woman listening to music on yellow background

The first time I read over Smith College’s supplemental essay question, my response was, “Wow! This one is different!” See for yourself:

We know that colleges ask a lot of hard questions on their applications. This one is not so hard and we promise, there is no hidden agenda – just have fun! If you had a theme song – a piece of music that describes you, what would it be and why? Please include the name of the song and the artist. (200 words)

I love that the Smith admission officers clearly do want students to have fun with this. As they say, there is no hidden agenda. Instead, they are looking for a playful, non-academic way to learn more about who you are outside the classroom and your structured extra-curricular activities. So, don’t choose a song because you think it will impress them! It doesn’t need to be on the soundtrack for Hamilton or something similarly revered (although it could be if it really is your theme song). If you want a Rihanna, Beyoncé, or Taylor Swift song to be the subject of this essay, go for it! Pop music is fine. Side note: In my experience, essays about romantic love do not impress in the admission process, so you may want to stay clear of love songs.

After you’ve settled on your theme song, make sure to explain WHY you chose it.  And the “why” shouldn’t just be because it is pretty. Think carefully about why you picked this song above all the others you could have. Be authentic. Being overly clever in order to try and be original will likely backfire. Feel free to discuss lyrics, melody, etc.,—all aspects of the song are fair game. But, also remember you only have 200 words to use, so an essay focused on one or two aspects of why this song represents you will be likely be more effective than one that tries to catalog everything about the song, which may result in a more surface discussion.

And, in case you’re wondering, my theme song would be Joni Mitchell’s “Free Man in Paris.” While I don’t feel the same sense of melancholy about a past life the protagonist of the song does, I do relate to the descriptions of those moments when you feel free and unencumbered and the joy in those moments, whether in Paris or elsewhere.

Essay-Pitfalls-CTA

Written by Sally Ganga
Sally Ganga is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Prior to joining College Coach, Sally was a senior admissions officer at The University of Chicago, Reed College, and Whittier College. To learn more about Sally, be sure to read her bio on getintocollege.com.