If you’re a senior in high school and you’re anything like me, you’re probably freaking out a bit around now. The college application process is just… a lot. All the paperwork, the letters of rec, the standardized tests. And that Common App essay, the one you’ll have to send to every school you’re applying to, is at the center of it all. Everyone around you is telling you how important this essay is, how it’s your chance to “show the admissions officers who you really are.” But how on Earth are you supposed to pick a single topic that will capture everything you stand for—your dreams, fears, strengths, history?
Well, three years ago, my (bold? irrational?) high school senior-self thought that the best choice was…
Major disclaimer, I’m not an admissions officer, so I can’t say for sure how this essay affected my chances. Maybe they were charmed by my willingness to write about something utterly ridiculous, or (most likely) they were absolutely appalled but decided to give me a chance regardless. And to clarify, I didn’t just spend several hundred words dissecting Kim’s beef with Kourtney or her relationship with Kanye West. Instead, I tried to show that my appreciation of her business success when everyone else looks down on her actually reflected my willingness to dig beneath the surface of the things I encounter.
But I think the fact that I wrote about Kim Kardashian and was still allowed to come here at all says a lot about the freedom you have when picking a college essay topic.
As I started planning this blog post, I got curious about what other people wrote about, so I asked some of my friends. Their answers confirmed my suspicions. Some people wrote about serious experiences: overcoming challenges of immigration, attending low-income schools, finding success despite personal struggles at home. Other people wrote about more lighthearted topics, like math tests or scavenger hunts. At first glance, all these topics have no unifying theme. But each person wrote about something that fit perfectly with their character. That, really, feels like the most important thing.
It might go without saying, but my minor appreciation of Kim Kardashian doesn’t come even remotely close to capturing all of my thoughts, fears, struggles, and aspirations. Back in high school, I just liked to talk about the Kardashians sometimes. If I were to write a college essay right now, I’d probably pick a different topic. I think that’s kind of the point—that the essay you write is ultimately just one small snapshot of who you are, in this moment in time. If you write about something you did, or something you enjoy, or something you think about, you’re automatically fulfilling the prompt.
I think that when you’re writing your essay, it’s okay if you don’t distill your entire life story into 700 words. You won’t be able to. And, speaking from personal experience, in three years you might look back on what you wrote and think, what on Earth was I thinking? As with most things, perfection in the college essay is overrated and unattainable.
As Kris Jenner once told Kim Kardashian, “You’re doing amazing, sweetie!”