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Is this topic appropriate for a Secondary essay?

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alison92

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I'm having some doubts on my chosen topic for the common "What challenges have you faced?" essay on secondaries. I wrote about my experiences with my parents' pretty unstable relationship, and how this has affected me and shaped my life outlook. This has been a pretty big challenge in my life, but I'm concerned that adcoms don't really want to hear about bad family relationships, or that it might be awkward to read about it. I didn't go into too much detail about the situation and focused mainly on how it has affected me, but I'm still not sure about the topic itself. Any advice/thoughts? This essay prompt appears in practically all of my secondaries so I want to make sure I'm not making a mistake by choosing to write about this!
 

Goro

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I think you can do better.


I'm having some doubts on my chosen topic for the common "What challenges have you faced?" essay on secondaries. I wrote about my experiences with my parents' pretty unstable relationship, and how this has affected me and shaped my life outlook. This has been a pretty big challenge in my life, but I'm concerned that adcoms don't really want to hear about bad family relationships, or that it might be awkward to read about it. I didn't go into too much detail about the situation and focused mainly on how it has affected me, but I'm still not sure about the topic itself. Any advice/thoughts? This essay prompt appears in practically all of my secondaries so I want to make sure I'm not making a mistake by choosing to write about this!
 

lurking892

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@Goro does this mean that writing about family situations is not the greatest idea? I wrote my challenge essay about coming to terms with my sibling's Down's syndrome, how I received emotional support from my parents and how I will draw from my experiences when caring for patients in the future (FWIW I have continued to work with disabled people in college). Do they prefer a concrete challenge that you have overcome? (I honestly can't think of any other challenges that would be worth writing about.)

Sorry for the thread hijack! I've just also been wondering about the relevance of my topic.
 

Goro

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I think writing about dysfunctional family situations is OK, but it has to have had a major effect on your life (like, say, mom left when I was five and I was raised by a single dad; my dad was cheating/an alcoholic/mentally abusive). Maybe OP left out important details but his/her prompt left me "meh".

Your example directly relates to caring for others and so is an excellent basis for any essay.

@Goro does this mean that writing about family situations is not the greatest idea? I wrote my challenge essay about coming to terms with my sibling's Down's syndrome, how I received emotional support from my parents and how I will draw from my experiences when caring for patients in the future (FWIW I have continued to work with disabled people in college). Do they prefer a concrete challenge that you have overcome? (I honestly can't think of any other challenges that would be worth writing about.)

Sorry for the thread hijack! I've just also been wondering about the relevance of my topic.
 

BeancheBlanco

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I would definitely not do this. It could draw red flags towards you (you might sound bitter, angry towards parents, etc.) and this essay has so many better opportunities. It's one of the most generic prompts so you should probably write about something that involved your extracurricular activities where you ended up learning and helping others. Did you find any parts of your extracurricular activities challenging at the start? Maybe when working with people from very different backgrounds than yourself.
 

hmockingbird

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I feel like this might be questionable just because IMO, it would be better to pick something where you can show a) how it had a direct effect on you or some clear problems you faced and b) concrete steps to how you overcame those obstacles. They want to see your problem solving and coping skills. I don't necessarily think this is a bad idea if you can come up with something that fits, but (although I know it affected you) it's kind-of your parents' problem, and it might be better to show how you "solved" an issue yourself even if it's not THE most challenging thing you have been through. After seeing Pritzker's secondary question (at least when I applied) asking about your coping strategies for a challenging situation, I kind-of decided schools have this prompt not to hear about your sob stories but for you to show that you are flexible, have good problem-solving skills, and can cope with stress... so I'd pick something that demonstrates that.

Also, I would tend to go for something more recent over something long in the past, just because it shows more of who you are now.
 
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