Here is my Common App essay. I tried to make it different, memorable, and slightly risky b/c admissions officers are swamped with thousands of essays that all sound the same.
1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story:
I shit my pants. It’s happened in front of friends, family, that cute girl who later became my girlfriend. It’s taken place during a cross country race, on the soccer pitch before a game, and right before swimming a 50-Free forcing me to step down and miss my race. To me, it’s a fact of life, an omnipresent little devil of a medical condition on my shoulder. Since seventh grade, I’ve been adapting to my ulcerative colitis. To me, it’s an ever-present haze of fatigue, an awareness of every restroom in my vicinity, an extra pair of shorts in my car, and over twenty different failed medications during the course of five years, but I cope. I remain patient; I know what can happen; I educate myself and those around me; I overcome.
I mention my disease not as a ploy, but as a “background. that is so central to [my] identity that [I] believe [my] application would be incomplete without it.” I hope not to misrepresent myself as a teenager tragically debilitated by some disease. As writer Firoozeh Dumas would put it, my colitis is merely one of the “spices in my kitchen pantry.” Most people would never know and never guess. I am usually thought of as that ‘first-generation, Russian/Jewish twin from Georgia who’s the captain of the cross country and soccer teams, perhaps, soon-to-be swim team captain, 3 year Class VP, school tour guide, has his name on a publication in Analytical Chemistry, and will likely be class valedictorian.’ But the colitis is nevertheless a fact of my life and being unable to avoid it, I have learned from it and come to understand its effects on my life while recognizing the nuances.
“Show versus tell” in college essays, that’s the name of the game, right? I’d rather not show you, as the deeply buried hipster in me says that’s too mainstream. Instead I’ll summarize the paragraph that I chose not to actually write, because here I can get away with telling rather than showing. Why? Because in the process, I’ll spare you some hogwash story depicting a boy in love with food who is desperately ripped away from the fare he loves by a ruthless colon disorder that shows no mercy. And here’s that summary, in reality, my disease isn’t that dramatic. No berries, no seeds, no red meat, no drugs, no alcohol, and no future as the next Anthony Bourdain eating my way around the world for this poor chap, but I’m a pretty damn lucky kid with infinite possibilities beckoning me to leap forward into the abyss.
As I look back on my essay, maybe ‘cope’ is not the right word. The definition serves my purpose, but the essence of the word doesn’t. Undoubtedly, I deal with the mild tribulation, but I like to think that I’m conquering the little devil. Hell, I may have to stop once or twice during the process, but I’m still running along. Albeit an awkward run, and the finish line remains far away- but thankfully I’m addicted to the thrill of running.