Common App personal essay topic?

Hiii, I am planning on choosing the prompt “Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.”

I want to talk about my trichotillomania I have had since 5th grade. If you don’t know, trichotillomania is a hair pulling disorder. Although I have not recovered, I want to talk about my growth and how I am now am able to accept that this is a part of me.

Do you this is an acceptable topic??

Thanks!! :)))

It is acceptable, but do you think this is the strongest / most interesting topic about which you can write?


I probably wouldn’t make the entire essay about trichotillomania. Perhaps a broader topic, such as how you learned to accept qualities (whether good or bad) about yourself and/or others, of which trichotillomania could have been the impetus to help you get to this higher level of understanding wrt to acceptance. I would also not directly say you have not recovered yet. What other options are you considering for your personal statement?


Trichotillomania is something I would like to talk about since it has been a big part of my life.

The only other thing I would consider talking about is my grandpa forcibly drafted in the korean war by the north korean government and how that inspired me. However, I feel like that is a really cliche topic.

I was thinking of maybe a more different and interesting approach of talking about trich. Trich is something that happened to cope with my stress / anxiety. Although I am not FULLY recovered, it has gotten A LOT better ever since I figured out other healthier ways to cope. For example, when I was young I used to hate taking showers, but now I love them so much. Taking long hot showers are something I do whenever I get stressed to help me calm down. I could talk about why showers are the best invention ever made??

I am really trying to find interesting ways to approach a common topic. If you maybe have any other ideas I’m all ears.

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I actually like the idea of how hot showers are the best invention ever because you can talk about maturing and de-stressing and it’s something everyone can relate to. There are lots of ways to add details that tell them about you as a person and inject a little light humor (if that’s your voice), maybe something about going to college and how your parents’ water bill will be a lot lower. But only if that kind of thing comes across as effortless and not forced. Write it up and see how it goes?

I wouldn’t talk directly about Trich for your whole essay, but bringing it up in the context of something else is fine (at least that’s my opinion).

ETA: You should be really proud of yourself for working so hard and making so much progress in your recovery.

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Applicants are well served to ask, “what is the school looking for through this essay” and then see if the topic for this prompt allows the applicant to highlight something about them that hits upon the qualities that this essay is addressing.

This particular prompt is about an event in time that served as a catalyst that either or both accelerated growth or changed your direction on the road to becoming who you are. So to me, the prompt is looking at both your ability to adapt/learn and what positive/desirable direction and attributes have arisen/been strengthened by this transformative event. There is an invitation to talk about empathetic attributes because it opens up the topic of “understanding of others”. Colleges are always looking for students who will be a positive part of the school community, so is empathy is important

Perhaps your condition can lead into a good essay about how this challenge has transformed you in certain positive ways. I do think talking about a medical/mental condition that is not resolved is always risky. Colleges are always cautious about applicants with a “preexisting condition.” You also risk spending too much time on describing the negative aspects of the condition so that it looks like an “excuse” essay rather than one about how you learned from and used the challenges to improve yourself.

The grandfather story does not fit into the prompt. That was his event, not yours.

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Thank you so much for your response!! I’ll try this topic!

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That is the kind of essay I would find really compelling and really nice to read, but opinions will likely vary on whether it’s a good topic or a good approach to one of the prompts. I’m a writer and a professor, but I’m not an admissions officer. My suggestion is to write it up and show it to your counselor or English teacher. Think about other possible topics, too. Hopefully, you’ll get some more feedback on this thread.

Thank you so much! Yes, I actually have a college advisor, so I’ll show it to her. Thank you so much for your feedback!

No, do not write on a topic about a psychological disorder which led you to engage in self-harm. Even worse is the fact that you still suffer from this form of stress & anxiety. Not a good idea if you goal is to get an offer of admission.

An important objective of a college essay is to show that you would be a positive addition to the community; your goal is not to entertain readers in an unusual topic. Taking a hot shower to relieve stress or anxiety is a very common practice. Engaging in self harm such as pulling out one’s hair due to an unresolved psychological condition just raises red flags.

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hmm okay thanks for your feedback. I can’t even talk about it if I focus on how this experience made me grow as a person, and just focusing on the positive aspects rather than the negative? I would like to talk about my disorder because I feel like it was a really big part of me. Is there no one I can incorporate it, or just touch on it?

If I ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT talk about it, what do you think of the topic of hot showers being the best invention ever made and talk about how it is calming, peaceful, and helps me destress?

My standard advice is that anything can be an effective college application essay topic if written well. Typically, I encourage applicants to write a first draft & then let me evaluate it. My concern in your case is that an on-going psychological disorder which caused you to repeatedly engage in self-harm has almost no chance of helping you get an offer of admission and a high chance of getting your application put in the rejection pile.

I get that this advice is causing you to experience stress and anxiety. Try to write an essay that focuses on positives. Show that you are a hard worker and that you are intellectually curious. Also good to show that you are accepting of differences of opinions and that you appreciate diversity in others. It is okay to share how you deal with stress (hot showers, exercise, mediation,playing with puppies, helping others, etc.), but it is not okay to reveal an ongoing anxiety disorder which causes you to harm yourself if your goal is to get an offer of admission.

P.S. I would like to work with you, but I cannot as I am obligated for the next few weeks on another matter which will consume all of my time. This website–College Confidential–offers an essay review service free of charge. Not sure how to get in touch with the essay writing service, but it is active & it is free.

@compmom is an active participant in the CC essay review / essay assistance group. Please do not stress over writing college application essays as they will guide you in a stress free fashion.

Thank you so much for your feedback! I appreciate it!!

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The essay reader thread is not active right now. I will PM you. I know someone well who has trichotillomania. We can discuss via PM. Look for a green number next to your avatar at top left.