Maybe sensitive essay topic?

Someone had suggested to me to write my college essay about growing up with an older brother that has autism. I am a little unsure about this since I of course want to avoid centering my essay about my brother and making it seem like I want pity which is the last thing I want. I do feel like my brother plays a large part in how I have grown up since my brother struggles to take care of himself and if we aren’t around him he can unintentionally hurt himself or cause a mess; thus, my parents and I usually have to be at home with him. I guess I can show my patience and sympathy for others and how I learned to be independent since my parents had to be at work or with my brother I had to learn to do things by myself early.
She also told me to write about how in the future I would be responsible for caring for my brother which is also why my parents put much more pressure on me to do well in school so that I can have a good future to care for him but I don’t know if this is something to bring up. Any thought?

To me, you hit the nail on the head - the essay is about you.

If your brother is the conduit to being who you are, it makes sense - but it’s an essay about you - why you are who you are - and that’s got to be the focus.


I think that this could be an excellent essay topic, depending upon how you frame it. Being the younger sibling of a disabled person is a very difficult situation. Many people would say that it was good for them - that they learned responsibility and empathy early on, and that despite the drawbacks, they deeply love their disabled sibling. Others very reasonably feel that it’s been a terrible burden, has pretty much ruined their childhood. Both reactions are valid, but I would say that the latter would not make a good essay. The former most definitely could.

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I for sure hardly see my brother as a burden even though I have to cancel plans sometimes I do enjoy spending time with him which I think I can also mention how my brother has in a way a “talent” for doing puzzles. He would do 1000 piece puzzles easily in a day and I would help him sometimes so I think that goes into showing my patience and how we bond over liking challenges and puzzles.

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Yes - the 1000 piece is an example - but how you bond, how you delight in his accomplishment, how he’s become your partner, best friend (if true) - all that great.

It can be, although I often miss out on other things, I value our time because…

Good luck.

I think your essay can contain both positive and negative elements of your experience having an autistic sibling. it does not have to be black and white and admitting negatives does not have to be complaining or whining, but can be matter of fact. Of course there are negatives. I don’t think your essay would be believable if only about the positives.

Another option is to write about it in the supplementary essay that asks what else you want them to know about you that is not in the rest of the application. But I think it is fine as the main essay too.

One of my kids works with children with autism and I have some idea of what your experience has been. I am sure your character will shine through, however you decide to write about it.


Think of what you would like to tell an admissions committee about yourself, and then think if you could use the story of your family life with your brother as a vehicle to show, rather than tell.


While I generally do not encourage students to focus on this type of topic, reading this tells me that, for you, it is an excellent topic, and I think that you can do it very well.

In this thread, in a couple of posts, you have already conveyed a lot, have been entirely positive, even when writing about the challenges, and it is obvious that you love your brother.

So yes, I think that this is a great topic for you. You have the topic, and the material. Now you need to focus on the craft of writing.

So remember two things

A. The essay is about you, not about your brother
B. Show, don’t tell.

Go forth and write a killer essay.

Good luck!


Good luck on your essay!

I need help from your brother! I’m a puzzle junkie and I just started a 1000 piece puzzle that is the first to truly intimidate me. I usually get them done in a day or two if I have time off, but this one is going to be a much longer time commitment. I could sure use his help! Enjoy puzzling with your brother. I grew up with a disabled uncle that loved card games. Some of my fondest memories of childhood were spending time with him playing games.

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The topic could work as long as the focus is on your rather than your brother. I always recommend that people start by writing either an outline or a rough draft of a proposed topic and see how it turns out before making a final decision.

To tag on, not only is the essay about you, more to the point, it should show what you can add to the school…why would they want you there?
So be sure and tie the life lessons you’ve learned from growing up with your brother to how that will make you a valuable addition to the school. How has that informed your passions or you decision making? Etc. Good luck!

I think there are a lot of different ways to write this. I would “show” not “tell.” It could work to write mainly about your brother with a last paragraph tying it to you. The way in which you write about your brother also shows a lot about you. I would avoid clumsy efforts to focus on yourself when you could write an effective essay mostly about your brother that would "show"about you without explicitly “telling” about yourself, but make sure to tie it in in the conclusion.

I am late to this thread but very much agree that this looks to be an excellent essay for you. What might be challenging is to get the balance just right - I am sure people on this thread would be happy to give you feedback on your essay (by DM, of course), if that would be helpful. (I am happy to do it as well but be warned that I am not so experienced with college application essays.)

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I am also willing to look at it. We can PM you but you cannot PM us without a certain number of posts.