What would you say for someone who’s life has been primarily spent playing sports writing an essay not specifically about sports but what they have learned? Would writing an essay like this be advised against if the majority of my common app activities are sports related?
Hi Matt! It’s great to hear from you. It is pretty much industry standard advice that no senior should be writing any college essay about sports. I am so sorry. I know this is not what you wanted to hear, but I must tell you the truth, and the reasons are really very good:
Every sports essay sounds exactly the same, and in college essays, you want to stand out.
Every sports essay I have ever read goes a little something like this: “My coach pushed me harder than I imagined possible, I wanted to quit but didn’t, my diverse teammates and I became like family, at some point we were down but didn’t give up, and in the end we: A. won at the last minute, or B. lost and learned so much.”
I do not mean to trivialize what has certainly been a wonderful, rich, and rewarding part of your life, but I must tell you the truth that there is virtually no way to distinguish yourself when you tell a story that millions of other students can tell exactly the same, with just as much heart and sincerity. Plus, you are more than any one aspect of your life. You really are.
In addition, if you did write this essay, a sports essay, you run the tremendous risk of an admissions rep even seeing keywords like “ball”, “court”, or “jersey” and just closing the file and moving on, thinking that sports is all you can do or ever think about, which certainly isn’t true.
So, to that end, I would encourage you to think about the other aspects of your personality, as surely they exist, too! Think about what makes you different from your teammates. Do you have a morning ritual? Do you have a favorite pen? Have you ever milked a cow? Do you know how to fish for crabs, or build your own birdhouse? Part-time job? Time your car broke down and neighbors saved you? The night the lights went out? The day the sun rose when you thought it just might not? Why your dog is surely the silliest creature of all time? What you learned from befriending your postman? I encourage you to think about what matters to you, what shows your heart and your values and your mind. Where do you go to recharge? What do you do to keep believing in the beauty of this world? When was the last time you surprised yourself? What would you fight for? And can you fight for a cause without making enemies; can you somehow unite people?
And, you can always write about any time you learned or grew.
Your goal in this essay is not to account for how you have spent your time, but to convey a little about the mind and heart you have been developing, every day, from breakfast cereal to bedtime routine. 🙂
I hope this helps, dear Matt!
PPS–Download my new (free) phone app and that will walk you through building a really strong application for college. It’s for kids in grades 8-12 and gives you a personalized timeline to prepare for, select, and apply to colleges. I talk in there about essays and extra curriculars.