Coalition Prompt 4: What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
When I first read through the five prompts students have to choose from to write their one personal statement essay for the new Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success application, this one popped out at me.
I bet it did the same for you.
Of the five prompts, Coalition prompt 4 tries to be more creative and relevant to a high school student.
And that’s great!
It’s more fun to try to think about what advice you would give someone younger than you. More interesting than writing about those more serious prompts about your character, volunteering and beliefs.
(Remember, you can also write about any topic you want based on the fifth “Topic of Choice” prompt.)
I have some trepidations about this prompt about teenage advice, however.
Even though it’s more playful and friendly in nature, I’m not convinced this prompt is the best of the five prompts to help you write your most effective personal statement.
I believe the main intent of Coalition prompt 4 is to get you to write about something specific you learned so far in your life, but the danger is your essay could turn out too general, and therefore dull to read.
That’s not to say it’s impossible to rock this prompt. Just be aware of the pitfalls.
If you want to give this prompt a go, it’s important to give your essay a sharp focus.
You don’t want to just provide straight answers, such as, “I would tell my younger sister that she needs to study hard and make sure to get along with everyone…”
I believe to write a powerful essay about this prompt you would be wise to first think about a significant lesson you learned, and then you can explain the related advice you would give to someone else about it.
In general, if you have advice to dish out, it’s usually because you learned something the hard way and don’t want anyone else to have to go through what you did.
To recall examples of the “hardest parts” of your teenage years, search your brain for some of the “bad” things that happened, which were either your fault, or where you were a victim of circumstances. Or look for “problems,” in the form of challenges, mistakes, failures, obstacles, set-backs, etc.
That way, you could start your essay by sharing what happened—which will make your essay engaging at the start—and then how you handled it and what you learned.
Then you can go onto include any advice you would pass on to a sibling or friend about what you learned.
Instead of writing an essay that tries to include many lessons you have learned, focus your essay on one key lesson, and what you learned.
Sample Outline for Coalition Prompt 4
- Start by describing an incident, moment or “time” you faced a problem.
- Give background to that problem; explain it.
- Describe how you handled it and what you learned.
- Share the advice you would give someone younger than yourself so they won’t make the same mistake.
- Explain how you imagine yourself using what you learned in your future endeavors.
This is just one approach to Coalition prompt 4, and there are unlimited other ways to write about it. Instead of writing about a teen problem, you could write about something you love about it. (To address the “best part” of being a teenager in Coalition prompt 4.)
For example, you could pick one thing you love about being a teenage, and what you would advise other teenagers to appreciate and take advantage of as well. To give this a focus, try to find an example in your life about this positive teenage benefit, instead of just talking about it in general terms. Or maybe think of something that you used to not like, but now like about being a teenager.
No matter what you end up writing about it, aim to make one point about yourself (based on one core quality, characteristic or core value) and something you’ve learned to give it a sharp focus.
If you really like this prompt, give it a shot and see if you like what you write. Have a little fun with it!
Check out How to Write a College Application Essay in 3 Steps for more ideas on getting started.