When writing the college essay, students are asked to dig deep inside themselves and identify the most meaningful aspect of their life or personality. Oftentimes, when a student is searching for the “most important moment of their life,” they land on a traumatic event.
This isn't unsurprising, as humans are often shaped by their traumatic events and remember them in great detail. But is it always a good idea to write about a traumatic event, or “trauma dump” in a college essay? Will your admissions reader appreciate your openness? Or will they feel uncomfortable? Let’s explore some ways to effectively write about trauma in your college essay.
Don’t just trauma dump.
When writing about trauma, be sure to include how you felt because of that experience. What did you do to cope with those feelings? How did you overcome them? Simply writing about your trauma will not showcase any of your positive traits, which is what colleges are really looking for. Instead, be sure to discuss how the trauma affected you as a person, and what you did to move past it. This will illustrate your introspection and resilience.
Emphasize Your Growth
Similarly, it's important to emphasize that you are currently at a point of healing from your trauma. Colleges want to know that you're resilient and able to learn from difficult situations. Connect your hardships to related goals or social issues you're passionate about to show that your own past inspired you to change the future for others. ES.AI's College Application Essay Tool specializes in these kind of connections.
Consider how writing about this topic makes you feel
If rehashing your darkest trauma is something that may be upsetting or triggering to you, it might be smart to consider writing on a new topic all together. Writing a college essay is not nearly as important as taking care of your mental health. If you still choose to write about a traumatic topic, remember to be mindful of how you feel while writing it. Self-care strategies include taking breaks, going on walks, and speaking with someone you trust.
Be straight forward
When addressing the main issue, or root of your trauma, address it in a straightforward manner. Don't dwell on excessive negative details. A vivid description of something extremely traumatic may upset your reader, especially if they have gone through something similar. Instead, be clear and concise about the issue, and explain how you learned to deal with it.
Ultimately, writing about trauma in your college essay can be a risk, but if done with thought and care, it can make for a great college essay. It can be beneficial to discuss how you will apply the strategy you learned from dealing with trauma to your future career or life at university. However, if the topic is too upsetting for you to talk about, choose something else! With college app season on the way, you already have enough to stress about, so remember to prioritize your mental health during this time. If you do feel stressed or anxious about starting your college essay, ES.AI’s College Application Tool can help you brainstorm, outline, and edit your story for best results.