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Choosing an Essay Topic

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Hi, I am considering different options for writing a personal and supplement essay. I have a few topics, including 1) how music helped me get through an ED & mental illness, 2) my curiosity with the world & research, 3) my very mixed ethnicity and dealing with others' perspectives of me.

My first essay, the one on mental illness, is the most developed and personal, so I was wondering if it would be a good choice for my personal statement -- especially since I am applying to Ivies and top schools like Johns Hopkins.

If not, which of the essays should I use as my personal statement?

Thank you!

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I think any of the prompts above are good promps. However, I don’t know exactly your experiences for each topic so I can’t claim that which one is the best fit for you. Just think carefully which topic you have the most Personal experience and easier for you to develop ideas. Hope this helps!

2 answers

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Personally, I would pick 1 or 3 but depending on the scenario a specific topic may be more appropriate. Topic 2 is very generic/“bleh” for ivy+ applicants since literally everyone applying to those schools is the same as you in regard to that aspect of their desire to learn. It’s not unique and is frankly a waste of the supplemental essay space where you can DIFFERENTIATE yourself from others. Here are my thoughts (and I don’t have experience with EDs so I hope I am not insensitive)

Topic 1 would be great for the “what is a unique challenge/adversity you have faced, and how have you overcame it?” topic. If music is not an important part of your application, or you’re applying for something completely unrelated like STEM, this may seem random or like a waste of words since it doesn’t tell much about you. Of course colleges want to get to know you better but if your essay is just 500 words of “I had an eating disorder/mental illness struggles” that can actually turn off AOs especially if you write the essay in a way that makes you look weak/fragile or not able to handle an elite college course load. Additionally if you choose to write about it, avoid the whole pity-party or sob-story reach that some (NOT ALL!! I’m really not trying to minimize/devalue your horrific experiences at all, but just saying some people do this) applicants will do. They’ll spin a sob story

somehow, try to make a connection to why they deserve to go to X university more because they’ve suffered more. Sorry but unless you show that you can overcome struggle, personal struggle (with the exception of financial stress) won’t really make a college more likely to accept you or feel bad for you. Be sure that you talk mostly about how it has IMPACTED you and the PERSONAL GROWTH rather than actually describing the ED/situation. An example: it has taught me the following lessons XYZ and I implemented these through … and then segway into taking about (in depth) a really interesting EC, personal passion project, etc that you’ve pursued.

Topic 3 is IMO a really interesting and viable option since a) biracial/mixed race Americans are (as far as I know) uncommon and under-representaed when it comes to college, so this aspect of your personality could help boost the race factor for college. The only scenario where this really could backfire is if you’re White and Asian (especially East) in which case the race card might actually decrease your chances if you play into racism (since typically talking about anti-Asian racism is a bad PR move, especially at Elite colleges which already somewhat discriminate against Asian applicants). I think being biracial provides an excellent opportunity to showcase a unique perspective of powersonal growth which AOs will not see too often. You can talk about the struggle of not really fitting in to with race, having two very different extended families, language or cultural barriers, struggling to feel “too white” or “not X enough” or some other personal identity crisis related to your race. Again, I would keep it minimal on description and spend most of your time discussing the IMPACT and HOW YOU HAVE GROWN as a result of your experience with race. You could also discuss how that fits into your personal values towards BLM, Racism, etc, and how you feel your voice fits in or is categorized in the discussion around racial prejudice. I am white so I don’t really know too much about mixed-race people so I again apologize if I misspeak.

Hope this gives you some guidance!

[edited]
As for the first essay, I would be applying for STEM, so I see what you mean. For the third, I am mixed with Black, Latin, and Indian roots. Thanks for your input!
ahh ok that makes sense! i think you should go for the second topic. maybe also talk about the stigma of women in stem.
answered on
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I think you should write an essay on a topic with which you are most connected and is more personal..

Let admission officers know your personal story.. ethnicity one is good but mental health one will tell them more about you..!!

Rest is up to you..

But consider writing the one in which your personality portrays the best..