From my latest Huff Po piece, just published on the College Page.
“I recently had the pleasure of talking to a group of high school students in a summer writing program about college application essays.
“Instead of asking me to give a talk, the director of the program invited the students to ask me whatever was on their minds. We had a lively conversation, covered the most pressing issues around the Common App essay, the personal statement, and the supplements, and I was reminded of how many myths and mysteries there are for applicants every year. Here’s a handful of their questions.
1. What essay topics will hurt my application?
“The key to a terrific essay is finding a topic that makes you feel energized and ready to write – the one that feels natural, and will therefore make the essay fun to tackle, and something of a personal exploration. But if the topic you hit on is on this taboo list, well, time to do some more soul-searching and brainstorming. You’ve probably heard some of these prohibitions, but there may be a few here you haven’t heard:
“Avoid mentioning sex and drugs. (Oldest advice there is.)
“Avoid writing about the books that every high school student has to read or probably has read, including Harry Potter in all his incarnations, Twilight, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Game of Thrones, or whatever new sensation has gripped the imagination of millions. It’s not at all that colleges frown on these books or frown on your enthusiasm for them. Don’t stop reading! It’s that calling attention to these blockbuster books – or books on every high school syllabus – won’t make your essay stand out. You’re looking for material that’s uniquely yours.
“Skip speeches and academic papers. The essays are personal statements about what matters to you. If you’re crazy about ancient history or mitochondria, it can be great to write about your enthusiasm for the topic and why it makes you feel like dancing – but that’s quite different from a piece called “Babylonian Religious Artifacts” or “The First Amendment and the Origins of Democracy.” Remember, make in personal. READ THE REST
Shoot me an email if you have questions: Liz@DontSweatTheEssay.com.