You’ve received a hard copy packet with guidelines, a sample essay and details (packet). In brief, your assignment is as follows:
A. Develop four separate personal 600-650 word narrative essays based on the prompts, taken from college application essays, outlined in your packet
B. Create your own SixWord Memoir
Let me know if you have any questions!
Personal Narrative Prompts
- Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their college application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. “Identity” is at the heart of this prompt. What is it that makes you you? The prompt gives you a lot of latitude for answering the question since you can write about your “background or story.” Your “background” can be a broad environmental factor that contributed to your development such as growing up in a military family, living in an interesting place, or dealing with an unusual family situation. Your “story” could be an event or series of events that had a profound impact on your identity. However you approach the prompt, make sure you are inward looking and explain how and why your identity was influenced by your background or story.
- Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
This prompt may seem to go against everything that you’ve learned on your path to college. It’s far more comfortable in an application to celebrate successes and accomplishments than it is to discuss failure. At the same time, you’ll impress the college admissions folks greatly if you can show your ability to learn from your failures and mistakes. Be sure to devote significant space to the second half of the question what was your response to failure, and how did you learn and grow from the experience? Introspection and honesty is key with this prompt.
- Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
Keep in mind how open ended this prompt truly is. The “belief or idea” you explore could be your own, someone else’s, or that of a group. The best essays will be honest as they explore the difficulty of working against the status quo or a firmly held belief, and the answer to the final question would you make the same decision again need not be “yes.” Sometimes in retrospection we discover that the cost of an action was perhaps too great. However you approach this prompt, your essay needs to reveal one of your core personal values. If the belief you challenged doesn’t give the admissions folks a window into your personality, then you haven’t succeeded with this prompt.
- Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
I’m not a fan of the way this prompt is worded for it suggests that a single event or accomplishment can be so transformative that one becomes an adult overnight. Maturity comes as the result of a long train of events and accomplishments (and failures). That said, this prompt provides an excellent opportunity to explore a single event or achievement that marked a clear milestone in your personal development. Be careful to avoid the “hero” essay admissions offices are often overrun with essays about the season winning touchdown or brilliant performance in the school play. These can certainly be fine topics for an essay, but make sure your essay is analyzing your personal growth process, not bragging about an accomplishment.