A reader wrote in to ask the following: For the question, “Why do you do what you do?” Would it be better to write in literal terms such as why I play my sport, or in figurative terms such as doing what you do because of who you are? The reader is making reference to a UNC admissions essay question. First of all, we can tell you with certainty that writing about why you play your sport is a really bad idea. We have written extensively over the years about why you should avoid — at all cost — writing about sports in college admissions essays. They’re boring. They say little. They’re trite. And way too many college applicants write about why they play their sport and what they get out of it.
So, no, you should not write a literal essay on why you play your sport for your UNC admissions essay question answer. Does that mean that you can’t write a literal essay? No. You certainly can. It doesn’t have to be figurative — though it can be so long as you don’t get the reader lost — which is entirely possible as it happens quite frequently in college admissions essays. Especially first drafts. It’s always great to give the reader a window into the world of who you are. In the end, that should be your goal as a writer of this college admissions essay. Writing about why you play soccer will certainly not accomplish this. Instead, writing about what drives you when you wake up and shower in the morning indeed can. Are you thinking about science research? Why do you do science research?
And it doesn’t have to relate to an activity at all. Sometimes, the best essays are about the smallest of topics. Likewise, “Seinfeld” was a wonderful show about absolutely nothing. Maybe the essay is about why you eat the bottom of an ice cream cone before you lick the top. Now that could be a wonderful essay that shines a lantern on just who you are and what you’re all about. Why do you eat the bottom first? What does this say about you as a person? Get the idea?