Essay help! Writing about identity?

I’m thinking about writing a supplemental essay on the intersection between my lgbt+ identity and being asian. But I don’t want to come across sounding like a sob story. How can I avoid this? and should I even write about the topic at all?

I think it’s a great topic that will really let admissions know who you are. I’d focus on how whatever obstacles you may have faced have empowered you and will ultimately help you meet challenges in other aspects of your life. Be sure to give plenty of concrete examples.

You can write this, but be aware that it’s a very common topic. There are plenty of LGBTQ kids in colleges across the country.

I always ask students to consider this question:
Are you an LGBTQ person? Or is there more to you? Are you funny, kind, intelligent, clever, witty, compassionate, helpful, curious, contemplative, quiet, thoughtful, a leader, a thinker, a doer, a friend, an advocate…or something more than a sexual identity? Tell AO’s about that person.


You are putting the cart before the horse.

Your application is your sales pitch for ‘why me at your college’. Each piece of it- your stats, your LoRs, your ECs, your essays- paints a part of the overall picture of you. Your essays are valuable real estate in your application, because they are where you get to add the ‘color commentary’- either highlighting an aspect of you that is not as obvious from the other parts of the app, linking up the key points in each of the other parts to show the bigger picture, or both.

So, first figure out what you want to show in your essays - what’s missing from the rest of your app? what do you want to highlight? how do all the parts hang together to paint a picture of the person that they would be inviting to join their campus community. Then figure out how to show that through your essay(s).

This is bad advice. The idea that the essay a should demonstrate an applicant’s Ability To Overcome Adversity is one which refuses to die.

The essay is not a competition to see who had the most difficult time, with the “winners” being accepted. The essay isn’t a way to garner sympathy for one’s difficulties, nor is it a place to tell about one’s Triumph Against hardships.

The essay is a place to show AOs something about oneself that they cannot glean from the rest of the application and the LoRs. It is a place to showcase one’s best traits.

Focusing on the obstacles one has faced does the exact opposite. This makes the hardships the central focus of the essay, whereas the focus should be on the applicant. At the end of such an essay, the AO may know about the hardships, and know that the applicant may have overcome said hardships, but they will not know anything new about the applicant, and all the will have is a story about yet another kid who may have had some severe hardships, and who may have learned something from these hardships.

The AOs don’t want to learn something about the applicant’s life, they want to learn something about the applicant’s character. Specifically, they want to learn something about the character which will tell them whether the applicant is someone they would like to have at their college.

It’s been done to death.
They aren’t admitting based on your sexual identity. It’s likely very important to you, especially at your age, discovering and moving forward.

But think of it like applying for a great internship. If the hiring mgr asked if there was additional relevant info, would you go into detail about how hard it was to be Asian and LGBT or stick to the elements and assets that make you a desirable coworker?

The college essay is not meant to be a soul-baring exercise. The purpose of the college essay is:

  1. to tell college admissions officers something about yourself that can’t be found elsewhere on the application; and
  2. to show college admissions officers how you can be a positive addition to their college.
    If your essay does these two things then it should be fine, if not try another topic.

I suggest you start writing an outline or draft and see how it goes.

Thanks for all the advice! Just to clarify I don’t plan on writing my essay like “I’m GAY and ASIAN! accept me please!” the supplemental essay question is:

Tell us about an experience when you dealt with disagreement or conflict around different perspectives within a community.

So I was planning on talking about conflict between the conservative, incredibly homophobic asian community I grew up in and how that conflicted with my identity and also how I managed to celebrate my identity while also keeping it a secret.

If this still sounds basic please let me know!

I really don’t want to look like I’m trying to get sympathy points from the AO - I don’t want them or need them and they aren’t going to admit me based on that anyway.

I think writing a good essay should result in one thing. After reading the essay, the person should never be able to say, “So what”
Essays should have substance. They should be unique and they should illustrate with words who you are as a person. Why would that school care about what you are saying. If you can write about this topic and the reader won’t be able to say So what, I’d go ahead.
I do agree that some topics have been done to death and therefore have a higher bar to reach. Unique essays really stand out when you are reading 200-300 at a shot.

Imo, you need to ask yourself if “conflict between the conservative, incredibly homophobic asian community I grew up in and [managing to] celebrate my identity while also keeping it a secret” are bullets those adcoms are looking for.

You’d be leaving that scenario, entering a new community. They want evidence of what you’d bring them, strengths, energies, some positive impact- not a digest of what you leave behind. And as is, you’d be tell them you chose to keep this secret. That might conjure an impression you retreat,

This writing is different than the self revelations a hs writing teacher encourages and is delighted to find.

Like most people, I have opinions and I like to share them. Its not that I think I’m smarter or better than anyone else, but I like people to hear my point of view. I like it even better when they share it. For that reason, one of the best skills I learned in college was how to go about writing a persuasive essay. Essays are a huge part of getting a college degree. Some colleges make you write an essay just to get in to the school. Talk about the need to be persuasive! Almost every college starts you out with Freshman English where you learn the finer points of persuasive essay writing. It’s not just a degree requirement, it’s a life requirement.

The first step in writing a essay is to know what you are trying to get people to think or do. You are going to make a change in their thinking in some way. That’s a good thing because going to college is all about changing the way you think. Once you know what change you are trying to make, come up with a list of reasons why your idea is better or reasonable. I like to find reasons that aren’t just important to me, but are helpful to anyone, I spoke with my friends about my essay, he is a essay helper from and he gave some advice. For example, if I want to write a persuasive essay on recycling, I don’t just talk about how I think it’s important. One of the first things I learned in college was that no one cares what I think is important. They care about what they think is important. Instead I would write about why it’s important to them not to waste the planet’s resources. Persuasion is always focused on the person you want to persuade.

The next step is to have support or back-up material for your view. Getting a college degree means you are working with high level thinking skills. It’s not enough to say, “Because I think so”. So do some research and find evidence, data, statistics or an expert to show your idea is valid and meaningful. You don’t have to be a specialist, but it’s good to have one on your side.

Finally, write your essay clearly and directly. State your position, give the reasons and back-up evidence you researched, and end with a conclusion that helps people wrap up the thought in a clear way. Remember, you start persuading the minute you get ready to go to college for a degree. You’ll still be persuading when you graduate.

I understand and appreciate these replies.

However, I feel like for me being gay isn’t just something that is a part of my identity. Growing up in my household I am unable to express my personality, listen to the music I want, wear certain clothes, watch certain movies or even decorate my room how I want because my parents think its “too gay” because of this I feel that living this kind of “double life” has made me resilient, empathetic to other minority groups, understanding, and given me the ability to look past the hatred and find good things in others. These are qualities that I want to convey to colleges - not who I want to date. But these qualities come from the circumstances of my household and are therefore linked to me being gay.

Try writing it and see how it comes out (ask the opinion of people you respect). I probably still wouldn’t do it. It is clear that this is something you want to/need to express, but this may just not be the best forum. It’s nothing to do with being gay, it’s just that the “overcoming obstacles and how it made me a better person” essay may be a bit tired. Once you’re in college, it seems highly likely that you will be able to take classes where these issues and your experience will be highly relevant. Just not sure whether the college application essay is the right place. Maybe write it but sketch out some alternative essays ideas as well and see which you think will be most persuasive to the admissions officers.

What you’d like to write doesn’t make it a winning topic. You don’t get into college because you had a hard luck story. Especially one where you go into detail about, “unable to express my personality, listen to the music I want, wear certain clothes, watch certain movies or even decorate my room how I want…” Adcom’s aren’t looking for that, won’t have their smile moment.

And you can’t just “tell” them you think it’s made you more resilient, etc.

There are a thousand iterations of this theme: a profound disconnect between the values/beliefs/mores of the parents and their offspring. Your topic isn’t really about your specific identity- you could substitute differences in politics / ideology / religion / other factors.

It is genuinely hard to write something that will stand out from the crowd when your topic is so evergreen. Perspective is hard to find for something so close to your heart- and even harder when you are still in the middle of it.

But are they really? if so, why? Imo, those are great qualities in a human- but how does that translate into who are as a member of the college community? OK, it says you are a nice person and won’t be mean to other students- but how have you shown that empathy? what has been the outcome of your finding good things in others?

You say that this is for the supplemental question:

“Tell us about an experience when you dealt with disagreement or conflict around different perspectives within a community.”

But talking about how you grew up in a house that stifled you, and hid part of yourself from a community that was unlikely to accept you does not show how you handled a disagreement or conflict- just how you avoided conflict. Do you have examples of how you have applied the traits you list above to conflict or disagreements.

All those questions are just meant to push your thinking a bit farther - not to be answered here!