Live Essay Topic Feedback

Recorded Thursday, July 30, 2020 at 10:00 PM

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About this livestream


Get feedback on the topic of your college essay.

During this livestream, CollegeVine co-founder Vinay Bhaskara will provide feedback on your college essay topic and suggestions on how to improve the basic idea.

Video Transcript


Everyone, welcome to tonight's live stream. My name is Vinay Bhaskara. I'm one of the co founders of CollegeVine. I want to thank you all for joining us today.


Now, before we get started, we are just a couple more seconds to get the essay ideas up onto the screen. So if you just give me a bear with me for a minute or two, as I take care of that, in the meantime, I do want to ask, how is everyone doing to today like? So? One thing I was curious about is like when do your school year starts? So, you know, if your school year starts, like in August has already started, or if it's gonna start in September, I'd love to kind of just hear some notes on that in the q&a, like when when is your school? You're going to start for this upcoming cycle.


All right.


So it looks like we've got a mix of people who are starting in September, some kids are starting as early as August. August 24, early September. It's interesting. Yeah. And for the most part, our folks school is going to be online, or are they going to be in person? Like, where's your school district on on that question?


All right, and we're nearly done here. It's just gonna take us one more seconds to get this all merged.


Huh? Okay, perfect.


All right. So these ideas are going to be popping up onto the screen very shortly. And it looks like most schools are going hybrid. So a couple days online a couple of days in person. So it's nice to see that there's at least a few schools that have kind of a mix of that. Okay.


All right. So, in today's event, we're going to be taking a look at a few different essay topics. And I'm going to kind of give some feedback on how the students or how the individuals will be presenting, or rather approaching various essays for this upcoming admission cycle. So with that, we're gonna go ahead and get started. All right, awesome. So this is going to be our first essay that we're going to be taking a look at today. You know, we're going to look at about like 15 or so of the essay topics, so nothing too crazy. Okay. So the first student is the looking at the common application essay. And their prompt is about their journey with coming to terms with their culture and religion as a young Asian female, in both England and America, and how they always feel like they have to lean on one side of the cultural spectrum or the other. But after participating in different types of Indian dance classes, engaging with Indian culture, and meaning girls into positions to themselves and finding that there's no need to over they found that there was no need to overly assimilate into one culture or the other, but rather, they could aim for a good balance. Now, this is a 650 word essay. And the topic is basically where they're gonna approach the essay, is they're gonna begin with their time there England as they were younger, talked about how attending Sunday school allowed them to engage with their religion, and other girls with a similar background. Then they'll jump to leaving Sunday school and the cultural curiosity they had about leaving, and wanting to spend more time trying to fit in with others, and not spending enough time fitting me or trying to find them their own selves. So then they moved to America at 15, and doesn't really help with the situation. And in America, they sort of engage with their Hindu culture. And they took the Indian dance classes that allowed them to meet girls, who were also not afraid of expressing their culture. And then she was able to kind of take, they're just kind of able to sort of come to terms with identity as a young, Indian, Asian, right. And the student does not have any specific questions that they would like to answer. So basically, what I would say is right from the start, right, I can totally tell that this topic has a lot of emotional resonance for you like, it's something that matters a lot to you, it's obviously a story that's really, really important to you. The challenge that I see with it, is that this, this essay, unfortunately, is a very, very common subject. There are lots of Indian American girls and women rather, who write about this kind of topic. And in particular, Indian dance is actually one that is very commonly written about, it's on a lot of different resumes. So one of the challenges you're going to face if you pursue this topic is that, especially when you're aiming for selective schools, this topic could could could potentially be perceived as being it could potentially be perceived as being sort of cliched. And it's certainly gonna be the case that they're going to probably read multiple essays about this, even beyond kind of the Indian Americans Pacific context, right? There's just a lot of stories about assimilating as an immigrant, you know, as or as the children of immigrants, right? It is one of the most common sort of essay types that is written. So I mean, you can certainly write about this topic. But if you are going to do that, I would really want you to see you take some sort of different spin on this, and I don't know what that different spin is. But right now, this essay topic just feels too cliched. It's something that in the context of college admissions, it's a very very cliched topic, right? And the challenge is, obviously, this is very important to you, like you emotionally, in your experience. It's how we impacted who you are.


Remember, cultivations essays have kind of two components.


One component is very much: "Hey, what is this sort of what is a situation or something that is really, really affected me," that's definitely something that this essay ticks the box for. But the second component is, what is, you know, is also making sure that you're writing an essay that's good in the context of college admissions. Right. And so if it's good in the context of college admissions, right, that's going to be a little bit different. Okay, so, uh, essay, number two here is the common app. And so the prompt that the student is going to use is the open ended prompt of the common app, they haven't decided on what the actual prompt is, but they're going to have an a sort of open ended prompt there. Okay.


650 words.


And the essay here is I would first introduce my essay with choosing software for the day, I go on to into how I choose long socks or stockings for ice skating practice, slip on socks for my sneakers to walk my dog, and fuzzy socks at home when it gets cold, white ankle sock sock and school in, and white ankle socks to walk to school and elaborate more on the specific details of my ice skating during how I skated since I was 10. And the struggles that I experienced. The same goes for the white socks and relating to my school life, fuzzy socks working on home and slip on socks to talk about family and pet connections. I would make it chronological starting from school skate practice walking my dog and working at home. Okay, so that those that is the topic and this was your question the student has is are what are some ideas to lay out my topic in a way that makes sense? Is this a good idea? How would my prompt work? If I choose the seventh one on the CommonApp? Do you think this is a unique enough prompt?


Okay, so I'll kind of give my general assessment of this prompt enough this kind of topic, right? And then I will sort of switch over to I'll kind of switch over to cover, you know, the specific questions that the student asked. So as far as as far as the the topic here, right, this is a really interesting case. Because normally what happens is, you'll see a topic that's very personal, but not very unique, right? This previous essay topic that we looked about was actually very, very personal. It was very deeply personal, which is good for the Congress and process, but it wasn't very unique. So that was what kind of held this one back. This essay idea here is actually almost the opposite, right? This actually is a really, really unique and interesting idea, right? It's going to be make for an interesting at least start to the essay. The challenge I see is it doesn't feel like there's enough about kind of who you are as a person right? Like, I don't feel like I I don't feel like from what the way this essay is framed. I would learn enough about you So like, the details of your ice skating journey, right? If it's gonna be your ice skating journey, then and that's kind of really the only part that I see where there's like some meaningful personal development, I guess, right? Um, I don't know, I would rather almost see you just write about, you know, kind of use your ice skating, and then kind of dive specifically into that, just because that's maybe a little bit less of a common topic. And I would almost like to see you just focus in on the socks and the ice skating, and talk about things like maybe how, you know, that's the rhythm of each of your days, right, where you start with ice skating practices, mornings, etc, etc. Talk about kind of the symbolism that the Sox hold for you. Maybe they're covered in blood sometimes, or I don't know, I don't know how skating works, maybe they're, you know, they're covered and tried drenched in sweat potentially, right, if after you finish your ice skating again, I don't know the specifics of ice skating. But there's ways probably to tie a story around the theme of your ice skating socks, um, and then maybe flipping out to your like, at home socks. But right now, the essay also feels too crowded, I'd like to see you either pick to talk about your ice skating situation, or talk about your family and your pet connections. And I like the idea of using the socks as kind of a, like a metaphor or an extended sort of, you know, analogy that you carry throughout the entire essay. But I think right now it seems a little too crowded. And next question is, is this a good idea? that's kinda what I just addressed. What are some ideas to lay out my topic in a way that makes sense? I would say definitely kind of cutting down the number of different themes you're exploring would help with that? How would my prompt work? If I chose the seventh one on the CommonApp? Honestly, I would probably just submit this essay. But the thing is, is if you kind of go down in more in my direction, write the essay would really be actually a good answer to like Part Number one, right, which is your kind of identity or your interest surrounding ice skating, you could actually write it for prompt number one, right. So I would actually maybe pull away from seventh prompt and actually go for prompt number one. And do I think it is unique enough? Yes, I do. I don't think it's personal enough right now. So at a very high level, even if you don't go with my specific idea, comm that I that I gave you a feedback. Um, I would say that the essay right now is plenty unique. What I'm more worried about is that there's not enough of a personal dynamic to it. And it doesn't make for a compelling personal story. So yeah, so that's that. And by the way, if you have any questions, and if you're seeing kind of your prompt or something on the actual screen, feel free to jump in and ask a question in the q&a. Or if you have any clarifications or anything like that, please feel free to do that, so that we're able to answer and address things with as much context as possible.


All right, so now we're looking at prompts number three. So sorry, essay number three. So essay number three is discuss an accomplishment, event or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. 650 word essay, topic is being a new student, a student in a new environment isn't always easy. I grew up in Nigeria, where things are different. I moved to the US when they were 14. We're excited because it was always their dream to live in America started sophomore year at 14, it was fun being in the center of class, but didn't have any friends because they thought they were different. And they wouldn't fit into any friend groups. They were insecure about their accents and didn't want to contribute to classes. As a result of that. They also didn't want people to make fun of them the way that they speak. And they didn't want to have lunch, since they didn't know what to order. And were unfamiliar with system. They were always afraid of being called out in class to participate because they don't didn't want people to find out. They're thinking differently. Were bothered by the way that they looked in the way that they dressed. They can kind of specifically call back to one event in their science class, where they had a project due at the end the week and needed to use computers. And they couldn't use a computer cuz it was their first time using computer right and they were too ashamed to ask for help. There was a time where they were ashamed of being Nigerian didn't want to talk to their African didn't want anyone to ridicule them for being African. This almost is basically a full essay. Let's see here. So I'm just gonna kind of summarize the rest of this. Attending those Nigerian events, being president in Nigerian parties speaking Igbo cultural dance as well. tried out several different activities started to find sports and kind of get a payoff from sports.


And the last one here is now they basically have accepted their sort of Nigerian heritage. So as I said, with the first prompt, right, this kind of approach to an essay, it does just carry a little bit of a cliche. Now, it's a little bit less common coming from


Sorry about that. One second.


So this this type of essay is a little bit less common coming from a Nigerian American student that is coming from an Indian American student, right? The Indian American student, it's like a much more common trope for them. But for like a Nigerian American student, it's a little bit less common. So you're a little bit better off there. But what I would say in general, is that, again, this essay feels almost too busy. Like, I'd like you to go a little bit deeper on kind of one of these themes, right? So there's a theme about you not wanting to speak because of your accent, there's a theme of you not wanting to or embracing the Nigerian, like, sort of social scene, and kind of finding pride in speaking Igbo, right, I would, again, encourage you to go deeper on one of these themes, as opposed to hitting all of these different things. Because this is just like one sort of story. And it's a very, very pretty, pretty common story. Whereas if you can take us into one of these elements, right, take us into your mindset when you were, you know, scared of using the computer. I think that's a pretty interesting, or not interesting, but it's something that I think people would find compelling to read. Or you could take us deeply into, like Nigerian, you know, parties and stuff like that cultural dance. Again, it's not the best topic. But if you are going to stick with this topic, I would definitely say try to go deeper on one of these individual components, as opposed to trying to present all this information all at once. Okay, next, prompt here is discussing an accomplishment, event or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. word count is 650 words, the topic is I plan to talk about attending my first therapy session and how that changed my perspective and outlook on my mental health as a whole. I will begin by talking about my childhood upbringing, and some of the traumas and mental health struggles that ultimately led me to take this first step in bettering my mental health. Okay, um, I could see this being potentially very interesting. One way that you could approach this is if you're comfortable is to kind of bring the reader into your first therapy session. And the way you would do that is that you kind of have to like bring them literally into the room and kind of share what was happening in the room, share kind of the deep the reflections behind why various problems you had, are, and then maybe also share kind of how you've worked and how you've overcame some of those problems or made substantial progress. Now, one thing one Be careful about with this topic, is sometimes mental health problems, it can come off as there's two two big risks risk number one is it comes off too much as just sort of a sob story, or where you're just like looking for sympathy or something like that. And that's a tough position to be in. The other problem that can sometimes come up with mental health challenges. is people worried about Hey, are you still experiencing those? And is it still hampering your performance? Right? And so is it going to make it tougher for you to function? Well, on my campus? Right, that's a very reasonable question that's college admissions officers have. So from that perspective, you want to make sure that you are also framing how you've come forward and actually bettered your mental health, you can't just talk about the first step that you took, you have to talk about sort of where, where you've gotten to, and why Lee kind of holds up to reassure them that, you know, it won't be as much of a problem moving forward, right? It's kind of a double edged sword, right? The mental health essays can be very, very compelling, because they obviously share a lot about you. But you run into the challenge of, you know, whether it's in writing, it's a challenge of potentially carrying some risk around whether you're still facing those challenges or not. No. So that's kind of really where challenges lie. And as far as the question, I got another question in the audience here, and I'm going to pause for a bit and answer a couple questions. So if folks have any questions, please feel free to enter them into the chat. I'm going to actually take a quick 32nd break, grab some water, I will be right back. But in the meantime, if you have any questions, I'm happy to answer maybe like four or five questions before we move on to the next set of essays.


Folks, so we do have a few questions in here. So, question first question here is, how do you start thinking of an essay topic? Should you write multiple essays with each one on potential different topics as a starting point. So I don't know if I would write multiple essays on different potential topics, just because writing an essay is a lot of work. And so I would say that you, you always want to think about this as sort of like, you know, the more time you put into brainstorming and walking through different ideas, the less time you actually have to spend writing the essay. So what I would say is, instead of trying to write multiple essays, I would try to outline multiple essays, right? Try to outline different ones on different topics and kind of see which outline looks the best and sounds the best, maybe you can ask for feedback on that or something like that, right? And basically, if you just start thinking about, kind of which topic sounds the best, which one feels the best, then you can go ahead and write that one topic. But I would definitely brainstorm more towards multiple topics right? Now, how can you deduce if a certain topic is truly unique, for instance, multiple students could write about one topic. So there's a difference between what I would call it a truly unique one of a kind, and more versus less common, right. So when I say something is cliched, I don't mean that, you know, maybe 50 students across the country are going to write about that. I mean, that like 50,000, or 100,000, students are going to write about that, like, there's 100,000 kids that are going to write about sports in their college essay, there's 50,000, kids are gonna write about music and some form in their college essay. There's 30, or 40,000 of them write about that immigrant story that we talked about, there's another 30 or 40,000, that are going to write about moving between states, or kind of moving in and the impact that had on them, right. So when I say a topic is cliched, I don't mean that multiple students might write it, I mean, that literally 10s of thousands of students around the country write about it. And then sometimes at specific schools, you can see an overlap, right? So for selective colleges, right, there's a lot of Indian American females that kind of OPT that apply with a very similar background with something like cultural dance, right? So because they all have that similar background, that specific topic for those schools is problematic, but it's not going to be an issue at a liberal arts colleges that don't get many Indian applicants in the first place. So some of this is contextual. But what I would say in general is that those kinds of topics are like, you know, when we say topic is not unique enough, that is usually when the topic has like, you know, several 10s of thousands of students around the country who can and will write about it.


Right, next question here: mine was the ice skating problem. If I talk about how it gave me comfort from academic life, and how I teach people how to skate? Do you think that would be a good personal experience? I mentioned?


It could be.


And that I think the question is, like, again, how do you you got to make sure it feels like one integrated essay. So if you're kind of using skating as a jumping off point to talk about the rest of your life, that's totally fine. And again, that's that Tommy's points to the idea that you should really just focus on ice skating, I think that's the most valuable element. Next question, would you say that coming out is a cliched topic? No, just because I would say that sort of gay students are definitely still or LGBTQ students in general are definitely still a minority amongst the the population, and only a subset of those students right are going to be writing about, you know, they're coming out. What I will say is that you want to make sure that your story is not kind of about like generic stuff, it should be about your story of coming out, and your context of coming out in like a deeply personal way if you're not right about that.


Um, next question here, is the final one we're gonna be covering right now is struggling with cultural identity and fitting in with cultures as a mixed student, a cliche or common essay? This is someone who's like biracial or multiracial and kind of thinking about struggling to fit between different cultures. Um, yeah, I mean, I would say that it is a relatively common essay written by by students who come from a biracial background. You know, I would say that, like, it was so so impactful for you that there's really nothing else that can completely compares, then yeah, you can still write about it. You just want to make sure that you sort of .. You just want to make sure that you sort of like, how do I described this... you want to make sure that you write about it in such a way that is okay, so the most common way that that story is written is I'm stuck between these two different sort of cultures, and I can't find my spot. If you write that that's going to feel relatively cliched. But if you want to write something on line along the lines of like, actually, I love both identities, both identities contribute really positively to me, and maybe make the essay a little bit different than the typical one, like, I'm the best of both worlds, right? Then that might actually be another way to write that essay. So it really depends on how you're approaching that essay as well. More often than not, it's played as Oh, I'm struggling between the two cultures. But if you can play it, as I actually, you know, gain strength from both cultures, then that's going to be something that maybe plays a little bit better.


All right, next question here.


Let's see here.


Okay, let's actually move on to the next prompt. So next up here is discuss an accomplishment, event or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. 650 words, and the topic is, how do the different pronunciations of my name, mon, I guess, changed the way I interact with others, many people people pronounce my name wrong. So I want to touch on how it affects my personalities and my relationship. And wanted to use an anecdote maybe more than one of the times my name was pronounced extremely incorrectly, I want to show that I've grown more confident, despite being a shy person and that I shouldn't be able to be afraid to stand up for myself, I never used to correct people out of nervousness. Um, I want the SEC to not sound cliche, but I don't know where to start, other than with the anecdote, because I want to show admissions officers that I am a confident leader and not afraid to stand up for myself.


Uh, okay.


Um, yeah, I think this is a pretty interesting idea. Right, I would definitely try to do multiple anecdotes, and kind of have each of them show your progression. So maybe at the starting point, you could have yourself be sort of very nervous, very shy, very scared, and kind of, so have that anecdote. Don't correct the person and reflect on that. Then maybe in the middle, you have one where you kind of like politely push back, and then you have one where you're forcefully, like, you know, what, Hey, my name is actually pronounced this way. And if I bumbled your pronunciation of your name, I apologize for that. But, um, I would say that in your situation, I like to stop at this topic a lot. I don't think it's super cliched. I think you need to focus more on the nervousness though, then on the pronunciation, the pronunciation should just be kind of like a jumping off point, right? Like you should establish I don't like when my name is mispronounce, but it should be much more about kind of your nervousness and your shyness and overcoming that. That should be the core of your asset.


All right. Next question here is for the CommonApp: Lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. recount a time when you finish a shot face the challenge setback or a failure. How did it affect you and what did you learn from the experience? The topic here is I plan to use a narrative style to describe how I don't my family completely changing in my sophomore year, when my father stayed overseas and my older sister went to Los Angeles to start attending college, college, I had to make many adjustments. I was primarily eating with my mom, my mom started a new job. So I didn't want her to worry about in geremy. I learned to meal prep healthy lunches for the week, made breakfast every morning, and did laundry helped my mom around the house. The change in support system made me feel very alone. And I felt like I had to be independent and keep my feelings and troubles. So my mom would not get stressed and my family would not have to worry about me. I went through many lows mentally and struggled to keep up very facilities at home and at school. And at one point I push away many loved ones and friends and refuse to take help from others. But my friends and my mom would constantly try to reach out to me. Slowly they made me realize that getting support from others not a bad thing. I learned that I can still help my mom but still get some assistance from my mom, and emotional support from friends when I am struggling. I believe that living with one parent has allowed me to learn independence doesn't mean living life alone. And the specific question that the student has is, how do I avoid making the sound cliche and focus on my personal journey? I understand that others go to challenges like this. But I was wondering if there's a way I could use this experience to show my emotional journey and my personal growth?


Hmm, this is a tough one just because it's kind of on the borderline, but it's not necessarily fully cliched. I think a lot of how you're going to have to make this essay work though, is you've got to really bring us deep into your emotions with sort of the support for your mom. Like I think that spending time on kind of the meal prep and stuff like that. I would not spend more than like, one paragraph combined. Like I would not spend a lot of time on the meal prep and on the stuff you were doing. I would want to I would want you to spend a lot more time on your feelings of loneliness and your feelings of boredom. And your feelings are not wanting to be a burden and your feelings of needing the support and so on, right. Um, so that would be kind of the biggest thing for me is you have to be bringing us deep into your mind and deep into kind of your feelings for lack of a better word. Right? And then kind of the, the turning point, right, where you sort of switch over and you start to accept help, right? That needs to feel earn. And remember that is it can't just be a sudden, like, then one day, my mom was like, hey, let us help you. And I got help. It's got to feel gradual, it's got to feel sort of earned over time, it's got to happen, like over an extended period of time. So you got to kind of bring us into that moment as well, and kind of why you initially rejected it, and why you eventually chose not to. Um, but yeah, I mean, I think overall, it's like an okay topic, it just has to be much more about your feelings and about what you did. Alright, next up here is Brigham Young University. Have you been become aware of significant needs in your family, school and or community? Please claim how you've worked towards meeting those needs. That's the topic. And so the question that the student has is, I can't think of any time I've been aware of or done anything about a need in my family, school or community. What do I do now in writing through this prompt?


Okay, um, so when you say what's Okay, well, one question I would have for your situation, is, what do you think of when you hear the words like family, school or community like, Are you thinking just about like, you know, helping your family out or helping like your, your city out, because there could be other situations where you've helped folks in your community, you just broaden what you define as your community. So for example, say you participate in a club or an organization at sort of, at your school, right? Doing something that solves for a need within that club, save the club needed extra money. So you have fundraiser say that the club needed more, more members. So you went out and recruited? Those are examples of significant needs that you could have solved for? Similarly, right. You know, you don't have to like, I think one of the one of the challenges you'll face with this kind of prompt is that the temptation is to think, oh, it has to be like a big structural problem at my school that I've solved right here. But in reality, you could literally just be writing about helping one individual person, right, the purpose of this essay from BYU is to feel like you're someone who contributes to the community around them. And that can be if you, you know, solve, like a big problem for your entire community, like you help, you know, fix a traffic signal, something like that, that's causing a lot of accidents, or you help tackle racism or whatever. But it can also be about helping one individual person, if there's a friend that was in need, and you reach out to them and try to help them out and sort of make sure that they weren't in trouble, right. Or if you convince a friend to get help about a problem, or something like that, those are also going to qualify for this essay. So I'd say the biggest thing is making sure that you are expanding your definition of family, school and community like what you count as those right for community, right, you could even be something that's outside of the school. So for example, say that you're part of an online forum. And that forum needed a moderator to make it a good community for everyone. Well, that's actually an example of being a being someone who met community needs, right. So again, there's a lot of different ways in which you can actually, you know, do this a prompt, you'd have to expand your your definitions of what your family your school and your community consist of. And the other thing is, don't be afraid of writing about one individual person. Like, it's me, obviously, you'd love to be able to say like I created meaningful change across my entire community. But even if you're just able to talk about one person, that's still gonna be really valuable.


All right. Next prompt here is the common app essay. The prompt is they don't know yet. The essay topics are two options. Option one is first when they were in eighth grade. And I had to choose an acting High School and other shitty, I'll talk about how difficult and important it was for me to choose to make a career in art and theatre, and how I realized that this is my way. Second option is from the moment a teacher said something you can live without culture, but is it worth it? An idea that was implemented in their head and made them want to learn more about their field. And then they could also use this topic for essays where they say why they want to choose a certain University. And the question from student is, which topic should I choose? So I think I think generally, I would lean more towards the first topic, right? Kind of making an active choice to choose art, despite, you know, the challenges of choosing a career in art could make for a really good topic. I would especially try to make sure that your passion for art really shines through there. And kind of why it matters so much to you. But I would definitely go towards the first option. That one makes more sense in my opinion, but, yeah.


Next, okay, so these are the say the same one right there. Okay, next question here. Some students have a background identity, interest or talent that is so meaningful that they believe Your application will be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. The topic we'll be talking about is their love for cooking. The first time they watch the show chopped, and how it inspired them to stop cooking. They I like to think of my life as a so far as an episode of chop only, it's 17 years long on our my best skits. Sorry, there's a little weirdness with the formatting sometimes is a Nigerian girl who grew up in Miami, Florida, sitting over admissions committee. The idea of the essay is how I use queen to overcome idea of feeling disconnected from my Nigerian heritage, to find comfort with the culture I live in, and how it gives me perspective and lets me experience a world without ever leaving home. And the basket. For context is I zoom like the, like set of ingredients that you get on the show, I'm guessing.


Specific questions. Is this topic specific and personal enough for me? Does it give it a good enough idea of my values, culture, family diversity, etc? Um, yeah, I actually think this is a really good topic, I think you'll have to be careful, right? You want to make sure that you put enough work into making sure that the like analogy to chopped makes sense. And for someone like me, for example, who doesn't know about chopped, giving, like a quick and I say quick, I mean, like, you know, two, three sentences, his explanation of how chopped works. And maybe the way you actually do the explanation is by having the first part of your SAP the introduction, where you're literally watching an episode of chop, and then you kind of spiral into your own version of chopped, right. Where it's about your life, instead of obviously, about cooking, but kind of just getting some context for what chopped is because then that can make a lot of the metaphors and a lot of the analogies really, really powerful. But I think is a good topic. I think the concept is good. I liked it. It's a unique spin on the sort of traditional story. And you know, if you're one of the earlier students who had kind of more of this cultural story, you'd be asking what's different here? Well, the key difference is a it's about the cooking as much as it is about the immigrant story, right? It's about cooking and kind of finding yourself through cooking. So it's a little bit different in terms of topic, and it's a much more unique approach right? If you have a unique way of telling that kind of immigrant assimilation story that's going to be more powerful than if you're just looking at you know, the looking at the basic story told from start to finish.


Next essay here, the lessons you can also be encounter can be fundamental to later success recount a time when you face a challenge, setback or failure. How did it affect you and what did you learn from the experience? So the topic about the story is a concussion in swimming as a competitive athlete. This concussion stayed with me for months, and there were a lot of unsure features and struggles to face the recovery process and return to competition taught me a lot of fundamental skills to succeed in the experience changed me as a person. As far as how they want to tell the story, I plan on starting out with a debrief of who I am now versus who I was back then kind of looking at the growth between the two characters. But if I'm doing the short visual, the flashback and detail on the struggles, the setback, then I plan to talk about the skills and traits I learned in the process back, mainly focusing on what I learned how I changed, and more importantly, who most importantly, who I am now, the same. Okay, and then specific questions, or I would like to know if this topic can be good enough to enter an elite college if I write well, does the top fit? Does the topic fit the prompt I chose? What percent of the essay should be on the description of the learning skills? And what percent on percentage on the description of the setback? Okay, so what I would say is that, for this topic here, right, the... I think I would start with the vivid flashback as opposed to jumping in, I would focus more on the flashback as opposed to jumping in to kind of the debrief. I think the debrief is something that should kind of be sprinkled more throughout the entire essay kind of talking about kind of where you were and where you came. And what the way I would do it is I would start with the vivid flashback, go through the moment of getting a concussion, and then kind of take us through the journey of taking the journey of recovery. And within each within your journey of recovery, you can kind of dive into individual elements and reflect on Okay, here's where it was before. And here's where I where I am now. And over time you kind of build up all the that list of items that are the gap between where you were before and where you are today. And otherwise, I mean, I think this is an okay topic. The challenge is that I would make this less about the sports and much more about your struggle to come back. The other than the literal act of the concussion, I would not really have too much like actual sporting competition as it should be much more about kind of your mental state and your physical state and and how you were feeling and thinking and changing as a result of your recovery process. Right? Here is our next prompt. So this is a full essay. And unfortunately, I'm not gonna be able to review a full essay here. So I apologize, it does look very cool as far as what you're approaching here. But But moving forward, please do not submit your complete essays unfortunate, I'm not gonna be able to review that just because it wouldn't be fair to everyone else who submitted just the topics. So please, you know, if you're interested, we're definitely to have more of these sessions. So please feel free to resubmit your essay topic and set. Next up, we have an essay for the common app. The prompt is for the COVID prompt community disruptions, such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long lasting impacts. If you needed the space is yours to describe those impacts. So this is the COVID-19 prompt. And the topic they want to cover is before COVID-19 I was part of a local Spanish Meetup group and was playing began volunteering with a another organization as a tutor for children finishing children. Now these programs are cancelled, they plan to talk about what I've been doing over quarantine to bridge some of these gaps using what excuse using Duolingo. And, and listening to podcasts and reading Google Spreadsheets papers also benefits anyone learning Spanish is important to me and what I hope to gain from learning this language. Many individuals in my community and I speak Spanish and I want to use language to learn about and be able to interact with Spanish speakers in other countries.


Okay, um, so if you're going to write this, what you're writing is, doesn't seem too too bad. Like with the actual essay content itself is okay. I just want to note that there is some risk with approaching the COVID prompt in this style. What I mean by that is that the main purpose of the covid prompt is to address situations like, hey, my dad lost his job, or Hey, I felt really lonely during the pandemic, or Hey, you know, like, I had to deal with an abusive family situation, or Hey, I, my family went hungry, or you know, those kinds of material challenges. This feels much more like a, you know, hey, here's kind of an opportunity that I missed out on during COVID. Or here's something that happens, you just want to be careful for this not to come off as kind of privileged, especially when so many have been deeply impacted by COVID-19. But, I mean, it's an okay essay, like I think the topic and like the way you're approaching planning to write is actually okay. I'm just worried about you writing about this. Because look at it. I mean, yeah, it's, it's meant to deal with much more tangible challenges, right, it's not really meant to be like an additional essay to reveal more about you, it's much more meant to be a way for you to share the challenges you're facing as a result of COVID. So I don't hate it. I think that the essays, okay, but I will. But I will sort of, I would say that like, I don't know if I would write this and submit it for the essay. Now what you could do is write about this in the additional information section. And there's a little bit different because there's just any additional info you want to share. And there you can say, hey, like, you know, I was planning on being like, diving into kind of Spanish and becoming speaker, but I wasn't able to do so because of coke. So that might be the better place. Next question. Or the next prompt here is for MIT, tell us about the most significant challenge you faced or something important that didn't go according to plan. How did you manage the situation?


So the topicI'm using right now is about how I left a Dream High School of mine. It's hard to explain, but I've been Ridgeway two years Central High School for junior and senior year, I had to move away from home two years early, and I was very excited. Once I got there, though, I had a very hard time, not academically, so I ended up coming home. The entire experience was very jarring and made me motivated to do many things at my home high school. I do not plan about writing about this in my essays, because it may look like I shied away from the challenge. But this is the biggest obstacle I have faced in my life so far, and I want to be authentic. I will successfully explain the obstacle maybe half or less. For the audience, I want to talk about how it changed me, and how it motivated me to work harder to do greater things during engineer. My only worry is that the actual obstacle will look like I gave up when I almost didn't. It was the cold splash of water that I really needed to motivate me and make me who I am. The other republicans considering is one where I got my rocket stuck in a tree. It rocketry and we had to beat a storm to get it down. For me. The first one deals with greater challenges and warming impacted my life. Whereas the rocket story would be easier to storyteller and would be more engaging, but does not have that impact piece. The first one does. Next question, which of the topics is better? Massey? Do you think the first topic will reflect badly on my character because I left school? What is more important in the essay, the story or the impact? Okay, um, yeah, this is really good questions. And thank you for providing such detail about what you're looking at. So what I would say is, I would like to know more about kind of what those reasons were that you've left the school. So before I can judge this right, based on what's been presented here, I'm leaning a little bit more towards the second one, just because that's one where the challenge or the situation that you're faced is sort of Kind of like there's like a life threatening element of it, right? And kind of the movie emotion and sort of power that you put into your rockets. But what I would say is like say, say, for example, that your first one was like homesickness, right? Like you were very just very homesick, you want to be at home with your family. So it's kind of the biggest challenge that you faced. Now, um, there's like a couple of ways to address that, right? Like, one way would be say, I'm no longer homesick another way would have to frame that that would be, hey, I actually really felt like I love, like, had love for my family. And I felt like I needed to be with them some more time before I was ready to move on. Now I'm ready to kind of do that. I will say that the first one also carries some challenges, because presumably you're applying to schools, like in this case, MIT, that are not where you live, right. And so from their perspective, they might see that and think, Well, hey, if he's scared of you know, or ran away from high school, would he potentially run away from our college? So I'd like to kind of hear more about what those rationales were like, if you're in the q&a chat right now, feel free to kind of share a little bit more about that, just because it's actually not clear to me what the challenge is like, is the challenge being away from home is the challenge. Like socially fitting into a new situation, like I'd like to actually understand more about what that challenge is. Because like that, actually, also, I think, depends like can can kind of depend on whether it's a good or a bad fit. So if the challenge is homesickness, that might be a bad essay. But if the challenge is like fitting in with new people and making friends, men, then that's something you can point to and say like, hey, actually, I was able to make friends when I came back to an entirely new situation, right. So that's kind of the thing that I feel like is missing from this essay as of right now.


Okay. All right. Next I guess Okay, last pieces here are, what is more important, as I say the story or the impact, I would definitely say kind of the impact. This is not as much of a storytelling essay, it's much more about kind of how reflective are you about the impact of the situation.


All right, next prompt here, share an essay on the topic of your choice, it can be one you've already written, one that responds a different prompt or one of your own design 650 words personal statements, ideas. And so these are the ideas. So growing up in a minority minority in a minority country. As a Southeast Asian in Puerto Rico, the twist is that they feel more comfortable surrounded by Latinos and by their own race, and the unique perspective and diversity they can offer the school from this odd mix of cultures. Next is baking traditional goods for elderly immigrant neighbors, to connect them to their roots, and how it has helped me learn more about their culture and my own to offer baked goods during the quarantine and help bring them hope. Big they also make healthy alternatives and connect that to their own struggles with their health. How my past deteriorating health led me to self love and where I am today are messy from heart, a how to format where it really leads, lead the reader through how to make an oatmeal or poke a ball while describing aspects my personality life experiences, passions and achievements with ingredients. And then specific questions I've heard you can roll your prefilled roll over your people coming up provide answers after our annual your schools that losing any existing information. That should be the case. But I mean, like honestly, you're not going to lose that much time. Like it doesn't take too long to fill out the common app. It's usually like a couple of hours. So I mean, you can fill it out now and double check, I would need to double check. I don't know for sure. Okay, let's take a look at your ideas. So of the four I definitely like number three as the best one, just because it feels like it's the one that's the most personal as number two as well. Both of them are very, very solid, it just depends on what you feel more comfortable writing. Um, I don't like number one, just because it's it gets into some like weird questions and like it just like he eats, it doesn't feel personal enough, I guess to you. And also I might want you to read like for for CommonApp. Right. And separately, there are like diversity and perspective essays where it might be more valuable to have that in the bank. Um, so definitely number two and number three, maybe number two, a little bit ahead. I don't like number four, the kind of like, oh, here's the salad of me, or here's the oatmeal bowl of me or whatever. It's a little bit too common these days. And I also think that it kind of leads you to like write about a bunch of different things with a little bit of depth, as opposed to a couple of things with more depth. And if you know anything from watching my live streams, I will definitely say that I tend to prefer more depth and fewer different components. All right. Next essay topic here. The essay topic is like the prompt is, you know, talking about an obstacle that you've overcome or that you've worked overcome. The topic here is starting in minear as a story of when they were volunteering in the hospital doing music therapy for patients. Patients asked to hear music from the 60s into the name of a song they didn't know. They played it on the phone and played along perfectly with the help of their perfect pitch. relate this to a natural or skill or talent that I believe everyone has that can be used to solve anything from small problems to bigger things in life. The key aspect of life is how we face the obstacles we encounter and what we have our own gifts we draw upon to overcome them.


The specific questions are: in my essay, the obstacle or problem was not significant in terms of how it affected me or situation. Is it a good idea to write this under this prompt? Or should I change it to fit a different prompt? Okay, so, I will say that I think you should probably start over. And the reason I say that is eight, this is an essay about music. And in general, as I mentioned earlier music, pretty cliche topic, it's very, very hard to write a compelling music, I say, beyond that, the essay topic feels very, very abstract, right? This notion of the natural talent or skill that everyone has, right, you know, that the key aspect of like being the how you work on the obstacles that you encounter, and how you drawn your gifts to overcome them. It just feels very third person and very abstract, it doesn't feel like it's personally about you, it doesn't, I don't feel like I'm gonna learn too much about who you are as a person. I'm just gonna learn maybe something about your worldview, sort of, it's not clear to me, right. The third thing is that it's not even a good fit for this specific prompt either. So I would actually say that in this case, I would probably ask you to start over, right if I were your advisor.


Um, okay, um, and that's, that's, we have a couple more topics here. So, topic. Next topic here is prompt number one, I'm planning to write about what I learned in the past few years. It is not always about winning or reaching a goal, but about everything you did to fulfill yourself throughout the long game. things don't always go as planned except your journey. I learned these mainly through my sailing experience. I'm gonna start the essay with how I feel when I lose, think about how well it felt to win and reflect on what I learned through the way how do I get much so much more than just the sailing thinking out of sailing? Right now this feels like a pretty cliched sports story. So I think sailing is a unique topic, relatively speaking. But if you kind of turned it into the traditional, losing, and then winning and how I feel in each situation, that's pretty cliche topic. So I think I would start over keep thinking about sailing, but look for a different way to write about sailing. And think about kind of how sailing and how you feel about sailing intersects with more broadly, your values, your feelings, your thoughts, your worldview, how you react to situations, how you deal with pressure, etc.


Okay, um, Now, before we go, I do have, maybe I'm gonna take another pause for another five minutes or so and then we'll cover the last these this last essay topic here. So we do have a question here. And by the way, I do want to mention that a recording will be available on the, on the, slash live streams, usually about five, six hours after the event. So you will be able to review a recording. Now we do have a couple questions here. So first question is mine was the Nigerian one, do you think it is unique enough? Or should I rewrite my essay is the topic good. So as I said earlier, I thought that there were some good elements within each of the topics.


But I'd like to see you focus on one of the topics. So for example, you could focus on just on sort of like, your fears around your accent, or focus just around your fears of using the computer or something like that. focus in on one of those moments and dive more deeply into it and reflect more deeply on everything around it. As opposed to writing this big overall narrative. The big overall narrative means that you're not really diving deep into any one specific aspect.


Next question. Um, let's see here. My essay was the one about living with my mom, do you think this essay topic can be strong? If I'm super descriptive about it with my emotions? Yes. So this is this essay topic right here? And I'd say yeah, if you kind of really dive deep into your emotional state, and make that the focus of the essay, it could be a decent one. Yeah, for sure. Next question here. Well, more of these available, and how would I be able to submit my essay topic? Yeah, absolutely. So the way to work is usually either in the description, or sometimes in an email that we send out before the event, you're able to submit your essay topic for review.


So yeah.


Yeah. And the last question is, will there be another essay topic review in the future? Yes, there we will definitely doing more of these as well. Okay. All right, we'll go ahead and focus on our last one. In the meantime, if you have any questions for me to answer, I do have time for another 10 to 15 minutes worth of q&a. So please feel free to start entering any additional questions you have into the q&a box. All right. So this is part number one, which is some people have an identity, interest, talent or background, it's so important to their development that they that your life story can't be shared without it. Not exactly the phrasing of it, but essentially what it's asking. So as a topic, I plan to use a montage format. Basically, I'll talk about how I spend lots of time think about the meaning of life, its purpose, etc, and how I can't seem to find a satisfying answer. Then I'll talk about how that connects neuroscience and why I have a passion for neuroscience. In that I will talk about my passion for neuroscience went from an interest in the content subject and the technology To calories, my narrow and competing in your competitions to finding my true passion and love for it, which is newer, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease. And that'll talk about my first experience, volunteering at memory care units and witnessing firsthand the effects of ad. There's watching patients whose identity Washingtonians forget who their loved ones are, what is the impact of that on patients loved ones, essentially how it takes away everything little by little until death, also connected to the meaning of life that I talked about in the intro. And then I want to end them with a hopeful empowering a new sense of purpose. Like I finally found what makes life meaningful to me, I found my own answer, where I explained how I want to continue to contribute to feel Nero and find a cure that so that people won't have to go through that such a travesty. And that although people might die in other ways, that as that's the nature of life, at least you won't be in the gruesome ways that ad imposes. Maybe the final last sentence will be something like I finally found a satisfying answer.


So the questions, is my idea good?


Will it showcase my personality? Can you tell what kind of person I am? And if so what kind of person do you make out to be? Do the ideas Connect? Well, and know I'm I know talking about these existential questions are odd for 17 year old, but I'm hoping I can communicate it in an authentic way. I also kind of make a slight joke here and there should I keep or remove them? e.g., I'm talking about my existential questions with the purpose and meaning of life. And I say, AP AP Biology taught me the science of evolution, that all living things seek only one end to reproduce and spread their genetic material. That's not a satisfying enough answer. It doesn't explain so much, such as a teenage male I loved. I've thought about reproducing, but I can claim it was for the sole reason of passing on my genetic material. Should I keep this kind of humor? Or no? I'm? Okay. Let's kind of go in order here. So is my idea. Good?


Yeah, I like it, I think he kind of got to find a way to make your own personality shine through. So that would be my biggest fear is that it'll become too much about about the neuroscience stuff, and not about kind of why it connects to you.


But I think like, in general, it's an OK, one, especially with the kind of meaning of life stuff of stuff upfront, right.


So I think there's something to that, for sure.


The ideas do connect reasonably well. I think, again, you just have to make sure it's a deeply personal, the slight jokes are one where I kind of just pull back, if you're going to do the humor, like, the way you got to think about this is think about like, Dad jokes, right? That one is like kind of on the edge. It's it's a touch inappropriate, right. And I could see some people like, I could see some, some readers laughing at it, like, like I did, but I could also see a lot of admissions officers thinking it was a little bit like, inappropriate. So I would say like, I would maybe get rid of some of those jokes, or these rewrite them to make them a little bit more corny, if that makes sense. Or a little bit less inappropriately, because that one's like a little bit borderline, unfortunately.


All right. So folks, that was the last of the prompts that we had for today's event. A couple things before we wrap things up. So I will answer stick around for a few more minutes to answer questions. As I'm doing that, I do want to ask what did everyone think of this event? Please enter your feedback into the q&a, I'd love to know more about whether you found that this is helpful. Giving suggestions for how we can make these sessions more interesting or useful in the future. Is there you know, what did you think just in general, any feedback, all the feedback you provide us is super, super helpful, as it allows us to figure out ways to deliver more of this type of help to you all in the future. Next, so with that, I'm going to go ahead and try to answer a few questions. So first, I'm struggling with how to make my essay personal, what are some tips? So I would say that, and let me actually, if I can pull up a picture here, basically, there's kind of three big ways you make your essay more personal. So way, number one is talk about what you are feeling, both in the moment. So as Say, say that you're going through a tough situation, say that you're facing an obstacle, right? Say it's a, you know, a sporting match and like that, right?


I'm not that you should write that sports, but I'm just gonna use it as an example, right?


One way to talk about it's like, How are you feeling? So how are you feeling in that moment? I'm scared, I'm hungry, I'm tired. How do you feel about it? Now, after reflecting on it, those are often different, like, I regret it, or I ultimately have come to terms with it, or I'm empathetic about it. Right?


So how you feel both in the moment and over time.


Like after you reflect on it is one way of making it personal way number two is a way number two is to talk about what you're thinking. So what's going through your mind as something is happening, or what's going through your mind.


What's going through your mind like now like how do you think about that situation now versus back then? How does your how's your worldview or the way you think about the world have changed as a result of the event. Last one, is um, you know, talk about your values, or at least illustrate your values rather. So, show that I value generosity, I value personality, I value, being caring I value being in fact, I have the values of being empathetic, I have Integrity, I have morality, whatever those values are that matter to you, sharing those values is super, super powerful.


All right.


Next question here.


Just trying to look through and see if there are any further questions.


I heard that admissions officers nowadays are mostly recent grads, would their perspectives on essays be different than season's admissions officers? Considering the age of difference? Yes, there's something to that, right. Um, you know, there's a lot of things that being them being recent grads drives, so first of all, because many of their recent grads, they have more love for their school, in terms of like the traditions and personality, and they've kind of experienced it more recently. So they're going to have more fine tuned knowledge, obviously, but school and stuff like that. I would also say that they tend to be sort of younger in their values. So more progressive, more open, kind of more flexible. So yeah, there's there's like stuff, like, for example, like writing about your being, you know, being a gay student and having to come out, it's going to be reacted to differently by younger admissions officers versus older ones. So yes, there's absolutely some something to that. Next question. And I guess the final question for today. For the living with my mom topic is the veteran show the moment I focused where I hit rock bottom, or focus on the multiple incident that helped me grow. To be honest, I would actually try to tackle both right, it's important to talk about when obviously, you hit rock bottom, but it's also important to show the growth on the other side, I think the rock bottom could maybe be a good starting point, where you start by hitting rock bottom flashback to what brought you there, and then show the growth from there. Absolutely. Yep. All right, folks. With that, that's going to go ahead and wrap up our event for today. Thank you to all of you for attending and stay tuned for future live streams from CollegeVine.


Thanks, everyone, and have a great evening.

Your host

Undergrad College: University of Chicago

Major: Economics

Work Experience: As a Co-Founder of CollegeVine, I lead the data science and admissions curriculum teams. I have worked with thousands of students and families over the course of 8 years. I have also spent time as a senior analyst in aviation operations, strategy, and marketing.


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