I've seen a lot of great student questions on college forums, and I thought they would make for some helpful blog posts. I'll respond to at least a few of these!

Student Question

"Any thoughts on writing about overcoming a speech impediment to get a big public speaking position?"

My Response

Here's my main question for you: How will you surprise the reader?

What you're describing is a huge accomplishment, which is great. But the challenge with these essays is that it's not enough to write something true. That won't distinguish you from other applicants who, for example, have also overcome obstacles to achieve something. You have to write something that is both true and memorable. For your essay to be memorable, you have to tease out an aspect of your story that is unexpected.

Here's what I mean. Based on what you've described, I'd expect your essay to have these elements: 1. You had a speech impediment. 2. Other kids made fun of you / you had trouble in school. 3. You worked really hard to overcome your speech impediment. 4. You showed you conquered your speech impediment by doing public speaking.

It's all true, but it's not surprising (but again, that's not to say it's not a great accomplishment, which it is). To make your story memorable, you might spend some time thinking about how your story is unconventional. Maybe what made the speech impediment bad is something we might not expect? Maybe going through the process gave you some kind of insight into communication / relating to people / understanding of people we might not expect? If you can describe a moment or two where your story veers off the expected path, you'll have a better chance of making your essay stand out!

Final Thoughts

If you thought today's post was helpful, please share it with your friends. Good luck writing!


Jon Perkins holds a B.A. in English from Stanford University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He helps students with their college, law school, and medical school applications.