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Articles / Applying to College / Open Adoption as College Essay Topic?

Aug. 5, 2010

Open Adoption as College Essay Topic?

My parents were pioneers in the "open adoption" movement, and as a result, I have close relationships to my birth parents (and even birth grandparents). Is this something to mention in my essay (as a "hook" or something admissions officers will even care about)?


Kudos to your parents (and to you) for maintaining close ties to your "extended family." I think that these relationships would make a great college-admissions essay topic. Your atypical situation will help you to stand out in a crowd, and it's also something that's important to you ... which is usually the best essay fodder.

The one piece of advice I'm going to toss out is that your essay may be most effective if you are careful to "show" the reader more than you "tell." And don't try to cover too much turf, either. Instead, perhaps you can focus on one specific episode (e.g., a dinner with both your birth parents and adoptive parents present or your thoughts in the car as you head off on a visit to your birth grandparents) and use this as the centerpiece of your essay and as a springboard for revealing more about your unusual family ties.

But, however, you decide to approach it, you definitely have some good material to work with, and your essay should provide admission folks with a helpful glimpse into your life that the rest of the application probably won't.

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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