We're getting lots of emails about college application essays. Today, Tasha responds to a Sparkler who's wondering if she should write about her heritage, or the beach. —SparkNotes Editors
I'm starting to write my college essay and I really want it to be me. I was thinking of starting of writing about my name, Sylwia, which is mispronounced majority of the time by teachers and students. The name is polish, and I'm originally from Poland, where we used a "w" in place for the "v" in the English system of writing. Then I was thinking of getting in the difficulties I've faced when I came to America (at the age of 8) and how that shaped me into the diverse person I am today. But I feel like maybe this is too cliche?
Then I was thinking of starting of with descriptions of a sunny day at the beach and what people normally think of when they go to the beach. But then get into what I think about it, when I look out at the stretched out horizon of water that seems never ending which I feel represents the limitless possibilities in life. I want to set myself apart from all those other people that they might think to accept to their school. I'm a very creative and imaginative person and I think that this kind of essay could help me depict that. My favorite hobby is painting and I think I could incorporate that into it.
Which one do you think I should do? Or do you have any other ideas or comments?
Thanks for your question! It seems that the college admission essay is on the minds of lots of students these days—and for good reason. The essay is your opportunity to let the person behind the GPA, test scores, and extracurricular activities come through. The essay allows the college admissions staff to get a sense of who you are as a person and what you could contribute to the university. It’s a good thing that you are starting to think carefully about all the options for your essay.
In terms of the subject you choose to explore, my vote would have to be for your Polish background. It’s not at all clichéd to talk about what you experienced when you came to America at the age of eight. Personally, I know that really piqued my interest as I was reading your question. Think about it: you have gone through a cultural transition that not many people ever experience. You probably have all kinds of memories of those early years in America that other people don't. I think your essay could be very strong if you focused on the transition from Poland to America.
I also like your idea of starting with a story about your name and its mispronunciation. It's interesting, it's unusual, and it's specific.
Here's the takeaway for everyone writing a college essay: write about something that sets you apart, write something you would want to read, and don't be general—be specific.
Questions about your essay, or other parts of your application? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.