Where’s the Funny Bone in a College Essay?

Miranda Lee
Miranda Lee

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We all have our own stories to tell, from the first time you broke your arm to the first time you broke your mother’s favorite vase because you saw a spider. But what do you write about when it comes to personal essays? Do you go for downright business and bluntness, or do you try and show your humorous side? Let’s break down the different approaches to a funny college essay that still hits the mark.

When colleges ask for personal statements, it means it’s your chance to show a side of you that you can’t convey through an academic resume. Most people talk about their volunteer work, jobs, or any other extracurriculars they participated in. These essay topics are easier to write about, and they’re pretty much what colleges look for, since they can say a lot about a student if written well and with lots of description and insightfulness. 

But what about that comedic aspect?

Wouldn’t that make your essay more memorable to the admissions officer that spends about 15-20 minutes on your essay? Incorporating humor into your essay can be a huge benefit. Brittany Stinson, the girl that wrote an essay about her experiences at Costco, got into numerous Ivy League schools because of her unique take on essay prompts. She displayed her carefree and curious personality by relating her traits to her activities at Costco: running around for samples led her to sample different classes and activities in school. 

However…

Many would see this as a huge risk, considering it can be pretty difficult to exemplify your personality and characteristics in essays as is. We’re told to write about how this club developed this trait and how this sport built your experience working in teams. With the right tweaks, you can incorporate some humor into your essay. Add some puns or plays on words, or dedicate a few sentences to making a funny side comment about your story.

For example, if you are writing about developing your patience, you can insert a small story about a memory you have from school and then add a sentence like “I guess I should have stayed behind a few minutes longer after class because I ended up missing the treats the teacher gave out, which proves that good things come to those who wait”, which may give readers a small chuckle as you wrap up the story (but don’t forget to conclude your essay with what you learned from that experience and how you grew and developed!) 

So what’s the final takeaway?

In the end, it’s all about you. It’s your tale to tell, and it’s your writing style that speaks your voice the best. It is your genuine self that college admissions officers are interested in learning about. If you feel like you can spare a few words, the topic is just right, and the placement isn’t awkward, then humor can add a bit of flair and pizazz to your essay. But don’t feel like you’re obligated to add humor. Sometimes it won’t flow with the essay; in these cases, it’s best to keep it simple and straightforward. See what works or doesn’t work for you, and find what makes you satisfied with your work.

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