Lots o’ students and parents I speak with get hung up on the college essay about “obstacles.” There seems to be one primary reason:
Most kids don’t have any.
(Note to Internet trolls: I said “most,” not “all.” No need to send me a short 1,200 word reply on this topic.)
So what do you do if you’re an aspiring college essay writer but haven’t lost a limb, brought yourself up in outer Mongolia with the help of a pack of wolves (assuming there are wolves in Mongolia, otherwise that’s unrealistic) or got cut from your 8th grade competitive cheerleading squad?
First, you don’t have to write about overcoming an obstacle. That’s only one of six (really seven) Common Application essay prompt choices. Pick another prompt if you like.
Second, understand that you do not have to have some hugely dramatic, severe trauma in your life to write about. To quote Sarah, one of our admissions officers-turned-essay-advisors, it’s OK to “go small.”
Meaning, some of the best essays are about normal, everyday “slice of life” topics. Things that are right under your nose, but you may not notice them because you’re searching high and low for something worthy of a series on the CW network.
One trap essay writers fall for is trying to make a mountain out of a molehill, i.e. ascribing monumental significance to an otherwise insignificant event. Example:
As I reached the top of the summit and gazed down at the families below, I reflected on how I could no longer distinguish the differences in shape, size and color I had perceived from my ground-level perspective…
(Written by a somewhat superficial lax bro upon his return from a family ski trip to Vail.)
Don’t twist yourselves into knots writing what you THINK admissions officers want to read. Write something interesting and meaningful — to YOU.
Want help with the essays and applications? We’re filling our seats for our 6th annual “Incomparable Applicant College Essays and Apps Bootcamps.” We’re virtual again this year, because the feedback from last year was great (I may add a live session in the office, but we’re still figuring that out.)
One ticket buys you two sessions, plus help before and after the events. Here’s the page to read more about what happens, look at the schedule, more:
Use the coupon code BOOT-200 for an instant $200 “scholarship” before we close out.
Have a great week,
-Andy “Not Part of Skiing Culture” Lockwood
P.S. If you are a college advisory (1:1 private client) the sessions are free.