2 years ago
Admissions Advice

Essay Ideas

Would writing on social anxiety be a good college essay? Or does it need to be deeper? I'm just looking for essay ideas.

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2 answers

Accepted Answer
2 years ago[edited]

Hi @kaddo,

Anytime an applicant writes about something that debilitates them in some mental, emotional, or physical manifestation, it opens the door for misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and less than positive impressions of said applicant.

Logically, if you present yourself as a thinking, feeling human being, everything that has a good ending should be "game" for a college essay right? But the college admissions process is not like sharing an essay with your non-judgmental, non-biased therapist.

Rather it is unpredictable. You actually have no control over which admissions officer reads your file first and if there are 2 readers, you don't know who the 2nd reader is either. And if your file makes it to the selections committee, you don't know who those people are and what biases they have, what the mandate is, what the flavors of the day are, and what the yellow and red flag issues are. Each college is different.

So in the best-case scenario, the stars may align for you and you may get a compassionate reader, and a second reader and the committee might be swayed by their plea to admit you. On the opposite extreme, you might get read by someone who has already read 25 applications today and 10 of them had mental illness topics for their main essay. This person is exhausted and wants to go home. Your essay might be written grammatically perfect, but they've read so many "I broke out of my struggle during the pandemic" essays, that they are just done for the day. Your essay seems common, uninspiring, and par for the course. You are now a rejection statistic because they are not going to bat for you. They feel a bit sorry for you but this is a business and they want more chipper positive cohorts that are predictable in their behavior. "It's not personal" they rationalize as the dog-ear your file write a big R on the folder.

So what I'm sharing is that there is no good answer except to say if you pick one of the topics that don't discuss anything that might affect your ability to thrive on their college campus, you have taken some risk out of the equation. Personally, I think if you are going with the "underdog" essay, then don't pick your own mental illness as the villain, pick something or someone else. Why? Because it removes most of the doubt that you would relapse or be vulnerable or susceptible to the same pattern under more academic stress.

I hope this helps you narrow down your essay topics. The mental wellness/illness essay is a really difficult one to pull off and hedge your bets with because everyone reacts differently to reading about this.

2 years ago

Writing about your experience with social anxiety could be a great approach to your college essays! A good college essay tells the admissions officer who you are, encompassing what is unique to you and what matters to you. As a result, a good essay topic is both personal and original. Your idea definitely checks that first box and depending on the execution, can easily meet the second. I'd also recommend checking out some of CollegeVine's blogs on essay writing (https://blog.collegevine.com/good-college-essay-topics/, https://blog.collegevine.com/cliche-college-essay-topics/).

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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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