Preparing for College

Weight Loss as Application Essay Topic?

Question: I am an 11th grade boy. In my sophomore year I was very overweight. I took control and lost 50 pounds (and still counting). Is this something I could write about in my college applications?

Congratulations for achieving what many attempt but often fail to do. You should be very proud of your accomplishment. And yes, this could indeed be something you could write about in a college application. Once you’ve compiled your list of target colleges, you may find that allâ€"or at least mostâ€"of them will have a broad essay-question option along the lines of “Describe a significant experience” or “Tell us something about yourself that the rest of your application doesn’t,” and your weight-loss would certainly fill the bill.

Of course, you need to keep in mind that how you write will be far more important to admission committees than what you write about. Your topic has potential, but you need to approach it in an interesting way. For instance, here are two potential beginnings:

1. Of all my achievements in my life so far, I would have to say that I am proudest of the fact that I was able to lose 50 pounds since my sophomore year.

2.The digital clock on the night table glowed “2:17.” My parents’ room across the hall was dark and silent; my brother breathed evenly in the bunk above me; but downstairs in the kitchen, a box of Twinkies called out my name. I refused to answer.

The second option clearly has more pizzazz than the first and will catch an admission officer’s attention at first glance. Obviously, you want to write in your own voice, but do try to be creative in your approach. Be wary of cliché conclusions like, “Now that I’ve lost weight, I know I can do anything I set my mind to.” Admission officers will be able to read between the lines and get that message, but avoid the urge to throw it in their faces.

One other thing you probably want to avoid, too, is suggesting through your essay that weight loss has become such a focus for you that it’s taken over your life. Frankly, if you were a girl, admission committees reading a weight-loss essay might be concerned about signs of anorexia. Since that condition is far less common among boys, they may not worry about it in your case, butâ€"nonethelessâ€"you want to make the point that you’ve achieved something significant that took great determination but without implying that it has eclipsed all your other interests and goals.