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Application Essay: Writing About Something Serious

Writing about serious personal topics can be extremely difficult. You want to be honest about your experiences, but you have to be careful not to come off as maudlin or pathetic. An amusing essay topic may be charming, but it may not be weighty enough to impress your admissions officer. It is important to strike a balance between a serious topic and a positive demeanor.

Serious topics to avoid include: your first heartbreak, your parent’s divorce, a death in the family, or a world event that has no bearing on you personally. Experiences like a difficult break-up can be traumatic, but they are also so ubiquitous as to be meaningless. Unless you have something truly powerful to say about your experience, consider using another event in your life that is more unique or says something about your character. Similarly, you want to avoid discussing distant wars or catastrophes unless, unless that event inspired you to do something you are particularly proud of.

Serious topics to consider include: stories of personal triumph over academic, cultural or physical adversity, world events that specifically affected your life, and unusual experiences that taught you valuable life lessons. Pick a subject that demonstrates your maturity and your understanding of the world. Your experience is important, but it is just as important to tell the story of your experience in a compelling and concise way. Remember, the admissions officer is reading hundreds of essays just like yours. Don’t waste her time with platitudes and unfocused rambling. Determine the core of your story, get to that core quickly, and use it to demonstrate what makes you a compelling candidate for admission.

Maintaining a positive demeanor tells the admissions officer that you are capable of dealing with life’s difficulties. College is a difficult experience for many students. Admissions officers are looking for students who are prepared to deal with the difficulties of college life without losing focus on their academic goals. You want your essay to convey an excitement and enthusiasm about life, regardless of the difficulty of your circumstances. Demonstrate your willingness to learn from your mistakes and try again. Students with a positive attitude are more attractive as candidates because they are more likely to make the most of a college experience. Life is full of hardships, and the ability to deal with those hardships positively is a valuable and admirable quality.