topic for you. HOWEVER, approach it with extreme caution, and know that there are going to be schools that drop your application on the spot, just as there are going to be people who will refuse to hire you simply because of your past. Ultimately what matters is that you know you're past it, and that you've grown from it, if you know that then some school will take you, someone will hire you etc... There are always going to be haters, even for smaller things, for example a lot of my friends distanced themselves from me when I was suffering from depression, I'm not saying they're close to the same as I'm sure you went through way worse, but it's just an example. Hardships show you who and what are important in your life, and that defines who you are. If that is the person that you want colleges to know, then write about it, after all you want to be accepted for who you are, not who you think they want you to be. Just my two cents.
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  • TrumpetDadTrumpetDad 250 replies12 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    You're thinking out-of-the-box, that's for sure!

    I suspect you'll get a chance sometime to write about this AFTER matriculating.

    I don't see how "Colleges are looking to build communities of diverse, interesting, talented people" could not include recovered drug addicts. In fact, I'm sure they do, though it's not necessarily known to the community. I think I'm pretty interesting and talented. And the presence of someone who has already been around that block in a setting where many will succumb may prove invaluable.

    I suggest a separate letter to the campus substanse abuse counselor at the college you've decided upon. Tell your story, and offer yourself as a student resource to other students who utilize the counselor.


    DoS - 7/21/81
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  • soozievtsoozievt 31385 replies371 postsRegistered User, ! Senior Member
    You already got great advice in the posts on this thread. I will just chime in as someone who is a college counselor.

    I would advise against this topic for the essays. There may be other places on the application where this would come up such as having to explain transcript irregulatiries or having to answer questions about being arrested or suspended. In other words, if you HAVE to report the drug use on other parts of the application, explain it there. But do not use the main essays for this. and if you don't have to reveal you past drug use anywhere on the application, I would avoid "telling all." In other words, if you have recovered (bravo to you!) and there is no suspension, arrest, or transcript irregularity to explain, I would not even reveal past drug use anywhere on the application. But even if you have to disclose it elsewhere in the application, I would still not use the main essays for this topic. And if you do have to explain an arrest, suspension or transcript irregularity, in that explanation of extenuating circumstances (not the main essay), provide specific reassurances that the past situation will not prevent you from participating in college fully.

    The main essay, however, should be used to highlight more positive aspects of your background or interests.

    Generally, avoid revealing mental health problems such as drug use if you don't have to and if you have recovered. Give the adcoms reasons to admit you and not be concerned about admitting you. There must be a lot of wonderful positive things about you......show them those qualities in your essays.
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  • christiansoldierchristiansoldier 1311 replies31 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I think you should go for it.

    1) Colleges are looking to build diverse communities. We've said this before. They want students who grow from their interactions. If you are a recovered drug addict, you have a very unusual perspective (for your age) and would add something unique to the campus dialogue.

    2) Since you have already overcome drugs yourself, you could be a good influence on other students experimenting with drugs. The "I've been there, let me tell you something about drugs" approach is harder to come by than the puritanical "I've always said no to drugs" proselytizing approach.

    3) Overcoming a drug addiction shows steely self-discipline and emotional maturity. Whatever you were, they are admitting or rejecting what you are now.

    4) Talking frankly about your past mistakes, asking for understanding rather than forgiveness or leniency, takes self-confidence.

    5) Handling a sensitive subject well will show strong writing skills.
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  • dudecollegeguydudecollegeguy 75 replies0 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Definitely not. This is coming from a former undergrad admissions counselor.
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  • dudecollegeguydudecollegeguy 75 replies0 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Just as a quick appendix to my last post, it's not exactly what your topic is about (i.e. don't try to rely on an "impressive" topic) because it is in a way insignificant. Rather it's how you write your essay (displaying strong writing skills, sincere, etc.) and how you can use that topic, no matter how "small" it may seem, to show something about yourself.

    Talking about your drug addiction will raise more questions about you than it would answer, long story short.
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