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Writing about a disability for Common App essay?

circe27circe27 0 replies2 postsRegistered User New Member
I always hear that students should never write about sob story topics like death, divorce, or disability, but I was thinking of writing my essay about my disability. It's a large part of who I am, and I'd either write about how it helped me put things into perspective & mentally overcome my physical challenges (mind>body), or how it helped me become more aware of myself and the people around me.

I'm definitely trying to stay away from the woe-is-me side of things and take a self-deprecating, humorous tone instead. Despite this, is writing about a disability inappropriate and/or overdone? I know it's a tricky topic, so if adcoms (especially those from t20s) generally don't take disability essays well, I will find something else to write about.
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Replies to: Writing about a disability for Common App essay?

  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33093 replies358 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    That's a tough one. Plus you haven't named colleges or the tier. Adcoms want to know you triumphed over challenges, in ways they like, for their colleges. The principle is "Show, not just tell." So you'd need to be showing the results, not just saying how you "became more aware," etc. How did that growth manifest, in ways the colleges like to see? Good to write this as a nice narrative. Of course, you have to get an idea of what traits they are looking for.

    If the challenge is physical, see if you can do this. Yes, humor can show confidence and perspective, determination and good will. If it's more mental or emotional, common advice is to stay away.

    You may not realize that sometimes the best person to write how you overcame is the GC. He or she can write in the LoR, as one educator talking to other educators, have a chance to rave a bit about you. Best to you.
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  • MWolfMWolf 1280 replies8 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    @lookingforward Is correct, of course. Another thing to consider is that AOs like it if your essay says something about you which cannot be easily gleaned from your application. Writing about your disability may create the impression that you feel that your disability is who you are. They will, hopefully, know about your disability from your GC or your letters of recommendation, and see how you overcame it by looking at your accomplishments.

    I'm not saying that you shouldn't mention it, or even use it as a context, but I don't know that it's a good idea to use it as the theme of your essay.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6468 replies51 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    It is really, really hard to write that essay well, simply b/c you don't (& can't at this stage) have much perspective. "Show don't tell" is right- but it's also easy to say, and hard to do..

    It's also important to link past-present- future.: overcoming the challenges of your disability is one thing- but how does it link to who you are now and where you are headed. Remember that, while it is a "large part" of who you are, the goal of your admissions essay is to sell you as a great addition to the college community. Although AOs say that they want to know you, they really mean 'in the context of being a student at our college'.

    Finally humor, including self-deprecating humor, is hard to do in writing. Be sure that you have somebody who doesn't love you (not your parent / best friend / favorite mentor) or know you terribly well (an English teacher who hasn't taught you can be a good choice) read it and give you feedback on how it comes across.
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  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff 3667 replies16 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    The above advice is on target. One thing you mention is the risk of this type of essay and being overdone. I agree. Make it personal, unique and interesting. Interesting is the key word here. You can easily give reference to the disability in a line or two but does it add value to your "story" that you are writing. It might, it might not. As stated your GC will mention it and you can mention it in the part of the application which asks "is there something you want us to know".
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