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What should you write a college essay on?

What should you base a college essay on if you’ve gotten in trouble in the past or have had bad grades and still want to get into a good college?

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Subject: Career question for you

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Keyston’s Answer

I'd suggest focusing on personal growth and determination. Share how challenges, like my own setbacks, have shaped you and motivated you to overcome. Highlight your strengths, resilience, and the steps you've taken to improve. Colleges appreciate honesty and the drive to succeed.
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Madisyn’s Answer

Hi Marissa,

Whether your college essay comes with a specific prompt or not, it's always a good idea to choose a subject that truly sparks your interest. By doing so, you'll not only demonstrate your writing prowess but also give colleges a glimpse into what excites you and what defines you as an individual.

Good luck!
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Nija’s Answer

Hello Marissa,

Your question is a fantastic one! I'm certain many of your peers are pondering the same thing: what exactly should be included in a college entrance essay? College essays do differ from the typical essays you've been writing in English or other classes. Sometimes, colleges may even ask specific questions that you need to address in your essay.

This is your golden opportunity to let the college understand who you are as an individual. It's perfectly fine to touch upon times when you made poor choices or faced difficulties. The key is to highlight how you managed to turn things around. You can share the kind of help and support you received during those challenging times.

You can also talk about the moment you realized you wanted to make positive changes and how you learned from your past mistakes. The college is eager to hear your transformation story, your achievements, what you've learned, why you're interested in their institution, and why you've chosen your particular major.

They want to understand how you've grown as a person, what matters to you, and what unique qualities you can bring to their campus. The key to a successful essay is to be genuine and true to yourself. Consider your college essay as a personal narrative or a snapshot of your life.

If you need additional help, don't hesitate to reach out to your Guidance Counselor, a teacher, a peer, or even a family member for assistance in writing and reviewing your college essay. I hope these suggestions provide you with some clarity as you embark on writing your college essay.
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Alan’s Answer

You should write your essay on you, what skills, ambitions and attributes you have that would be appealing to the colleges you're applying to. Since there's no way of avoiding the "trouble" you've had, the essay is your opportunity to help recruiters understand you, the person behind those troubles and grades. If you've faced hardships, write about them honestly, but make sure to take your share of responsibility and your desire and efforts to overcome them. Help them believe in you, which means that you have to believe in yourself first. You're asking them to take a chance on you, so give them good reasons. And make sure that the essay is well written and organized, as that alone will give them a sense of your seriousness and potential.
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Paul’s Answer

Conquering Challenges. Share a tale from your field that highlights how you triumphed over a hurdle. Detail the necessary steps and all the sweat, tears, and brainpower you invested into achieving your goal.
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Adriana’s Answer

What should you base a college essay on if you’ve gotten in trouble in the past or have had bad grades and still want to get into a good college?
This is a great question. Not everyone has a smooth time in high school. It is the experiences that you are able to write about, how you have matured, and what you have worked on to make life changes.
For example, if a student had fights in 9th grade and their grades were not great, you are able to write about the difficulting in adjusting in 9th grade. As you continue your high school years you get into less and less trouble which shows how you have matured and learned different ways to handle situations. This is just an example.
The question you have given 'us' is really yours to answer. What do you want colleges to know about you? How are you able to recognize the changes in your life and how you handle difficult situations? Take your time as you write. Proofread and try to have someone else look it over. Choose someone you trust, a teacher or guidance counselor.
Embrace the moment and believe in yourself.
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Imani’s Answer

Don't compare your journey to anyone else's. I grew up in NYC and I've had many friends who struggled with grades in HS, got into trouble, and did nothing with their lives and other's who are now lawyers. Colleges (especially now of days) does a great job of looking at full picture of students not just what's on an application. Talk about yourself in the essay and acknowledge the troubles you had, don't go into full detail but show how you are different now, talk about how much you've grown, and why you want to go to college. Even if you don't know yet what you want to be - that's okay too, but you do know you want to go to college to better yourself. Talk about your current interest and how you will make a difference in the world with those interest.
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Martha’s Answer

This is a thought-provoking question, Marissa. I looked at the Common App prompts for 2023-2024 - https://appsupport.commonapp.org/applicantsupport/s/article/What-are-the-2023-24-Common-App-essay-prompts - and you do have a choice about whether to address your past "trouble" there. If you do want to address it there, I would use Prompts 2 or 5 so the overall tone is positive.

If you don't want to address in the Common App essay, at least there used to be a "something else you want to tell us" question on the Common App that you could use to explain what happened and how you have grown since then. If the question is not there, colleges or universities will often have such a question in their supplement. Alternately, you could ask your guidance counselor or one of the people writing recommendations for you to address the situation.

I agree with the others that colleges appreciate honesty and evidence of careful reflection and growth in applicants. Good luck!
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