In high school, it seems like everyone is known for something. Perhaps they’re that amazing lacrosse player, the talented artist, the girl who’s always in the library, or the tall freshman. No matter what, teens tend to find one characteristic that can distinguish a person and latch onto it. In high school, I was the font girl. People who ran in my circles knew that I was passionate about typography, from its history to its design and usage in the modern world. Like it or not, this was my trademark. Not everyone has an interest quite as uncommon—but I’d bet that many students do. And, although I didn’t realize it at the time, there are vast benefits that come with diving deep into a field that you’re passionate about (and some of them relate to college admissions!). Hobbies and interests are defining features of what makes you, well, you, and even the most bizarre ones are awesome.
I’m obsessed with fonts. I have rows of books on my bookshelf, an extensive bookmark folder on my computer, and type-inspired posters on my walls. Needless to say, an interest like this is one that will stick with me for life—it’s part of who I am. Funny enough, I recently found myself in a situation where I needed to explain to a bunch of strangers who exactly I am: the college admissions process. Nowadays, admissions officers are looking for more than grades and test scores; they’re looking for genuine, passionate human beings. And that, my friends, is where the essay comes in. I jumped on the essay as a chance to set myself apart from everyone else applying to that school, and there was no better way to do that than to discuss my uncommon hobby. I would even go out on a limb and bet that no other applicant to my college discussed typography as a passion. If I were a reader, I would get sick of reading hundreds of essays about the mission trip that changed a teen’s life. A paper on fonts could just maybe stick with them at the end of the day.
Besides being unique, my essay demonstrated pure, unadulterated passion. Being genuine is the only way to write an essay worth reading. While I’m sure that many applicants do, in fact, love discussing their English class’s latest novel, many are just writing about something academic to look good on paper. In writing my essay on something entirely unrelated to school, I took a small leap. Even so, it’s important to remember that this is one of the only components of an application that isn’t inherently linked to academics. This is your chance to show who you are as a person and why you’d thrive at that university.
Not every topic is college essay material, of course. But I’d say that for the most part, anything goes. In some cases, the weirder the better. If your enthusiasm for tectonic plates keeps you up at night, that’s what your essay should be about—passion is everything. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous about writing about fonts. “What if they can’t relate to me at all? Maybe they’ve never used Microsoft Word and don’t even know the difference between Times New Roman and Comic Sans,” I worried to myself. But in the end, readers don’t need to relate to your topic. After all, schools are seeking diversity, both culturally and academically.
So if you have an interest that your friends simply can’t relate to, no worries—the college application is your time to shine. In this format, your love can be brought out on full display so that colleges will see what a motivated and engaged individual you are. There’s no substitute for passion, and passion is what’s desirable on campus. That bizarre interest that you love so dearly will stick with readers even after you’ve received your acceptance letter.