You are here:

Help with College & Grad School Applications/Is this bizarre experience a good topic for an admissions essay

Advertisement


Question
Hi, I'm applying to UIUC and the prompt is: How have your past circumstances and experiences(such as your upbringing, community, and/or activities) impacted who you are, your future goals, and your choice of major?

They're looking for very diverse students. I'm gonna do premed course work. I'm applying undecided because I'm not sure what to major in for my undergraduate degree. I'll mention my varied interests and talents (I love physics and math, in addition to psychology and neuroscience) as that is what DGS is looking for. I hope this essay can make me look special.

***********************

So here is the idea:

My mom had severe psychiatric issues, bipolar disorder, multiple personality disorder, OCD. My family and I moved to Jordan (middle east) when I was 10 (I'm the oldest of 4). My dad stayed in the US and visited annually.In Jordan my mother's illness was looked upon as demonic possession (She also believed it). At home we had pretty bizarre sessions of "exorcism", she tried suicide multiple times, all this lasted for about 9 years (2003-2011). I'm gonna write about one of the sessions in a story like way from the child me, what he thought was happening (different) and what he learned. As a child I had huge responsibilities and challenges which really made me stronger and taught me how to deal with problems (I had to take care of 2 younger sisters and a brother which was still a year old, in addition to my mom; the house; and school work) . I'll show how curiosity grew in me and how I gained interest in the way the brain works and psychology.

I'm gonna show it as a learning experience and not appear to be complaining or asking for pity.
I want to be a psychiatrist so I can really study people and help those like my mother.

*So what do you think?

Thanks.

I tried to show cultural diversity in my other essay, check it out if you want:D

Http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-essays/1413843-do-you-think-good-ide

Answer
Thank you for writing.  I am impressed by your determination and dedication in the face of adversity.  Writing about family problems can be tricky.  As you know, there remains a stigma around mental health problems.  The statistic for the children of parents with mental health issues are conflicting and for this reason I prefer that my students do not write about such problems in their essays.  It is perfectly fine to be vague "My mother suffered from a chronic illness which haunted her, and our family, for many years."  Never use "gonna" in formal correspondence. Do not hesitate to write your essay to pull on emotions of the admissions committee.  It would be to your benefit to research the faculty in the possible departments in which you would like to major.  Research the students who are farther along in the program to see their accomplishments.  You want to build a profile in your mind of the type of student this university is seeking.  I also want you to apply to several universities.  Please look at the Common Application and the Universal Application.  It is always a good practice to keep your options open. It is entirely possible that one university might offer you more financial aid than other.  Cultural diversity can be a good topic (I do not review essays through allexperts) as long as it underscores your ability to effectively relate to people from other cultures and demonstrate your ease in adapting to new environments.

I wish you the best! -Karen

Help with College & Grad School Applications

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Karen Dechman

Expertise

As a Harvard graduate with almost 20 years of experience, I can accurately answer questions on how to be competitive in the admissions and scholarship process. I can also answer questions on achieving academic excellence in high school/college and how to obtain excellent internships for future employment success. You will need to visit the websites of the schools of your interest to learn the answers on specific questions, such as expected SAT scores or deadlines. I will not advise on athletic scholarships.

Experience

Since 1997, I have been helping students to reach their professional goals by helping them to understand how to successfully operate within high school and college environments. These environments have seen a dramatic change over the past twenty years, making them far more competitive. In turn, I have helped students learn how to shop their professors, create internships and identify extra-curricular activities that will distinguish them in both admissions and scholarship situations. I also work with military academy and graduate school applicants.

Organizations
Harvard Club of DC, Board of Directors Harvard Club of Virginia, President US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Director of Research John Tyler Community College, Department Head, Student & Community Activities White House, Volunteer

Education/Credentials
East Carolina University, 1992 Harvard University, 1998

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.