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Is this a good college essay topic?

Amberlanya HerwanaAmberlanya Herwana 41 replies15 postsRegistered User Junior Member
Hi everyone! I am applying to mainly top tier competitive schools, and am currently brainstorming what to write my essay about. The topic I have chosen is this:
I will write about a girl I met on my trip to India who used to work in my grandparents' house, and how she inspired me to deeper gratitude and led me to having a full understanding of the opportunities I have been blessed with.
Does this sound too cheesy or do you think it has potential to be an eye catching essay?
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Replies to: Is this a good college essay topic?

  • TheSATTeacherTheSATTeacher 236 replies0 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    @Amberlanya Herwana
    It depends. I had a student who wrote a similar essay that was quite good. I have seen far more bad essays on this topic, though (the one-time-I-met-a-poor-person trope). Some things to keep in mind.

    1) Make sure you don't view the girl with condescension in your essay. Make sure you don't treat her life merely as an instrument in your moral education.

    2) Did you interact with/have some form of relationship with this girl? If not, you should probably stay away from this topic.

    3) Are your parents immigrants? If so, could you weave that into your essay in a meaningful way?

    Again, a lot depends on whether you handle this superficially or not. It is easy to veer into cliches with a topic like this. Hope this helps.
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  • Amberlanya HerwanaAmberlanya Herwana 41 replies15 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Thanks for the feedback! I was planning to portray the girl in a very positive light, emphasizing on her high spirits and unwavering energy despite her heavy workload. And I planned on making some mentions on our friendship and some questions she asked me about America. I portray her as a dricing force or inspiration that pushed me to break out of my shell and deem the judgement of others as inconsequential.
    So basically that kind of idea...does this sound cliche? I want it to be profound and unique, not superificial or cliche.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 6600 replies39 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Your essay needs to be about you. You can certainly based your essay around the experience but the focus can't be on this girl. The point of the essay is for the reader to learn more about you and what you'll bring to their university.
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  • BKSquaredBKSquared 1262 replies4 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Unless there are specific instances of your interaction with this girl which credibly created a moment(s) of self revelation, inspiration and identifiable change/action, I think this essay would run a huge risk of being cliche , i.e. the privileged girl realizing she is privileged because she comes across someone who is not but who has persevered.
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  • Amberlanya HerwanaAmberlanya Herwana 41 replies15 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Thank you! So would you say this topic has very little potential of becoming a memorable essay, or should I continue to pursue it?
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  • BKSquaredBKSquared 1262 replies4 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    OP, you post #2 is very cliche. As @momofsenior1 writes in post #3, the essay is about you. Generalities like "breaking out a shell" and being less concerned with opinions of others without specific examples tied to your interactions is not going to work very well imo.
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  • Amberlanya HerwanaAmberlanya Herwana 41 replies15 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    @BK Specific examples of breaking out of a shell would be how in the past I would keep to myself and avoid drawing attention to myself but after this whole experience sparked something in me I have started running for and obtaining officer positions, freely voicing my opinions, volunteering, etc. Essentially my idea is to portray what concepts bring me happiness through the premise description of this girl who had an impact on me.
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  • suzy100suzy100 5695 replies58 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 9
    I think this runs the risk of being cliche. I think this story (or some version) has likely been done many times as well. I would keep brainstorming.
    edited July 9
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  • BKSquaredBKSquared 1262 replies4 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 9
    But how does that directly tie to your interaction with this girl? What you are describing are actions that could be triggered by a variety of things, including resume padding for colleges. An example that might work is something like: "This girl was born into a family of low social status, but she fought through prejudice to [accomplishment]. Because of her, I was inspired to join her in [doing XYZ] notwithstanding the disapproval of my relatives and family friends."
    edited July 9
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  • Amberlanya HerwanaAmberlanya Herwana 41 replies15 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Well, this girl has not had any particular accomplishments of her own. She is stuck in the same situation, cleaning homes every single day to make a living. But despite being stuck here, everytime I visited her she would always be extremely happy with a bubbly and positive personality. She would warmly greet everyone she met. This made me realize that people can find happiness within themselves, regardless of the circumstances around them. When I returned to America, little things completely stopped botehring me. I felt it was my moral obligation to make 100% use of all the oppurtunties I had been blessed with, and that is where the clubs and volunteering and putting full effort into everything comes in.
    I am just hoping I can phrase this kind of idea in a profound and non-cliche way.

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  • Darcy123Darcy123 230 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I'm by no means any kind of an expert, but do want to point out that in your 5 posts on this thread discussing the idea - I've developed a clear picture of the girl and would love to see HER apply to college as she sounds quite interesting. I'm afraid your essay will have the same result.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 6600 replies39 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I agree with post #11. You are describing why this girl would be an awesome addition to the college, not yourself. I'd rethink this for your essay topic.
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  • EmpireappleEmpireapple 1557 replies25 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I agree with Darcy123. In your brief discussion of your essay idea I find myself more interested in the girl from India than learning more about you. For me, it also bleeds privilege and as if you are oh so amazed that people really do have lives like HER. Isn't she sweet?
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33093 replies358 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 9
    "I will write about a girl I met on my trip to India who used to work in my grandparents' house, and how she inspired me to deeper gratitude and led me to having a full understanding of the opportunities I have been blessed with."

    This kind of essay went out of favor ages ago. Most advice from good colleges on what to write in an essay warns not to take the passive "Now I'm grateful, blah, blah, blessings" approach."

    "Show, not just tell" means don't expect them to believe you, just cuz you say so. And just going from shy to joining clubs isn't "it" for a "top tier."

    You will benefit from learning more about what top colleges look for, what they say and show.

    If this is a serious question.
    edited July 9
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  • Amberlanya HerwanaAmberlanya Herwana 41 replies15 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Another idea I was brainstroming is writing about "my trampoline", in other words the aspects that push me back to my feet if I ever fall down. This could include my family, friends, hobbies, books I read, etc. Would that have any more potential?
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  • happy1happy1 22649 replies2223 postsVerified Member Senior Member
    edited July 9
    Why don't you take some time and write drafts or at least outlines of different essay ideas you are considering and see how things turn out? Oftentimes how an essay is written is more important than the topic itself.
    edited July 9
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33093 replies358 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 9
    Seriously?
    Again, it's not family, friends, hobbies, books, etc, that tip a kid in. Or "telling" them how great xxx is. You need to go look at those college targets and learn more about what they want. It's not idle musings.
    edited July 9
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 6600 replies39 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    What do you want schools to know about you? What are your strengths and gifts that make you unique? Who do you want to be on a college campus? Think about those questions and how you can bring that to life in an essay.

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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33093 replies358 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Maybe you need to tell us what you mean by "top tier." The only time you mentioned stats, last fall, you wrote, "My grades and other activities are pretty average, I am a junior and have received about 5 Bs so far...My SAT score is in the 1400s."

    You want the right colleges for your record.
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  • Amberlanya HerwanaAmberlanya Herwana 41 replies15 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    No those are not my stats. My SAT score is 1500 and I have received all As, with a GPA of 4.6. I have received the national emperor science award, have published a paper in Harvard's Journal of Emerging Investigators, am President of a club at my school and officer of a couple others. I have volunteered at the hospital every summer and am currently doing a paid internship. I attended a 21 century leaders camp in the summer. And for top tier schools, I mean schools like Duke and Georgia Tech and others of similar caliber.
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