Whether you are writing about failure or one of the other essay options, keep in mind the primary purpose of the essay: the college wants to get to know you better. On a certain level, your essay isn't really about your failure. Rather, it is about your personality and character. In the long run, were you able to handle your failure in a positive way? Colleges that ask for an essay have holistic admissions , so they are looking at the whole applicant, not just SAT scores and grades . By the time they finish reading your essay, the admissions folks should feel that you are the type of person who will succeed in college and make a positive contribution to the campus community. So before you hit the submit button on the Common Application, make sure your essay paints a portrait of you that makes a positive impression. If you blame your failure on others, or if you seem to have learned nothing from your failure, the college may very well decide that you don't have a place in the campus community.
This is one of the most extensive and helpful posts I’ve read on how to write college admissions essays. My feeling is that most English teachers know their great literature, but are not as versed on teaching writing–especially narrative style pieces. I agree that the best place to get ideas for unique topics, as well as learn how to structure these more informal essays, is by reading what others have written. You have collected a wonderful assortment of sample essays. Reading excellent writing, especially the New York Times, is also very helpful, especially feature-style articles that use creative writing techniques, such as anecdotal leads and descriptive details. I try to share similar writing advice on my blog, Essay Hell.
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