The Common App Essay: Practical or Personal

<p>I have two themes for my common app essay. </p>

<p>One focuses on my non-competitive nature and how it grew into a passion to help others. It really shows where my calling to become a teacher came from. The essay itself is cute, light-hearted, and creative.</p>

<p>The second essay is based on a very dark, personal family secret. I did my best to give it a positive spin. The description of the family secret itself is only the opening. The majority of the essay focuses on how I came to acknowledge this secret as a part who I am, the sacrifices my family made to keep it from weighing me down, and how their selflessness inspired me.</p>

<p>Basically two very different approaches to a similar idea.</p>

<p>Get 2-3 ppl who are not too close to you, who maybe have some characteristics of ppl you might imagine reading your essays for admission (that in itself would be an interesting topic!) to read both (or the rough drafts.). For instance a local college prof, a teacher you have never had who doesn't really know you. The idea is to have ppl who are learning about you from the essays, not with knowledge of you, and who won't tell you they are "both wonderful" to encourage you; who are not afraid of giving you real criticism. Then see what opinions you get.
You really need more detail to ask this, and also actual verbiage, to see which way "reads" better. The first might be too boring, or similar to many others. The second could be too dark, or too much of a pity party if not done correctly.</p>

<p>I am definitely not an all-knowing authority on this so please don't solely take my advice. Also, as I have not seen both essays, I can't make an informed decision.</p>

<p>That being said, I think you should use the first essay because it shows that you know what you want to study and will teach the admissions officer reading it about you as a person and what you are passionate about.</p>

<p>The second one might be a little too personal and dark for a commonapp essay. </p>

<p>Imagine you're an admissions officer; which would you rather read?</p>

<p>EDIT: I agree with BrowunAlumParent, it is good to get an outside perspective. An english teacher whose opinion you trust would probably be a good person to ask.</p>

<p>You want adcoms to see you in your best light as a student at their college. My vote is for choice 1. </p>

<p>Adcoms don't need to see the dark side of your life, even if you overcame. If there have been real challenges, it's something a GC can mention. And, "how their selflessness inspired me" is often more about them and not enough about you, in a short peice.</p>

<p>I agree 100000000% with BrownAlumParent</p>

<p>Great advice BrownAlumParent!</p>

<p>I sent you a PM, but because I'm so new to CC, I'm not sure if it went through. When it is convenient, please let me know if you received it.</p>

<p>I agree with BrownAlum, but I'm tempted to go with Option 1 right off the bat anyway. In my experience, essays that are heavy and serious--essays that want desperately to say one thing in particular--are often tangled and clunky. Your voice may get lost in what you're trying to say. On the other hand, essays with a less explicit purpose can reveal more of yourself, your voice.</p>

<p>Just an opinion.</p>

<p>I vote for essay #1. I have read in many places that they do not want your essay to read like a therapy session with family secrets, personal demons, etc. There may be a way to do that and not be scary, but it's pretty risky.</p>