Tales from the College Essay Trenches

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Back in May, I shared a blog post about Essay Ideas for Prospective College Students. I’m happy to report my daughter turned in her last college application this week (she applied to seven schools in all) and she’s been happily playing her flute around the house ever since (she does that when she’s looking to relax or wants to share music with people online). I’ll admit the whole process was a struggle! We didn’t realize we probably should have hired an independent admissions consultant to help her manage the essays, deadlines, and other thousand tiny little details. With my husband and I being so busy with work, we missed how overwhelmed the process became for her and she couldn't get to a few big scholarship deadlines in the process. She gained a lot of insight on how hard writers have it when they are under a deadline and can’t quite get the words out! (Now, with my son, who is currently a sophomore, we envision him applying to the three largest state schools and then declaring himself done. That’s fine—but I’m still having him begin an essay file this summer!) 

Here are a few essay topics she decided on. I’m going to be slightly vague on titles and content because some of these schools are still processing her applications. 

For her main essay that went to all the schools, 650 words max, she wrote about discovering she’s ambidextrous and how it has affected both her personal and school life. She’s battled sensory issues and heard things like “You can’t write with both left and right hands!” Or “How are you good at both English AND science and math?” She first submitted a draft of this essay to the WOW! Creative Nonfiction Contest and was thrilled when it advanced past the first round. She took the edits from her critique to help make it a stronger piece. 

Another essay wanted her to talk about herself as a person and as a student, and it’s a private college that is seeking out students with a wide range of educational and extracurricular interests. This is a prompt where you can get really creative. She took the 450 words to explain how she first came to love the piccolo and how it requires both individual effort and collaboration with other members of a band to be successfully played. Not everyone “gets” the piccolo and it can often be misunderstood! That one was colorful, descriptive, and she was pleased with how it turned out. 

For my son, he went on an epic hiking and backpacking adventure to the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico this past summer with his Boy Scout troop. As you can imagine, he faced numerous physical and mental challenges on that journey, and we’ve already encouraged him to jot down some essay ideas from that experience. He’s also a runner, which lends itself to even more ideas. He tends to be more of a humorous writer than his sister, so I’m going to suggest he channel his love of memorizing sports stats into some sort of funny essay that describes his personality. 

There you have it. It wasn’t easy, but I’m proud of my daughter and the work she produced to showcase her readiness for college. There are a lot of things I wish I’d done differently as a parent to help prepare her more, but we learned our lesson! 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also hosts the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas.


Theresa Boedeker said...

With a child who applied to college last year, it was fun to see the topics and ideas your daughter chose to write about.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I was allowed no input. This is what happens when your kid earns his Eagle on his own. Does his own Eagle paper work. "Mom, don't you have a book to write?"

Love the topics!

Cathy C. Hall said...

From where I'm sitting, Renee, you were the best kind of supportive parent! You allowed your daughter to accomplish this on her own--and she WILL have offers--and that instills the kind of confidence and discipline that will get her through college and beyond.

Best to her and to your son in their journeys--love the topics and I know they'll go far!

Renee Roberson said...

Theresa--Thank you! I think these students get stuck sometimes while thinking of "the perfect college" essay, and I'm happy to see more and more creativity coming into play with what colleges are looking for.

Sue--Consider yourself lucky, because it obviously worked out great for him! Noah is getting ready to start his Eagle Scout project and I'm afraid it is going to be a loooong process. I'm staying out of it!

Cathy--I appreciate your kind words. This was definitely a learning experience for her because she's always considered herself a motivated and solid student, but there were gaps in her executive management skills through this process! She did hit all the deadlines, so I guess that's all that mattered. She's already started nagging her brother about not putting off those essays until the last minute!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Jared's Scout master really helped us see that it is supposed to be a long process and the scout is the one responsible. It will serve Noah well!

Honestly, it is a lot like a major writing project. You prove a lot to yourself when you make it to the end.

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top