Challenging academic experience essay

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Guide to the 2018-19 Common App Essays: Writing about Setbacks and Failure (Prompt 2)

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You can always update your preferences in the Privacy Centre. Before you continue Sarah Fischer, the director of admissions at Grinnell College in Iowa, says that students should only write their essay about adversity if they are prepared to discuss the ways that they overcame that challenge. Deena Maerowitz, a partner and principal with The Bertram Group educational consulting firm in Connecticut, recommends that students struggling with an eating disorder, addiction or mental illness for which they are currently receiving inpatient treatment take caution before discussing the topic in their essay.

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On the other hand, college hopefuls who have made a meaningful recovery from either of these three health ailments should feel free to discuss that recovery in the essay, assuming that they have been in stable health for a significant period of time, Maerowitz says. Andrew Belasco, the CEO of College Transitions, an Atlanta-based admissions consulting firm, says that college essays about mental health issues can impress admissions officers.

Students who have struggled with mental health may be able to powerfully convey in their essay how their battle has made them a more sensitive, thoughtful and resilient person.


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Belasco adds that some students with conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder write contrarian college essays about how their unique way of thinking actually helps them with academics. Coleman notes that there was one childhood incident she found too upsetting to write a college essay about — the sudden death of her father when she was seven years old. She advises college applicants to steer clear of writing about problems that make them feel overwhelmed and emotional.

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Laura Stratton, director of admission at Scripps College in Claremont, California, says that one common mistake college applicants make in essays about adversity is that they solely focus on recounting the incident and forget to convey their personality. Stratton says that applicants who are writing about a misfortune that affected a friend or family member, such as a tragic illness, should remember that their essay needs to not only include an interesting description of their loved one, but also provide a compelling self-portrait.


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  8. The applicant wrote about what she learned from this painful experience. Searching for a college? Get our complete rankings of Best Colleges.

    Discussing Shortcomings and Challenges

    Share This: share on facebook share on twitter share via email print. Reveal Something Authentic About Your Character Laura Stratton, director of admission at Scripps College in Claremont, California, says that one common mistake college applicants make in essays about adversity is that they solely focus on recounting the incident and forget to convey their personality. More from U.