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Common App Essay feedback??

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We are down to the wire on our applications.  My son has really struggled writing his essay, but he has a fairly honest draft completed.  Can you critique it and help him trim 27 words from it? 


Here is the prompt he is using:

Option #1: Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.


ETA:  Editting out the essay since someone alerted me (Thanks, Barbara) to the danger of plagiarism and being accused of it since the pages are indexed by Google.  If you are willing to help, please PM me and I will send you the essay. 


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I actually like it. Here are a few points that struck me:

I liked the introduction, which seemed a way to introduce himself. However, that abruptly stopped after "sister's", and the next sentence was completely unrelated to the beginning. I would have been interested to hear why he is different not just in appearance, but in his homeschool experience, views, family background, etc. The intro left me wanting more and I did not get it.

At the end, he characterizes himself as a liberal science lover - maybe that contrast would fit well with the beginning.


He paints a very clear picture of his education. He should remove the quotation marks around "high school" - because it IS high school, and the quotation marks make it appear as if he does not consider it as serious.

He is writing about independent learning and self-directed learning in two separate sections. I understand what he means, but I would choose a different wording for "self-directed learning" - that sounds so like an educational buzzword. Instead, maybe he can use his own voice and tell that he was able to follow his interests, learn things just because,. I like the examples, but the way he describes his experience:



My sophomore year, I chose to drag my night-owl rear end out of bed on Saturday mornings for ten weeks to take the Saturday Morning Physics Program at Fermilab


does not match the style and voice of the overall essay: it sounds as if he is trying very hard to insert colloquialism where a simple "I chose to get up early" would have sufficed.



On the flip side independence,


is there an "of" missing?




I’m not some antisocial shut-inIt’s not that I don’t have any friends; it’s just that I don’t see them often due to distance.  I am involved in group activities such as literature club, karate, and 4-H


Again, the voice seems forced to be colloquial and is incongruous with the rest of the essay. I would omit the first sentence entirely and the first half of the second one, i.e all the bolded: he could simply say "I do, however, have good friends, I just don't see them often...."

I do not like the wording "I am involved in group activities" in the essay, that sounds formal and stilted. No teen would say that in a conversation, YKWIM? Find a somewhat lighter, less application-form-sounding phrase. Maybe he could omit the "see them often..." part entirely, because it is not really that important, and condense the sentences into something like: "I do have, however, have good friends, and enjoy participating in literature club, karate and H-4." That sounds more like it is something he really wants instead of something that is good for you".


I did not find, on quick reading, any obvious language mechanics errors.


For cutting words: omit "and formation" in the last paragraph and "during my freshman year"/"during my sophomore year" where he talks about math and physics - it is not important in the contexts, and they can see the year from the transcript.


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