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09/04/2019

college admissions essay?

QUESTION
college admissions essay?
for my college admissions essay, i was thinking about doing something unique. the prompt is “we are looking for an exciting and diverse student body. why should we choose you for attendance?” (something to that effect…)

i was thinking about writing an essay about the penpals i’ve had over the years and the many lessons i’ve learnt through it. for example, i’ve learned to keep an open mind, to be unbiased and unprejudiced, to reject stereotypes and look for the person underneath, to overcome my preconceived notions about something, how to appreciate and immerse myself in another person’s culture (i became active in the school’s culture club because of this) and appreciate the differences between everybody. i also learned the importance of keeping up to date with global affairs, and being a worldly citizen.

my desired major is international relations or psychology.

i know that there’s a textbook response that most colleges look for, but im applying to some of the more selective and prestigious universities (ivy league) and i want to write something that will help my chances, not harm them.

would writing this essay do me any good? or is it a bit TOO original, and should i just stick to the textbook essay type? (about a special talent or experience or something…)

thank you so much for your help!!

–nervous college wannabe

ANSWER
I would go for it. But here’s a word of caution. Your list of things you learned from your pen pal is exactly that, a list. And if you were to expand much on each point, you would have a 20 page paper in no time. And if you don’t expand much on each point, then it will just sound like list. So trim it down to one or two main points and come up with a story or an example that really drives the home the message.

My opinion on these essays is what is important is not so much what you say, but how you say it. You need to write something that is intelligent and engaging. Beyond that, it really doesn’t matter what it is. If you can some how work in how great you are at whatever you do, then great. If you can work in how worldly you are and how your life experiences will enrich the student body, then great. But if you can’t, and you still write an engaging, intelligent essay, I think that is far better than trying to work in the ‘I’m a great applicant’ line and being boring while doing it.

You have to remember that at the other end of this whole process is some poor person who has to read all these essays. And they have to read SO many essays that they are completely sick of doing it. You want to write something that interests them and stands out from the rest of the essays. That’s you goal. If you can do that, it will show your personality and you intelligence and your abilities. And it will impress the reader. So shoot for that, shoot for engaging and intelligent. If you think your idea is the best way for you to do that, then absolutely, do that. In my time on admissions committees, I never once heard a complaint (or made a complaint myself) that an essay was too non-traditional. I did hear ‘this essay was dumb’ and ‘this essay was boring’ and a whole lot of ‘this essay was typical’.