Listener Question – Should I Avoid Hot Button Items In My College Essay

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In today’s episode of “College Admissions Real Talk”, Dr. Legatt answers a listener question concerning college essays.

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VO: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk with Dr. Aviva Legatt, a podcast for students seeking to get admitted to top-tier colleges. Each episode will feature an important tip for your college admission success, delivered with candor and love. If you’ve ever wanted to take a peek inside the mind of a college admissions officer, this is your chance. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222-5762. So, what’s your dream school? 

AL: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk. This is Dr. Aviva Legatt, founder and Elite Admissions Expert at Ivy Insight and author of “Get Real and Get In”. Today, we are going to be talking about a listener question. Should I avoid hot button items in my college essay? So, let’s start out first by defining what a hot button item is. A hot button item could be something like politics, race, religion, disability status or sexual orientation. These are topics that at some dinner table wouldn’t fly, right? But in the college essay, they may or may not be appropriate and I’ll explain what I mean. When you’re talking about a hot button topic on a college essay, you really want to pay attention to how you’re discussing it and why you’re discussing it. So, remember, the purpose of your college essay, also known as a personal statement also known as a common application essay is to show off a story that reflects your character and your contribution. So, any of the items that I just mentioned that our quote “hot button” could be discussed on this essay. If the item that you are discussing has a story within it that reflects your character and your contribution. So, here’s some rules of thumb if you want to discuss a hot button item on your college essay. First, you want to make sure that you’re speaking from a specific first person and firsthand experience with that item. For example, if you talk about your experience living as a black gay person in an all-white heteronormative community. You should be a person who embodies those characteristics. You don’t want to talk about a neighbor with those characteristics. A classmate, a friend. This story should be about you personally; your own experience with it. Related to that, don’t speak in generalities about everyone’s experience. So if you have an experience as a female Jewish person in a predominantly Christian environment, you don’t want to talk generally about what Christian people think or believe or what Jewish people think or believe. You don’t know what other people are going through. And you can’t assume their beliefs based on limited observation. Next rule is if you’re discussing politics or religion, focus on your experience of these ideologies. Not on how your views are superior or better than others So, of course, in all of us, we have beliefs that we think are the right ones or that are the right ones for us. But in a college essay, you don’t want to be talking about why such and such religion is better than another or why your race is better or why your sexual orientation is better or why your political beliefs are better, right? You want to be talking about your experiences of it, your own narrative and not about your superiority or your perception of your superiority. and not about your superiority or your perception of your superiority. Related, don’t get too preachy with your views. Again, this essay is about your character and your contributions. Not a thesis statement about why everyone should think just like you. For a disability status, you might consider talking about this in the additional information section. Particularly if it affected your academic or extracurricular experience. If you’re talking about disability status, again, the question is, why are you talking about it? Is it to explain something that is inherent within your record? Or is it a story about your character in your contributions. So, in summary, the purpose of the college essay is to show off a story reflecting your character and your contribution. A hot button item could do the job to help you tell your story. Make sure that you’re speaking for firsthand experience and that you don’t reach your views over as superior to others. Take care.

VO: College Admissions Real Talk is hosted by Aviva Legatt, edited by Stephanie Carlin, and produced by Incontrera Consulting. I’m Caroline Stokes and this has been your daily boost of college admissions insight. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222- 5762. For more information on Dr. Legatt and Ivy Insight visit www.ivyinsight.com. And you can pick up Dr. Legatt’s book, “Get Real and Get In”, at major retail outlets across the world. Insight out.