Unoriginal or Pretentious

I know it’s a little silly to ask whether or not a common app idea is “bad” or not, but what is life without cliche? I essentially want to write about the coping mechanisms I have used throughout various difficult moments of my life (although I may just chose one of these to reflect on). I’m nervous that this might come off as either overly pretentious (I mean, is deep reflection really necessary at 17) or just plain unoriginal. Also, I am planning on ending by discussing how the way I dealt with life may have been a mistake, but life is still wondrous and I managed to make the best of things without always making the “best” choices. Really, just lmk if this is a pretentious or obnoxious idea. (btw none of my difficulties are extraordinarily deep, addiction within my family, moving, anxiety, depression)

College applications are not therapy. They are not existential or philosophical thought pieces. They are sales pieces, in which you are trying to show colleges why you would be a great addition to their campus community. The essays will be considered in the context of all the other parts of your application and are your chance to highlight parts of yourself that might not come through elsewhere, or create a narrative arc about user_316575.

I can imagine a good essay about how coping mechanisms/choices that at first don’t seem constructive can work out. I can imagine a good essay about how coping mechanisms change or evolve over time. I can imagine anecdotes that show these points in such a way that it is clear that adult user_316575 is ready to successfully solo in the college arena.

And I can also -really easily- see how a litany of unfortunate events and poor coping mechanisms could leave an AO cold, even with a final ‘but anyway life is great’ at the end.

The essays this year I assume might have extra weight. They need to find out what type of student you will be on campus and how you will make a difference. I am not sure how this shows this. Yes, cliche. What else you got?

If you write about coping mechanisms, a college is going to ask themselves what you need to cope with that others don’t, and what kind of fallout they’re going to have to deal with when your coping mechanisms fail. You don’t want to write an essay that suggests there could be something that will prevent you from graduating on time or that it could cost the college more to educate you.

The essay is a sales piece and you are pitching to a business. Don’t lose sight of that.

This is not to minimize what you have been through. It is not to stigmatize mental health issues.

Kids think that when a college “wants to get to know you” that you have to share everything. It doesn’t. They want to know you can be successful at their school, that you will benefit more than other applicants from what they have to offer, that you will fit in with their campus needs and culture, that you will make a positive and productive contribution to campus life and the community around you… that you’re a nice and decent human being. Your essay should address those things.

@user_316575 : Your approach is appropriate, not pretentious.

Of course, much depends upon your execution of your theme, but overall your approach is outstanding.

I agree that how you execute this is key. I don’t think it’s a cliche and to me it sounds as if it might be interesting. Again, it will 100% depend on your writing skills.

AOs like kids who have given serious thought to who they are and what makes them tick. This is something that you bring to campus. This is the part of the app that allows them to see you the person rather than you the stats. So I think it’s worth a try. Write it and see how it comes across.

It is all in the execution.

THIS part makes me think you may have a compelling, unique essay that illuminates your personality. Go for it!

Yes, they like “self aware” and “grounded” kids. But that doesn’t mean you can lose the point of the app personal statement. It’s not, as @collegemom3717 points out, an exercise in revelation, nor just any bright story. It benefiits from showing (which means examples) the assets they want in the class. The whole vehicle is “Show, not just tell.”

There’s no need to dig for some expose sort of truth. Just a nice narrative that shows your strengths-- that is, the ones adcoms want to find in you. They don’t care about your coping mechanisms or any borderline negatives. Just “telling” them you make the best of things isn’t offering any substance.

This isn’t about musings. We don’t know your targets, but the higher you aim, the more important to understand the right strengths to convey. And how.

I just want to elaborate a bit, in a few ways I made the essay much broader (I don’t directly talk about “coping mechanisms” as I previously intended), but I also tried to keep it relatively heartfelt, rather than preachy or (not sure if this exactly the right word, but oh well) therapeutic. I added some bits about how the difficulties with my brother really impacted my personality and how I view life, rather than making the essay solely on how I dealt with things in my life. Just wanted to explain how I edited this idea to be more about me. Even though I actually do think the essay itself is at least decent, it may have follow into some of the potential issues raised by y’all (namely, not really showing my personality). Either way, I just sent it off to one of my teachers for review, just wanted to give commenters some clarity and explain how I made the topic at least a little better. Still open for comments though, if anyone wants to judge further :slight_smile:

Read this :

This is really excellent. See if you can determine why.