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What Kind of College Essay Should I Write?

February 13, 2017

 

 

There are numerous sources available that can help you craft a good college essay.  Grammar, spelling and structure are all important, but what about content?  Is it better to be serious, light or funny, controversial?  Any one of those may be appropriate, or not, for college essays.   Here are some considerations as you approach writing your essay:

 

  • Can a serious question be answered with humor?  Sure, if it comes naturally to you and the topic is not one that most people would consider inappropriate for humor.  For example, a question that asks about how you learned a lesson from failure is often answered pretty straightforwardly.  But failures often occur in comical situations, and if you can answer with a practical lesson learned from the experience, then answering with wit is entirely appropriate.

 

  • Can I send an “illustrated” essay? This can be tricky.  Are you a good artist?  Can you thoroughly answer the question within say 10-12 frames?  Admissions committees aren’t really impressed with “cute” for the sake of cuteness, but if you’re a talented and budding “political” cartoonist that can make an impactful statement with your art, it may be worth the risk.   Keep in mind however, that essays must be submitted in text or PDF format so you will have to incorporate your work into one of those methods.   (Note: this is different from submitting an art portfolio for evaluation.)

 

  • Can I write about a controversial political topic?  Yes, if done correctly.  Most essay questions are designed to stay away from controversy.  However, if an essay asks you to write about something important to you, then the college is well aware that this can encourage topics that might invite different and impassioned responses.  In this case, a reasoned argument supported by impartial facts (as opposed to partisan rants using questionable sources) is fine.  Admissions committees will judge your essay by the quality of your argument, not necessarily the position you take.   Exception: racist, sexist, homophobic, or other statements offensive to common decency will very likely hurt you.  

 

  • The exception to the above may be if you’re applying to a denominational/church affiliated school.  It’s probably best to stay away from any controversial issues that disagree with their orthodoxy.

 

College essays don’t have to be dry, stodgy or serious all the time.  In fact, the more closely they reflect your personality, the more likely they will stand out in your favor. 

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