Write a haiku, limerick, or short poem that best represents you. (NYU, 2009)

Oh please, NYU

College essays are stressful

Don’t make me do this.

I came across this article on CNN.com from a Mental Floss blog entry. It mentions some of the most unusual college essay topics from different applications over the years. The author is witty in her criticism and confusion over these essay questions; I decided to offer my more serious take on these questions from my point of view as an Educational Consultant.

Most college essays revolve around “Why X college?” or “Describe an experience/person/thing that is meaningful to you.” Though certainly helpful for admissions officers to get a sense of students (and helpful for students who can copy-paste the same essay into every application), these standard essay questions have become very routine for me and their outcomes often seem uninspired. These eleven topics (and many others like them), on the other hand, actually force students to think.

When discussing these essays with students here at Academic Access, we encounter thoughts and emotions that would remain untouched in most AP English essays. It is much more exciting to explore how kids think and feel when challenged with an essay of “What is college for?” or “Are we alone?”. Parents may try to have these deeper conversations during drives home from school or those “alone moments” over a sashimi appetizer, but they never seem to turn into anything.

When a university forces such a topic of conversation, however, it provides an opportunity to engage with students and tackle questions more important than “What did you do last summer and why?” Obviously each university having its own unique (and un-reuseable) set of essays can be a pain for students applying to college, but is it so wrong to set aside some time to think seriously (or humorously?) about where you will be in 2050, or how you really do feel about Wednesdays?