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Coalition App essays: The “being a teenager” prompt

This post is another in my series on how to address the college application essay prompts from the Coalition App. This year, you have five prompts from which to choose as an anchor for your essay. Each prompts presents its unique possibilities and challenges. Today we will look at the “being a teenager” prompt. This can be a tricky prompt; it asks you to reflect on your own experiences as a teenager and pluck from that one piece of advice to pass on.

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)?

Being a Teenager

This prompt wants you to evaluate your life experiences—your life as you are living it. Socrates once said something to the effect that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” The Coalition Application is asking you to examine your life, to evaluate it, and to share your observations. But at the heart of the essay, you need a story.

Hardest Part/Best Part

From my perspective, it seems difficult to identify both the best and the worst parts of teen life in only 550 words. Therefore, you may decide to focus on either the best or the worst. However, if you want to be sneaky—and perhaps successful in your presentation—you might consider an aspect of teen life that one might consider both the best and the worst. Most parts of our lives have both positive and negative aspects. Can you identify something about your experience as a teenager that can be examined from both angles? Here, again, it is helpful to focus on the story that shows how teenage life can be difficult or great—or both. As with all the other prompts, be sure that whatever you write about is made very personal to you and your own experience.  Don’t write an observational treatise on the good and the bad of teenage life as you seen it. Put yourself in the middle of your observation.

Advice

Again, this prompt seems very broad for the word limit. One might develop a prompt that revolves completely around this idea of “advice” that is not at all connected to the experience of being a teenager. However, to stay focused on your experience as a teen today, and to stick with your evaluation of what is “hardest” and what is “best,” you may want to identify the single most important recommendation you might make to a sibling or friend so that they could minimize the hard bits and maximize the best bits. Don’t try to be exhaustive with this prompt: the word limit simply will not allow you to be. Instead, give a single, straightforward directive to this sibling or friend. Finally, make sure that this advice emanates from your story: something in that narrative should illustrate how following your guidance would make their lives better.

Mark Montgomery
Educational consultant and admissions expert

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