Topics to Include and Exclude When Writing College Essays

When writing a college essay, it's always necessary to think about which topics are acceptable and which may not be so well received. Since colleges often encourage you to "take a risk," and "show who you really are," choosing the right topic can be a tough call. This New York Times article by Steven Petrow gets to the heart of the matter addressing the charged question, "Should a student conceal her lesbian identity in college application essays?"

Petrow found that student views varied widely with some current students not wanting to mention sexual orientation in case it could affect chances of admission, while others felt that it might even increase changes of admission at schools where diversity was encouraged. A portion of students who had written on the topic during their admissions process felt that it did cause them to be rejected from schools that they should have been admitted to.

Opinions among admissions officers vary widely as well. In the end, it is a personal choice as to what a student considers private vs. a sharable story that is central to a student's identity. According to one comment that was left, what you decide could have an impact at some schools, "I sit on an admissions committee and it's just that - a committee, with all that entails...One or two of our members are not quite with the changing times. We often have to vote, and I can recall several times when the decision was swayed against the candidate on the basis of something they had bravely confided in their personal essay. Touchy issues are certainly not limited to sexual orientation. I don't want people to have too many illusions about the wisdom of admissions committees!"

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