Can I expect wet eyes or rolled ones?
March 29, 2009 10:09 PM   Subscribe

College application essay about the challenges overcome in relation to one's sexuality: good or bad idea?

Would it give a slight edge in the form of the "minority boost?" Or would it just be seen as a melodramatic cliche? Specifically wondering about Stanford, so we're talking about a pretty liberal environment. Any input is welcome, regardless of your level of experience with the subject matter. Thanks.
posted by Gotham to Education (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Go for it. But if you're doing it for the "minority boost", then don't, because it won't, and it'll seem fake, contrived, and pointless.
posted by trotter at 10:16 PM on March 29, 2009

Good idea. My college essay was about a stint in drug rehab, and was probably the biggest benefit I got out of that particular $17,000 expenditure.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:20 PM on March 29, 2009

Do it. However, don't expect Stanford to be like "Hmmm... he's homosexual... we don't have any of those here. Sure could use one!"

It won't happen like that. As you say, they're pretty liberal. It's been done. However, if that topic really fits the prompt, it is your best bet. Don't do it because you think it will help. Do it because you think it's the right response to the prompt. If it is, it won't matter that the topic was your sexuality.

Best of luck to you. I'll be attending a large public university this summer for free (SAT scores and all that) or I would hope to be at Stanford this fall. Hope you get there! It's an amazing place.
posted by Precision at 10:25 PM on March 29, 2009

Emphasize the challenges met over the sexuality-based origin of the challenges and assuming they are significant, then it seems like a good topic. No Stanford experiences to draw from, but universities like to know that applicants know how to learn real lessons and have some real experiences seasoning their outlook on life.
posted by chudmonkey at 10:28 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

At the college I'm most familiar with, being out hasn't been exactly noteworthy for at least a couple of decades. Which is not to say that the admissions department would toss your application in the bin because they've seen it before, because, truth is, they've probably seen the themes in most college entrance essays before.

If you are writing about coming out because it's one of the defining events in your life, and major step on your journey to adulthood, then I (personally) don't see a problem. Your question though makes it sound like you might be choosing the subject because you think it will give you an edge. I don't think its a good idea, but Stanford's admission's department might eat that sort of shameless opportunism right up (I kid, I kid... a little).
posted by Good Brain at 10:30 PM on March 29, 2009

My first reaction was eyeroll, but it's still a better topic than "what my grandmother's death from cancer taught me about life." Let me guess, she taught you to live life to the fullest?

Write about what you love, not who you love. Write about the passion and excitement you will bring to your study of ________ at Stanford. What makes you different from every other 4.0 student out there?

Stanford is already a fairly diverse place; you essay needs to be about more than your "minority" status.
posted by betweenthebars at 10:55 PM on March 29, 2009

If it's a personal challenge and something that had an impact upon your family, relationships with others, etc then it's worth a shot.

I wrote my college admissions essay on becoming a vegetarian at age 13. It involved a sort of coming out in a different sense, and most family members regarding it as aberrant behavior or a phase.

I did get in everywhere I applied, so I suppose it worked.

Don't do it for "minority" advantage, because that won't even apply. If it's something you personally feel really passionate about, then go for it, because the passion will come through. If you're angling for "wet eyes", it might just come off very transparently.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:06 PM on March 29, 2009

The best college essay I've ever read was about how the person learned to like vegetables. I'm not kidding.

The reason it was the best, is because it was incredibly revealing and personal. (The applicant was forced to live away from her family for months. The people she lived with insisted that she try everything on her plate.) The applicant had an excellent application, but we always had far more excellent applicants than admissions slots. That small, personal essay revealed who she was and how she adapted to change.

My advice is don't try to be "impressive". If I had to read one more I'm-a-great-humanitarian-with-my-dad's-money essay, then I'd probably whack someone. If this was a major thing in your life that you can write about in a compelling way, then go for it.
posted by 26.2 at 11:57 PM on March 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

My first reaction is, "WAAAH! LIFE IS HARD! WAAAH!" But, that's not knowing any of the content of your essay. The thing is, overcoming challenges doesn't make you unique or special. That's being human. Be very careful not to make it about how you think that you're a victim, because that would indicate to me a student who needs to be coddled.

If you can frame in a way that is truly personal, then go for it. But if it's a generic essay about how the world still hasn't accepted homosexuality and Prop 8 passed and I'm not allowed to be in the army, then skip it - those things are debate topics and shouldn't be in a personal essay.
posted by paperzach at 2:02 AM on March 30, 2009

How funny! When I was applying to med schools, one of Stanford's questions was "How would you add to our diverse culture at Stanford," and being an otherwise white, blond hair, blue eyed not terribly cultural guy, I took the risk and said how being gay was a challenge and struggle at times, but how it would ultimately make me a better doctor. One of the best things I've ever written, because it came from the heart.

Graduated from Stanford Med last year.

I would have no qualms about writing about coming out, or being LGBT, but like others said, make it a unique story. There's plenty of 'mos at Stanford already.

It won't give you a "minority boost," but it will certainly show them that you're different. Don't use it to say how hard your life has been, because everyone has had challenges; use it to tell them how it's affected your worldview, values, and interests. How it changed you.
posted by gramcracker at 5:39 AM on March 30, 2009

Chudmonkey has it. In the applications I read for my university, we're told to look for how students approach the challenge, not what the challenge is. We're looking for students who have a positive reaction, do not blame others, and attempt to learn something/grow from the challenge. That's a simplification of it, but that's what gets a student higher points on the essay.
posted by bibbit at 5:40 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

The essay portion is always the only 'voice' in an application. Almost everything else is data. Like several posts before me, I get a little tired of the 'why I'm going to be a good pick for your school' essays. Applicants who can convey something about themselves, their lives or their plans with genuineness and in just a few short paragraphs always get my highest rating. Keep in mind that at many schools (I read apps at MIT), the essay is more icing on the cake than substance to the admissions reader. A good essay isn't going to raise your GPA or SAT scores. If your academic profile says you aren't a fit, your essay isn't going to be the tipping point.
posted by birdwatcher at 6:27 AM on March 30, 2009

It would be one of 50 or 100 essays on exactly the same subject. You are more likely to get eye rolls not our of prejudice but because honestly from their perspective it is an incredibly cliche subject that I would imagine they are tired of reading about. Find something that actually sets you apart from other people and write about that.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:55 AM on March 30, 2009

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