Write-on Wednesdays: the overcoming challenges essay

Recorded Thursday, August 5 at 12:00 AM

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About this livestream


You’ll probably be asked how you’ve overcome adversity in your college essays — but communicating this through a college application can be difficult. So join Elias this Wednesday to learn how you can convey your lived experience in a compelling essay that optimizes your chance of admission.

Elias will be providing a full breakdown of everything you need to know about this essay type, including: what admissions officers are looking for, how to research school-specific info, and general tips for writing. He'll also go through an example of an essay or two on-air so you can see how admissions officers would critique this kind of essay.

Elias will also open up the floor for a Q&A session to answer any questions you may have about the overcoming adversity essay.

Your host

Undergrad College: Harvard University '17

Major: Music

Graduate College: University of Michigan, M.M.

Work Experience: Now in my fourth year at CollegeVine, I have helped dozens of students gain acceptance to their top-choice schools and have also advised and mentored thousands more through my livestreams. Apart from my work at CV, I am also a professional conductor and a multi-instrumentalist. I currently serve as the music director of the Apollo Ensemble of Boston, and I have led symphonic concerts and operatic productions throughout the United States.

My Admissions Story: Initially interested in pursuing a career as a performing cellist, I applied almost exclusively to music schools with dual and double degree options and ultimately enrolled in the Tufts University/New England Conservatory Dual Degree Program. Unhappy with the combined program and worried I'd never feel like I was fully a student at either school, I logged back into CommonApp.org in October of my freshman year. I can't say I went about the transfer process in the smartest way (I only applied to two schools!), but Harvard miraculously accepted me (or 'excepted me' as I wrote in a celebratory Facebook post that day - no one ever let me live that one down), and the rest was history.

Audience questions

These are questions from the audience that we had time to answer during the live session. If you have any other questions, you can request an answer from Elias and other CollegeVine experts in an upcoming livestream or on the Q&A Forum anytime.
0:29@mich5250:Is this livestream starting soon?
0:31@eleong2:Has the livestream started?
16:32@eleong2:Is this essay a supplement for most colleges, or is it a prompt for the general essay (also known as the personal statement)?
16:40@AZie:All is good
17:11@lunemoon:Hey Elias
17:17@eleong2:How appropriate is it to mention traumatic incidents in the additional info section should we not want to write about it for our "overcoming challenges" essay?
18:32@angiexoxo:if I have a bunch of substantial challenges, which one do I pick
18:35@lunemoon:Does Collegevine offer a package for reviewing essays?
20:28@lunemoon:But can’t our work be ‘stolen’ with peer review perhaps?
25:17@mich5250:@lunemoon if someone tries to copy and paste your essay, the only thing they'll see is "please dont copy someones essay"
32:02@mich5250:Do AO's get bugged if we mention using our religion to tackle our challenges?
35:37@eleong2:How appropriate would a topic such as quitting a social media addiction or holding your parents just as accountable as you hold yourself?
37:15@mich5250:You're awesome at this Elias!
37:20@ashleyt:Is an ACL surgery too common?
38:32@lunemoon:Does our essay need to be related to what we are interested in studying in college?
38:38@eleong2:Not looking up to your parents as saints, but also valuing your parents' generosity
39:14@lunemoon:If I didn’t do well in an AP and I feel it wasn’t scored properly, I wanted to know what recourse I have. Can I mention that in an additional info essay?
40:32@ashleyt:rip so sorry to hear! I got mine during tryouts in June for a state team and had to get surgery recently - thank you so much for answering my question!
41:51@lunemoon:I have an A inclass
42:04@hodgesteanna:I have had some trauma throughout my life however they have never effected me academically. They are still issues that i had to get over and still have to deal with today, can I still mention them? I hate that it is such a big part of who I am, I feel that should I not talk about my experiences, I will have nothing to write about.
43:12@JC11:Is facing discrimination due to minority status considered a challenge?
43:27@rob25:how accurate is that the essay for common application should be addressing events in the sophomore o junior year?
56:13@eleong2:Would admissions officers consider this sample essay as not just pretentious, but also selfish and grandiose?
56:42@angiexoxo:wait this person is depicting someone else's mental health problems as their "own struggle"?
57:05@eleong2:At first I thought, "Isn't Colin writing this, but why's he referring to himself in the first and third persons?"
57:29@mich5250:Imagine the author watching this right now haha
57:49@lunemoon:Is each of these parts a different paragraph? I'm asking because I'm wondering what the significance is when it comes to how the essay is structured.
59:41@angiexoxo:this is ridiculous. it could actually be satire...
62:57@ashleyt:@angiexoxo i totally agree lmao
64:34@ashleyt:if the author had mentioned something about singing with Colin while he was in a psychiatric hospital would that have made a difference?
65:20@eleong2:Considering this essay may not have been spectacular, could the writer have written their other essays in a way that the officers thought this essay was an anomaly?
68:42@eleong2:Does this mean that even "disastrous" essays can be "good enough" for the officers?
70:03@angiexoxo:omg go get your iPad
70:06@mich5250:when is the next live essay review?
71:07@ashleyt:Just a side question but do you offer common app essay editing like if we were to send you ours?
72:40@mich5250:Alrightie, you can go now, thank you Elias
73:13@ashleyt:Got it, thank you so much Elias!
73:16@AZie:Thank you, that was very helpful!
73:21@aefaucon:do you think it is necessary for all commonapp essays to have a resolution? i wrote an essay for my english class and it's my favorite piece i've ever written but i've heard some people say that there needs to be a resolution.
73:47@lunemoon:Thanks Elias!
73:55@angiexoxo:I gave you a 5
74:16@eleong2:Can an excellent vs a good enough essay make a difference in financial aid awarded, or is aid purely derived from family income?
75:31@lunemoon:so sorry, but do we need to include how we will continue to overcome an issue in college?
75:45@angiexoxo:Don't be bitter sir some people don't appreciate what they have
77:13@ashleyt:We appreciate you guys a lot! <3
77:28@angiexoxo:you the best sir


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