I need some advice…

Okay, folks. I want some honest feedback.

Here’s the description of one of the essays for the Columbia application:

“In a short autobiographical essay, tell us about yourself. You can write about your family, your education, your talents or your passions; about significant places or events in your life; about books you have read, people you have met or work you’ve done that has shaped the person you have become. Our only requirements are that the essay be informative, well written and reflective of your own voice; our only cautions are that you avoid poetry, purple prose or writing about yourself in the third person.” 

The essay has a 750 word limit (that’s about three pages double spaced). I am stuck. Things I’ve tried that have fallen flat:

  • something about how I’ve always kept a diary/journal
  • something about finding yourself
  • something using a quote as a starting point
  • something about my education and my route to be a journalist (but the second essay is about how you came to journalism so i think I should avoid this one)
I’ve got pretty much nothing, but I do have a sorta idea. I don’t know where to go with it, though:

“What’s being a fitness instructor got to do with being a good journalist? I’ve wondered this many times, especially as I’ve set my alarm for another 6am spinning class and rushed from class in time to teach a yoga class to a group of stressed out fellow students. The answer is plenty. Like journalists, fitness instructors always need to be at their best. They need to scope out what’s going on, act quickly, and be willing to talk to strangers. They need to constantly come up with new ideas, stay educated, and network in their field. On a more practical level, fitness instructors and journalists alike must be energetic and willing to work long, often strange hours. Both must be passionate about what they do in order to make it in their industries.”

Too casual? Too far-fetched? Too hard to elaborate on? Do you have any tips? Maybe an idea of how to organize this? You know I’m desperate and suffering from writer’s block here. Blechhhhhhh. Maybe I should have started with something easier on my to do list…looks like it’s almost bed time without anything checked off…again!

I thought also maybe I could do something about a race in triathlon without getting too cheesy. I went so far as to google tips on how to write a good autobiographical essay and found some decent advice:

“Instead of writing about topics that are cliché or canned (like canned goods that are ready to be opened and used), think deeply into your experiences—what events throughout your life have shaped how you think and act today.”

…my eating disorder? my life crisis and quitting lululemon/becoming an editor at the gazette? I think these are kinda downers, don’t you?

What would you write about if you had 750 words to describe something important about you? 



6 responses to “I need some advice…

  1. They want to know the real you and if 750 words is a limit, then do not try to reach it. Capture their attention.

    Type your first draft as a reply comment below to the following two related questions. Focus on these two specific points in time (in this order):
    What did it feel like to try on your first wet suit?
    How did you decide to purchase one?

    For now, you’re answering me in a rough draft on aspects of the event about which I do not think you have written in this blog; if we like it, then you get to polish it. Whichever case, I’ll learn something about tri’s.

  2. Wow. That doesn’t sound like an easy task to me! I think the ideas mentioned by the above commenter sound awesome. I think either a) something deep like ED or b) something precise like teaching a spin class.

    (Or you could totally not listen to me since I know nothing about journalism and my feelings will definitely not be hurt lol)

    Good luck!

  3. This is your chance to tell them something that isn’t on your application. Let your personality shine through; let them know who you are. Your idea is cute, but it it’s a comparison of two fields instead of an autobiography.

    Boy, those applications sure are fun!

    I’m glad you like the medal hanger idea.

    • Thanks! I can’t think of a way to sum it all up in 750 words. I could write about trail running. I could do the spin class idea. I am really stuck here. Sounds like you’ve written one before?

      For someone as narcissistic as I am, it should be easy to write about myself, right? Just kidding, but you’d think keeping a blog would make this whole thing seem a little less daunting…

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