Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills


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College Essay Topics: Try A “Mindful” Day

Today I found college essay writing inspiration in the New York Times ‘Dining & Wine’ section. The article is about Mindful Eating.

The idea, from Buddhist teachings, is to place a forkful of food in your mouth. Then put your fork down. Chew slowly. Take the time to experience the pleasure of what you’re eating. As the writer says, “the texture of the pasta, the flavor of the cheese, the bright color of the sauce in the bowl, the aroma of the rising steam.”

This is called mindful eating.

Most of us eat pretty mindlessly. We’ve got our hand in a bag of chips, or we’re snatching something off the counter or shoveling that next bite of food into our mouths. Before we know it, it’s been swallowed and forgotten. 

That got me thinking about the other mindless things that fill our lives.

What else do we do that’s mindless?

Plenty. I’m just as guilty as anyone, starting from getting up in the morning, to plowing through lunch, to surfing the internet and talking on the phone and watching tv all at the same time.

How about you? Do you text and talk and do homework and listen to music at the same time? Do you rush from home to school to sports to dinner? Do you really pay attention when you say hi to people? Or listen to what they say back?

What if you didn’t speed through your days?

What would you notice? What would you see or hear or taste or appreciate that you don’t even think about now?

Live a mindful day.

Try it. Slow down. Be mindful about what you’re doing and saying. What do you notice? What do you appreciate? How did you live this day differently? How might it change your future days?

The answers might just make a great college essay topic. If you stop and think about it.

Sharon Epstein, FIrst Impressions College Consulting..Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting
Need help? I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, and by computer. Visit my website for more info.

Leave a comment — let me know what you think.

related posts:
Looking For Ideas for Your College Application Essay? Look Behind You
Writing College Application Essays: How to Choose a Topic


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“Can I Write About Abortion?” and Other Controversial Application Essay Subjects

A few days ago a student I was working with from Stamford asked me if she could write about abortion.  Half an hour later she was back on the phone asking if she could write about drugs.

Should you write about controversial subjects in your college application essay? I don’t recommend it. You don’t know who’s reading your essay. He or she might have a real problem with the subject matter or the side of the topic you decide to take. You just don’t know. Why take the risk when the process is already so competitive?

If you still want to go ahead, you have to cover your subject matter maturely, from both sides. That’s not to say you can’t have your own ideas. You can and you should. But there’s no room for petulance.

Why, by the way, are you writing about this subject? Are you passionate about it? Do you have a personal experience dealing with it? Does it somehow reflect (or affect) your sense of self in the world,  your sense of right and wrong? I asked the young woman who called me, and she gave me an interesting answer. She said that lately some of her struggles with her parents had been over their differing ideas of right and wrong. She extrapolated from that, and ended up at abortion and drugs.

What had happened was the student started with a personal experience, and then, feeling she had to have a “big topic,” chose one that she actually had very little connection to.  The connection she had was to her own experience, her own sense of right and wrong. I asked her to think about that and perhaps develop it into what could be a compelling essay — a true personal statement.

Every college essay has to reflect the writer — who you are, your interests, your goals and personality.  If you’re going to write about a controversial subject you’re taking a risk. But ultimately the subject has to boil down to you.