SparkNotes Blog

Reviewing Metalhead’s College Essay

When I casually mentioned to a friend that I’d be helping the youth of America with their college essays, my former friend and current acquaintance replied: “Really? No offense, but you’re not exactly a paradigm of academic achievement.” I immediately went to my local dictionary and looked up the word paradigm, and just as I suspected, I had been insulted. Offense taken! I mention this not as an obvious attempt to bond with you through casual self-deprecation, but to remind you that my views are just one man’s opinion. Think of my assessment as a helpful suggestion, not a stringent requirement, and certainly not as a law. I have neither the power nor know-how to even begin to create a law. Today’s college essay comes to us straight from SparkLife MVP Metalhead. Let’s get crackin’.

Essay Prompt:

What problem are you trying to solve, and why is it important to you?

Metalhead’s Response:

When it comes to problems, I have tons that I’m trying to solve personally–how do I get a girlfriend? How do I keep my face clear? How do I better promote my music? But in the long run, those are pretty trivial issues. If there’s one problem that I’m trying to solve, it’s that of people being rejected and attacked for unfair reasons.

I have a definite problem with people judging other people, especially since I’ve had the unpleasant experience of being stereotyped as an autistic kid all throughout elementary and middle school. I was tested at an early age for Asperger’s syndrome, and the tests came back positive. Soon after, my mother learned that the tests had been flawed, and that I was just another case ofoveractive imagination, but it was too late–the tests had already been sent to the schools, and from second through eighth grade, I was a special needs kid. Only near the beginning of high school was that mess cleared up, but not before I had to endure years of jeers and taunting because I wasn’t “normal.”

Since I had more of a desire to do well in school than to have friends, I spent more time on my schoolwork than on anything, and the kids thought it was completely unacceptable. They called me “retarded” because I didn’t care much about pop music. They called me “gay” because I didn’t really pay attention to girls. In high school, that’s all changed, and I’m happy to have friends who are just as weird as I am. But though I’ve turned out all right, those experiences have put me on a crusade against this injustice.

I know many people who’ve been through similar situations. I have friends who are gay, and sometimes it seems like I’m the only person who’s okay with it. I’m also friends with autistic kids, and at times it’s like I’m their only friend. Most people seem to not want anything to do with anyone who’s different from them. I’ve seen people reject atheists, Muslims, and even racial minorities. And I’m sick of it.

I want to solve that. I want to see the day when we can all look at each other and, instead of attacking what we don’t think is right about someone, we can see the good in them and live in peace and harmony. I’m confident that I–and everyone I know–can reach that goal. And I’m going to start with myself.

I’ve done some unfair judging of people in the past. But I’m leaving that state of mind behind to get me and everyone I can to stop making people feel small. I didn’t want that when I was in their place and I know they don’t want that now. And I’ll do whatever it takes to make everyone realize that, no matter what sort of “imperfections” people may have, they all deserve the same respect as any other human being.

That’s something I couldn’t live without.

My Feedback:

Great job, Metalhead! Overall, this essay is really solid. Everyone can relate to feeling misunderstood, and everyone has experienced the loneliness that comes with isolation. Metalhead did an amazing job of personally relating his past experiences to his future ambition.

A few lines I would consider punching up:

1. No matter what sort of “imperfections” people may have, they all deserve the same respect as any other human being.

No matter what sort of imperfections we all may have, everyone deserves the same amount of respect.

2. If there’s one problem that I’m trying to solve, it’s that of people being rejected and attacked for unfair reasons.

I’d clean up “people being rejected and attacked for unfair reasons.” Perhaps a phrase like “the escalating problem of intolerance” might be a little clearer.

Personally, I would rethink the third and fourth paragraph. As written, they don’t add a great deal of new insight or information to your essay. I would suggest combining those paragraphs into one concentrated thought, and then utilizing your remaining word count to describe your specific plan to help solve this injustice. I would also recommend acknowledging a unique feature or program at the particular university you’re submitting to and indicating how/why attending this specific institution will help you achieve your goal.

For example:

The University of Hogwarts is home to one of the most prestigious wizardry programs in the country. Attending this university would be the ideal first step in achieving my dream of creating a safe, effective, and highly marketable Amortentia potion.

I would make it a point to clearly state how attending this specific university will help you achieve your dream. The theme of your essay is quite noble and is certainly an admirable goal to strive towards, but you want to avoid speaking in generalities and stick to specifics.

As luck would have it, I’ve got a contact with substantial experience in the college admissions field (I’m not saying that contact is Dumbledore, but I’m also not not saying it’s Dumbledore), and he sent along these helpful tips to keep in mind while writing your essays:

1. Proofread

Take it from someone who has written television spec scripts that Hollywood’s finest agents have referred to as “Pass” and “Who gave you my contact number;” proofreading is important. In addition to asking your favorite teacher to review your essay, I also recommend printing it out and reading it aloud. This helps you find and eliminate awkward phrases and spelling snafus that may have slipped through the old spell-check.

2. Write What You’re Passionate About

Metalhead’s essay is a perfect example of how to passionately and effectively present a personal experience in which you had to triumph over adversity. More often than not, if you’re not passionate about a subject, it will show in your writing.

3. Be Creative. Play to Your Strengths.

I suggest adding a tiny bit of humor. If I’m reading 50 essays a day, a little hilarious eye candy doesn’t hurt. I’m not saying you should use 100 words to go off on a tangent that ends with a knock-knock joke about bagels (unless it’s the greatest knock-knock joke about bagels EVER), but if you see an opportunity to humorously showcase a little personality, I say go for it.

4. Follow the Requirements of the Essay

If you ignore or flout the essay guidelines, you’re not going to be accepted. It’s like showing up to a Halloween party without a costume: you’re just not gettin’ in. Make sure to adhere to all submission guidelines, especially word count.

From what I can gather, an average college essay won’t necessarily make or break your application, but an extraordinary or atrocious essay can absolutely mean the difference when it comes time to interview potential candidates. Have fun, showcase your strengths, and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite! Good luck!

Need a little help on your college admissions essay? Send it to us right here!