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Is It Ok to Write About Race, Religion or Politics in a College Essay?

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Once upon a time, there were unwritten rules about writing college essays. Here are a few that many students have been told over the years:

🛑 Do NOT write about being in love or having a “significant other.” A college essay is not where you should talk about sex or how deeply you may have been hurt by young love.

🛑 Do NOT use an essay to complain about your parents, teachers, school, rules, etc. Teenage angst is so tired and no one wants to hear about how bad people treat you. 

🛑 Do NOT write about religion and politics. Too controversial and you never know who is reading it on the other side and how they might interpret it. 

Even today, I am in full agreement with numbers 1 and 2. Relationships can change and how your child feels during one season may not be how they feel months later when they’re applying to college. But number 3 is not set in stone; we are at a time in our country when once taboo topics -- race, religion and politics -- are part of our daily fabric and, dare I say, unavoidable to discuss. Especially now in 2020, an election year, there are young people who are hurting, have questions and are looking to be part of solutions for national change. This is not the time to silence them. When they reveal how they feel about one of the above topics, they need to share because they may be revealing their truth. 

There are seven Common Application essay questions for your child to choose from. Check them out below and start to brainstorm with your child which one is best for them to respond to.

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Need help? College essay writing is not easy and we know that students and parents have questions about how to approach the process. Thankfully, we’re offering the College Application Action Plan that can help your Class of 2021 child tackle all elements of the personal writing process. Click here, if you’re interested. 


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