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Need some opinions on which essay topics to chose...

moilamortmoilamort 16 replies2 postsRegistered User Junior Member
Hi!
I'm not sure what topic I should select to write about for my college essay. Each one of these events did shape me in some way, but I'm not sure which one has had the most impact. I'm more concerned as to which one sounds the most unique/interesting/attention grabbing:


1.) My trips (both exchange trips) to France and Russia. They marked the first time I've ever traveled (been on a plane and left the country). I lived in France for a month and later visited Russia for 2 weeks. Both trips sparked my passion for language and diplomacy. I worked hard at my French prior to leaving and by the end of it, I could think and dream in French. During my Russia trip, I used Russian as much as I could and got interested in the language that way. My school just approved me for a year long advanced studies project where I'm going to self-study Russian (hopefully) to competency.

2.) My struggles in mathematics, which stemmed from me hopping around some really rough public elementary schools. My high school placed me in the most advanced math class for freshmen, which sucked for me, because I barely could do algebra/pre-algebra and still counted on my fingers. I had to use elementary level (4th grade) Khan Academy to get myself up to a reasonable level in math. Last year I just finished AP Calc tho, so it's a real success. This essay would also explain my poor grades in freshman year math

3.) My house, which is a construction zone. We purchased it as a fixer upper a few years back and it was a big moment for our family because prior to we had just dealt with losing our home (due to taxes, out of our control) and moving 3 times because of it. The new house has become a way for us to unleash our creativity, and it's lead to me learning some weird skills, like how to grout a bathroom and rewire electric currents.


What topic caught your attention the most? Which should I write about? What do you think would look nicest to colleges?
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Replies to: Need some opinions on which essay topics to chose...

  • intparentintparent 36291 replies644 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Can you keep brainstorming? Read the tips at the top of the essay forum and think about why colleges are asking for the essay.
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  • moilamortmoilamort 16 replies2 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I'm in a college essay writing class and today we talked about hooking in the admissions officers. We wrote tiny snippets of stories and had to judge if we were admissions officers would we keep reading the essay. We sorted the snippets as to whether or not they were intriguing.

    The whole idea was to think of a story that is interesting, hooks them in (the admissions officers), impacted you, and that only you could write. The professor stressed that anyone can write a good essay (with enough time and feedback) but that the hardest part is choosing a good topic. I just wanted to get an idea as to what seemed the most intriguing

    Because I don't know anyone here on CC, I decided to ask here which topics popped out the most. She advised against asking friends/family because they already know me.

    I can/will definitely keep brainstorming though. Thanks!
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 6726 replies45 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I would not write about #2. You don't want to highlight something negative.

    Personally I think essay #3 could be really interesting depending on how you write it.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33160 replies359 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    "story that is interesting, hooks them in (the admissions officers), impacted you, and that only you could write."
    Try to remember this is for admission, not just a high school paper. And you said T20.

    It needs to speak to what the adcoms are looking for, various traits, for their college class. You need to understand a bit about what they look for, then find a narrative that "shows, not just tells."

    These 3 topics would difficult to do that. And despite much advice to write as no one else could, there are only so many experiences kids have had. Lots will write on similar topics and that's fine.

    Have you actually seen the Common App prompts?

    Who's teaching this class?
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  • bopperbopper 13943 replies98 postsForum Champion CWRU 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?"


    So how can you talk about your trips an not sound like everyone student who has travelled? Details!
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  • silverpurplesilverpurple 86 replies27 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I like your writing style already, @moilamort . I like 1 and 3. One because i like your independence and maturity. Three because it is interesting and unique.
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  • moilamortmoilamort 16 replies2 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    The teacher is a writing professor at the University of Chicago. She has been involved in college essay writing for years. She's also taught this class to many high schoolers before and I've heard she's quite good (many students in this program get accepted into their top schools/scholarships and she teaches all of them on how to write for college essays) so I'm not questioning her methods.
    Granted, this was only the first class we've had. Perhaps I'm taking what she's said and running with it, although this was the central message of today's class.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33160 replies359 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Ok. Just remember, to ring an adcom's chimes for an admit, it needs to relate what they want to learn about you, as a candidate. That takes it out if the realm of ordinary hs writing. Check Check the Common App prompts. Think: narrative. This isn't ordinary storytelling.
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  • caymusjordancaymusjordan 145 replies9 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I like #3. My son's essay was about working on an old car. His first sentence grabbed you and as he talked about the ups and downs in restoring the car it gave a clear understanding of who he was and how he learned and applied that knowledge. I'm pretty sure there weren't too many essays that AO's read that fall similar to his. He just finished his first year at UChicago.
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  • moilamortmoilamort 16 replies2 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Thanks! A question though, how does #2 highlight something negative? Could it be also along the lines of perseverance or something?
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  • intparentintparent 36291 replies644 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    The problem is that a lead sentence that hooks them isn’t necessarily indicative of an essay topic that resonates as well. One sentence doesn’t do it. If you find the right topic, you can craft an intro that draws their attention. But the best first sentence in the works can’t really rescue an uninspired topic.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33160 replies359 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Because it includes elementary school, says you started hs still counting on your fingers and points them straight at the problems in your 9th grade transcript. Yes, you got to AP calc but what grade and AP score.

    You said Top 20 colleges. There will be applicants who never got a B. Don't lead with a weakness.
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  • Ready5etGoReady5etGo 19 replies0 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I think a lot of people struggle in Math, so #1 and #3 are more interesting to me. You could technically talk about #2 in the additional info section to explain the lower freshman math grades. GL!!
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  • intparentintparent 36291 replies644 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    But none of these are winning topics for a top 20 school, IMHO. #1 is overdone, #2 leads with a weakness that is potentially damaging to your acceptance chances, and #3 doesn’t seem like it is really about you. A great essay can turn on something small, but unique.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33160 replies359 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 25
    Right. #1 explains Why this Major. That's not a CA prompt or similar. #3 would need to show more than learning grouting- which is not an admit tip.

    Until OP has a better understanding of what T20 colleges look for, how will she know the topics and writing that shows them that? Right now, this teacher seems to be focuding on "interesting," and not "relevant."

    After OP better understands what sorts of attributes tippy tops look for, she might be able to reframe #3.
    edited June 25
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  • moilamortmoilamort 16 replies2 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I agree with you. I lean more toward the other two topics personally. I think my fear (and it's a big one, honestly the C in that math class has been eating away at me a lot recently) is that if the grade is never addressed then colleges will look at it and dismiss me, since it's impacted my GPA and transcript

    There was causation for the grade but colleges won't know unless I tell them. I've also overcome these troubles, and some of my ECs are even related to helping out other kids who faced similar situations as I did (I've started tutoring programs for inner city kids in failing schools struggling at math/reading)

    It is a weakness, but wouldn't it be weaker to not address it? Is it wiser to put it in the additional information section?
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33160 replies359 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Adding. Maybe this teacher is focusing right now on loosening your writing juices. Maybe next week or so, the real work starts. Do what she asks for now. But keep in mind you want an eventual topic that does more.
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  • moilamortmoilamort 16 replies2 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited June 25
    Whoa whoa. I only asked what topics popped out to you guys, because that's the next step, not which topics would get my into a T20. Note also that in this post I never said anything about T20s. I've moved beyond that.
    Of course I cannot write here everything I plan on touching on in my college essays. That would be way too long, and frankly, would be a bad use of your time. I just came here for a quick second opinion, honestly
    edited June 25
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33160 replies359 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    OP, I wonder if you understand what the essay is for. Or have looked at a sample CA, seen the prompts and other sections. You don't need to tell them, your GC can write about your turnaround in math. You dont blow the big essay on a Little Train that Could story that runs back to elementary. Yeah, you huffed and puffed and got up the mountain. But most contenders for a tippy top never lost their stride. Most work their butts off to get ahead and you want to tell them you worked yours off just to catch up?

    Apologies, that sounds harsh.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33160 replies359 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    What major, what colleges, what grade in AP calc?
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