Writing an application essay is hard enough. Writing an application essay that stands out from the pack can seem impossible. Sparkler Anthony says:
I am really struggling with choosing the right topic/finding a central focus or theme for my college essay. I've gone through literally a million ideas and i can't seem to find the right one. Currently I want to write about my autistic sister and her influence on my life. Problem is, I feel like this topic is too cliche and just a guilt card. I've asked my family and friends what they think and i keep getting mixed answers. I'm really lost and would like some guidance. Would you have any tips or advice for me? Thank you very much for your time.
This is a tough one, Anthony. It's true that I've seen several essays about autistic siblings—and I'm not even a college admissions officer. I'm betting they're inundated with essays on this topic. That said, though, I don't think this is one of those essay themes (like My Trip Abroad or My Sports Triumph) that you absolutely must avoid because it's been done to death.
Here's something important to bear in mind: no one has to see your first essay—or your fourth. Nothing's stopping you from writing two, three, four application essays, and then revising and submitting the best of the bunch. I know it's extra work, but it's work that could mean the difference between getting into your reach school and getting into your safety. Plunge in and just try writing about your sister. That way, you'll be able to analyze an actual piece of work, instead of having to guess about the effectiveness of an essay that doesn't exist yet.
And as you write this draft essay about your sister, use very specific details, instead of talking in general terms about autism. Narrate moments of intense embarrassment, joy, love, and capture them as a novelist might. Describe things you've seen, smelled, heard, felt. Write an essay that only you could write. If you're as precise as possible, you'll avoid cliché.
Don't worry too much about the guilt card. You sent me a very strong, un-self-pitying email. Compose your essay as if you're writing a letter to a respected friend, and you'll get the tone right.
Sparklers, what would you tell Anthony? Is his essay topic dangerously familiar?