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The Insider: College Admissions Advice from the Experts is where College Coach experts weigh in on the latest college admissions topics.We cover everything from application timelines and strategies to tips on financing your child's education.If you spend ten minutes brainstorming and are struggling to identify a major failure in your life, then you should probably move onto another topic.
Otherwise, colleges will wonder whether you’ve actually learned anything at all.
Ian Fisher is an experienced educational consultant, part of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts.
Follow through The payoff for this essay comes from your response to failure, so don’t make the mistake of tacking on a mere one-paragraph “moral to the story” at the end of a lengthy description of your failure.
Notice that the prompt asks you to recount both how you were affected and what lessons you learned, but there’s no requirement you wait until the final paragraph to begin to address these questions.
It’s as bad as saying in an interview that your biggest weakness is that you work too hard.
Own it Once you’ve identified the event that will be the subject of your essay, fully commit to it.This isn’t some trap that the Common App has laid for unsuspecting students, nor is it an opportunity for you to score extra humility points with an admission office.It is, however, a prompt that requires care and thoughtfulness in its execution.It’s a Personal Statement, not a statement There are certain categories of failure that are relevant for a personal statement: missing an opportunity to defend a friend in need, losing an election, running a bad race, or making a false assumption about a new classmate.These failures are connected to your academic or extra-curricular self, and are the elements of your personality that are relevant to your candidacy for admission.Be your present self throughout your essay, relating the tale of your past self with the maturity that you’ve gained in the wake of the event.Too many students betray immaturity by reflecting on their failure superficially, or with a tone of entitlement, which is one of many college application essay writing pitfalls.If you’re writing about the time you were dumped by your girlfriend or got caught sneaking out at night, you’ve selected the wrong topic for your essay.You want this piece of writing to be a net positive for you, and showing poor judgment on the incident you choose to highlight can be even more damaging than poor execution.Do we rise to the occasion anyway, or do we mope about how it should have been us? You can showcase this by admitting to college admissions that you are not perfect. You have taken the time to deal with adversity by bettering yourself in some way. Failing at something—and acknowledging fault as our own—is a learning opportunity.