My older son has ADD and OCD and if I leave him alone for more than 20 minutes he is likely to start staering into space. Or doing one of his million OCDism that he probably wouldn’t want me to write about even though I think his best bet at getting into college is doing some sort of experimental film thing about repetition and delusion. After all, colleges want to know what makes you different from everyone else whose applying.

The essay demands that you find your most interesting self.
OCD is actually really interesting because a person is literally delusional about how it’s imperative to do their OCD thing.  My son will only drink out of certain faucets. It’s fascinating to me that he will die of thirst before drinking out of the wrong faucet. When we moved from the farm I thought it would be different – like now all faucets are equal. But each time we move he makes new faucet hierarchies.

This would be a great college essay – if he could overcome the problem. Redemption is so appealing. Vulnerability is appealing as well, but it is essentially writing about all the hard stuff without the redemption. Which is much more scary to the writer. Though of course it would set you apart in a college essay.

The essay is intrinsically rewarding – no matter who accepts you.
Kids might not like how hard it is to write a good college essay. But kids love the idea that what they write will really matter. Stanford discovered that students care more about their writing when they have an audience that matters. In case you’re wondering, Stanford students don’t think their teacher matters. Social media matters, because there’s a big audience. And college essays matter because there’s big impact.

Ironically the best college essays are about time outside of school. 
School teaches you to be like other kids. Meet other peoples standards. This won’t differentiate you so you can’t really write about it in the essay. The hardest part about getting into college is not the grades — those are sort of a commodity. The hardest part is the differentiator. And it takes a lot of time outside of school to figure out what makes you special and what feels most true to you.

I would like to write my son’s college essay. I’d like to write everyone’s college essay. But the joy in the college essay is discovering what’s different about you and your experience or point of view or voice. We are each special, but it takes work to know how. And that’s the most rewarding type of work we ever do.