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Articles / Applying to College / Adolescent "Idiocy" and College Application Essay

Oct. 13, 2010

Adolescent "Idiocy" and College Application Essay

Question: Adolescent idiocy - how do colleges view that? My 11th grade marks slipped very badly, simply because I was fool enough to ignore academics. But I honestly regret it, so how do I explain it to colleges? I was planning to write my essay on "growing up"....will it be acceptable?

You can certainly write a college essay on the follies of your youth (last year ;-)) and, if it’s done with good humor and with a clear emphasis on what you’ve learned in the process, it could be a helpful part of your application.


You might, however, consider writing your primary college essay on something else and then submit a supplementary one (or use the “Additional Information” space that you’ll find on many applications) to explain your “Junioritis.” This would send a message to admission committees that proclaims, “Yes I did screw up, but there’s more to me than just that.”

But do keep in mind that, while many admission officials will be sympathetic to your plight, even the best explanatory essay won’t give you a full “Get out of jail free” card. Depending on where you are applying, you are likely to be “competing” with lots of other candidates who had the foresight and wisdom to buckle down in 11th grade. So, although I do feel that it would be worthwhile for you to explain your academic downturn to admission folks, even the best essay won’t allow you to get off scot-free.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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