"Every applicant has a unique story. The essay helps bring that story to life," said Meredith Lombardi, Associate Director of the Outreach and Education department for The Common Application.
"Oh that? Yeah, don't worry about it." a friend of mine said. "I kind of just B.S.-ed mine. I mean, you're in high school. What can they expect you to have done anyways?"
"I wouldn't stress too hard over trying to be unique," that Duke student told me. "I mean, they're going to receive thousands of applications. It's nearly impossible to distinguish yourself from every single one of them. Just stay true to who are you."
I suppose it was comforting to listen to.
But the problem that I immediately ran into wasn't that I couldn't come up with anything to write about, but instead, it was that I had too many things to write about and couldn't find a way to narrow the list down.
The sad truth is that nothing in my life felt particularly incredible enough to become the golden chosen topic. I had no life-defining victory. There was no flashbulb moment. It was a battle of of mediocrity, with each of my ideas competing to see which was the least sleep-inducing one of them all. I switched my topic and rewrote my essays from scratch a total of three times.
Even so, once I began the actual writing, I went over word count by about twice the amount allowed as I desperately tried to shove as many of my amazingly basic talents and monotonous quirks in, as if adding more black and white would suddenly give the essay color. It didn't. It only became unblended and crammed with mentions of participation trophies.
I no longer knew where to go with it.
In school and in real life, being concise is a must. No one in your biology class really wants to listen to your 70 minute presentation on the mitochondria. No college application administrator or English teacher is going to want to read a 50 page biography on your life. Get to the point. Show us the highlights. And sit back down.
But if you're the kind of person who would rather read a two paragraph Google synopsis than see the actual movie, then you, my friend, are of a very strange species that I will never comprehend. In art, concision plays much less of a role. In art and books and films and plays and stories, we need a little less concision so that we can squeeze in another joke, so that we can slowly build the emotion, so that we can have a little more beauty in the fine details.
So I'd have to disagree with you, Ms. Meredith Lombardi, Associate Director for the Outreach and Education department of The Common Application, because there will be rarely any applicants that have "a unique story." Each and every applicant is instead a collection of stories
Obviously it's not at all practical to allow every student pages upon pages to express their creativity, and to be honest, despite how extremely stress-inducing it is, I actually think that it's quite nice of them to allow us a section for even doing so in the first place.
The topic that I ended up going with was far more vanilla than any of the essays you see on those "Essays That Worked" blogs ("vanilla" is actually a pretty good representation of my very cushiony life though), and the 650 word count limit in no way even captured a mere fraction of my life.
But I hope that at least some sprinkles of my voice stuck on alright.