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College Essay Taboos: Can I Curse? Can I Write about Sex, Drugs, or Mental Health?

hello my name is Stacy Brooke and I am the founder and chief advisor at college essay advisors and today I am going to be busting some myths about taboo subjects and elements in your college admissions essays now a lot of people like to define rules about what you can and cannot do in admissions essays you absolutely cannot do this or you always should do that we here at CEA don’t believe in rules at least not in that way you know we believe that there is a lot of personal context involved in decision making a lot of the things that people say you can’t include in an essay or can or should involve personal judgment calls so we believe more in some guidelines that you should probably follow okay so in the spirit of debunking some of these college essay myths we’re gonna attack a couple of taboos one at a time and talk about why you should or shouldn’t include certain things in her essay a taboo number one using curse words so generally speaking we usually advise students to use a pretty conversational tone in their admissions essay but also one that’s polished I think you want to imagine that you’re talking to a teacher with whom you’re really familiar or maybe an extended family member that’s the kind of tone you want to strike so keeping this in mind if it’s not something you want to say to madam French teacher it’s probably not something that you want to put in your admissions essay if it’s not something you would say to Grandma it’s probably not something you want to put in your admissions essay that said there are always exceptions sometimes if you are trying to develop a character if crazy relative or you know if a feisty grandma dropped something on the floor and oh maybe that’s something that would actually be kind of fun and helpful for a reader to understand maybe the use of one curse word will actually replace the paragraphs worth of description in order to sort of give a reader a sense for who someone you’re trying to describe really as and the kinds of things they would say maybe you know for the challenging a belief or idea prompt for the common app if you’re if you’re standing up for for someone who you think maybe was mistreated and and involved you know the use of curse words in some way maybe that actually is something that’s going to be super relevant and important for context and in that case maybe it is worth it to you know to include a curse word most of the time the curse word probably shouldn’t be in the context of the essay coming out of your own mouth but again all of these exceptions to the rule maybe your essay has something to do with the first time you ever let a curse word slip in front of your parents you know it’s on a case-by-case basis and we’re gonna continue to say this over and over in this video you’re gonna evaluate the scenario decide whether or not you think it’s worth you know taking a risk like using a curse word if you’re unsure ask for a second opinion but these are some of the scenarios the ones we’ve just discussed in which you might actually be able to use this as a device when most people say you can’t have ooh number two talking about drugs alcohol violence and sex or decks as we just decided to call it five minutes ago generally speaking discussing your personal experience with any of these four things is probably not a good idea but again there are exceptions and a lot of them just like with curse words are going to be contextual you know it does alcohol come up in the sense of in the context of your family background you know is a family member who’s an alcoholic play a role in your story for example same thing with violence if that’s you know part of where you came from and you find it necessary to include it for for storytelling purposes you know that’s something that that might potentially be appropriate to address mind you none of these things are things that you actually have to include in your essays a lot of the things that we’re discussing right now are a really private and you don’t have to put those things on display but if you do find yourself gravitating towards a story that involves any of these sensitive subjects they are things you can consider as long as you use them sensitively just like with curse words as we talked about earlier um as far as as sex the subject of sex goes most of the time OMG TMI like your admissions officer does not want to know I can’t believe I have to say this but it’s been done before about your the loss of your virginity that is something you do not need to tell them even if it was a purgative experience if you wouldn’t share with your grandmother you shouldn’t share it with your admissions officer but again sex does have its exceptions in terms of where you might actually want to include it and in admissions I say like if some crazy story went down in the sex ed class or if you want to try and approach common app number three again about challenging a believer idea there are something about societal norms as they relate to gender or sexuality that you might want to discuss you know that might be another place where it would actually be appropriate to bring sex into your admissions essay so the third and final taboo we’re gonna address today is whether or not you should address any mental health issues in your US and I just want to start by saying that mental health issues are real they are they’re serious they affect your life and you know they can be very challenging and and defining elements of your existence so just in terms of how you define yourself in general it makes sense that you would gravitate towards wanting to talk about this I think the thing that you really want to consider the most is is this the thing that you want admissions to define you by and maybe it is maybe maybe you have been struggling with an eating disorder or have struggled with an eating disorder in the past and it’s inspired your path to become a nutritionist maybe overcoming this challenge has really helped you grow in a way that will be easy to illustrate for admissions and and show them your strengths and your triumphs generally speaking if you’re going to try and tackle mental illness in your essay you just really want to try and focus on your triumphs not just your struggles and and I think you have to really consider carefully again is this the element of my personality that I want to stand out the most for admissions your you’re a human with diverse interests and a ton to offer to the world and probably a lot of things that are interesting about you is there something else that you might want admissions to see first so in conclusion there are no rules there are just guidelines and a lot of things that have been labeled as taboo may actually be usable and and helpful in the context of your admissions essay a lot of the decisions you’re going to make in terms of whether or not you include things like curse words and stories about mental are gonna have to do with careful consideration of the subject matter at hand is including these things really going to drive your story further can your story exist without them you know again is there how much does including these elements and taking these risks add to the overall product and if you’re unsure asks for a second opinion almost every one of the examples that I gave you today was you know just based in an example from students we dealt with who we’ve advised on a case-by-case basis and every scenario that comes to us from here on in we’re gonna do the same thing just sort of consider all of the elements and whether or not these are risks worth taking so you should take the same approach so your life story is your life story and in the end you’re gonna want to be able to honestly communicate what your experience has been like and sometimes using some of these elements that have been categorized as taboo is going to help you do that so what you’re gonna want to do is just use your best judgment ask for a second opinion when you feel like it’s necessary and it’s usually a good idea to ask for a second opinion about these things and and you’re really just going to be trying to find a balance between being honest and also writing something that feels appropriate for the occasion and ultimately you can and will find the balance that’s right for you thank you so much for sticking with us through all of these tips and Mythbusters about taboos and we are going to come at you with more tips and more myth-busting and more a lot of things probably all related to the college admissions essay which you are interested in because you have to write one of those soon now come back to us subscribe to our channel leave us comments below if you have any questions anything specific about something that you’re trying to write then might be taboo and we’re excited to give you more information and thanks for watching again you

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