How personal is too personal??

Hi, so I really want to write a good essay that will give me that extra boost to hopefully get me into a few top schools. I’m worried about what to write without sounding preachy or pretentious or like a sob story.

I’m interested in psychology, and so I had originally wanted to write something about stereotypes and how wrong they can be with what goes on behind the scenes, and how that sort of made me more interested in psychology. I realized though that how I word that may make it seem more like I’m preaching.

So now I’m considering writing about how my parents are divorced and my mom has PTSD from her childhood and how those sort of effected me and made me want to help/pursue psychology.

I also thought about writing about how I have friends with depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and anxiety and how seeing them made me want to be able to help them somehow but not knowing how, made me want to get into psychology.

I may or may not kind of combine those 2 depends on how much space I have or maybe if it would be better to emit some stuff? Idk I just need help. If I write about my mom, I’m nervous about her wanting to read it because she usually reads my writing. Do I write it from a perspective that she would probably be okay with or should I just push the boundaries and not care??

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 you want to make this about you, not your mom or your friends. How much of your essay would you need to spend talking about their problems?

Thank you for reply! I will keep this in mind as I’m writing.

This is JMHO but I think you should move away from trying to write an essay that focuses on your intended major. I don’t care for any of your topics. I feel as if you are trying to find something in your life that would speak to psychology rather than showing your true, authentic self.

Instead, I suggest thinking about the various experiences in your life thus far and select one that has shaped you just as you are now. Not as a future psychologist but as the person you are at 17.

Take a huge step back and realize what this essay is. It’s not “True confessions” or “Dear Diary.” It’s not “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Nope. It’s “Give us a reason to say yes to your application” combined with “Why would you make a good addition to our campus?” It’s a sales job.

I suggest you not talk about your parents or your friends or your major. Find a slice of life type of topic that tells something about you- some small incident that helped you grow into the wonderful person your parents and friends adore. Some comment someone made that really helped you grow up or walk in the shoes of another.

I think OP is missing the point of a college app essay.

Follow the above advice. Don’t write a cliché essay. We have read on CC in the last few days students wanting to write almost the same essays. I don’t know you or your mother or your friends but I can write this essay in the next 10 minutes. That’s how common it is.
Try for Personal, unique and interesting. Something only you could tell. I personally like the idea of having it relate to your major if you can do it cleanly and not forced. Why should the school pick you and what can you contribute to their community?

If you have an idea what traits they look for (and most tops have a lot of overlap,) you can find the right topic. But stay away from things with no bearing on college life, that won’t be there, or that make you seem distracted. Or, unable to cope with the changes college brings.

Plus, show, not just tell. You don’t just make claims about others and then state why you want to learn more or major. They’re looking for changes you implemented, what that shows about you, your energies, awareness, and activation. Your parents’ situation is NOT what gets you into colleges.

It’s not meant to be expository or have heavy pondering. Just anice little narrative that shows off your positives. It does not need to be unique- there aren’t that many topics out there. But how you choose and write matters.

I also recommend learning the difference between affected and effected. It’s not critical here, but you would not want to misuse the words [or any others] in your essay.

OP: I like your essay topics as these are important issues which have affected your growth & perspective.

Always difficult, however, to critique an unwritten essay.

Others say completely dismiss it. I don’t think you can just completely dismiss a big part of your life like this. (I’m a rising senior and how many extremely life changing moments have we had when all we’ve been doing is going to clubs and volunteering?— which they say is even more cliche) I got help with my essay and what I learnt was that it has to have a conflict and it should involve other people - people like to read about interpersonal relationships. This could be small or big. Essentially, your mom with PTSD and the divorce probably shaped your life some way… if it did a big part (like you moved or you stopped an activity) then you can write. With your friends, only if an experience with one of those friends profoundly affected you, then you can right about that. I also recommend just trying to show not tell a story that adcoms can imply a respectable character trait from. Once you start explaining how your friend made you think about psychology, that’ll seem cliche and self-rewarding that you’re worried about. Overall, in the end it’s a story about you that tells a characteristic of you… the best topic that helps you do that is fine.

You all shouldn’t guess. This isn’t for a hs English teacher, who knows you and will be pleased to see you can dig deep and reveal pains. Nor about your mom’s suffering.

More like. what have you learned and done (actially done) that shows you’ve grown and moved ahead, examples that show you climbed out of your own backstory. . That’s not “and now I want x major.”

I’ve read plenty of real essays in apps. They don’t guess you must have character because you or your family suffered. Or assume you must really want to help people because you say so…if nothing shows you ever activated. Or what you did do is not relevant to what they need to see.

No idea what colleges OP wants.

There are plenty of ways to use this and just about any other essay topic successfully, as well as plenty of ways to fail.