Your New TMI Headache: Teens’ College Essays

Some students are turning their college essays into outrageous confessionals. I hope my sons don't join them.One of the great things about having kids under age 5 is that they’re too young to broadcast intensely personal, potentially damaging information over the Internet. I’m a mom blogger — I can do it for them!

Kidding aside, you’ve probably heard by now that you should discourage teens from posting certain information and photos online, not just for safety’s sake but also to preserve their reputations. Here’s a warning you may not have heard: Extend your TMI crackdown to their college essays.

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni reports that college essays are increasingly demonstrating “a tendency toward runaway candor and uncensored revelation, especially about tribulations endured and hardships overcome, among kids who’ve grown up in the era of the overshare.”

Among the examples he cites: a Yale University applicant who confessed in her essay to urinating on herself rather than pulling away from an exciting conversation with an admired French teacher.

As Bruni observes, in an era of increasingly insane college competition, students are doing equally insane things to stand out — but standing out and actually impressing admissions counselors (as opposed, to say, horrifying them) are not the same. In the case of the Yale wannabe, the bizarre overshare did prompt a concerned call to her school’s guidance counselor but did not result in an acceptance letter.

I’m not looking forward to college admissions season in my household and I hope that when those dreaded days come, my sons will have the good sense to avoid crafting the kinds of essays better suited to the confines of a diary…hidden under a floor board…where their mother will never, ever see it and so will continue to live in ignorant bliss about her perfect boys.

In fact, I considered helping them in this respect by composing a list of things they absolutely should not write about, but since they’re so young, they haven’t really done much in the way of embarrassing themselves. The only real rule I could think of at this point was “Don’t write about peeing your pants.”

Given the tale of the Yale’s wet wannabe, I guess that’s a good start.


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