Is writing about growing up in a dangerous inner city neighborhood a good essay topic?

I was thinking of writing about how living in a dangerous neighborhood in LA and witnessing things there shaped who I am now but I am not sure whether this topic is too cliche and I mainly do not want colleges assuming I was involved any crimes that I did not do. I no longer even live in LA and moved to a small rural town in NC about 6 years ago. I was planning on making points that mentioned that some of my friends there ended up dead or in jail and how that if I never left I would have followed up in the same path as them thus repeating a cycle that most minorities and lower income individuals as myself face. Again I don’t want the colleges to assume I committed any crimes as most of my friends started to get involved in that kind of stuff right around or after I left LA. Thanks, any suggestions will be appreciated even if I have to change the entire essay.

The purpose of the essay is to tell colleges who you are and how you would be an asset to their campus. You said your parents moved when you were ~11, but if you’d stayed in LA you’d have ended up the same as your friends. So it doesn’t sound like what you witnessed shaped who you are now as much as moving to a rural NC town did.

so in essence, it would be better to tie in how moving here impacted me?

The purpose of the college essay should be: 1) to tell admissions officer something about YOURSELF that isn’t elsewhere on the application and 2) to give admissions officers reasons that that would want to have YOU on campus.

I might focus on how you appreciate and are taking advantage of the new opportunities where you are now, what you have learned from your past in LA and how that drives you or something along those lines. Be careful to not turn the essay into a discussion of your old friends or some kind of socioeconomic study.

Why don’t you try a few different ideas and write some outlines/drafts and see where they go?