Superstorm Sandy becomes a hot topic in college essays

By Chris Hassan
Posted December 17, 2012 10:00 AM

Many students choosing Superstorm Sandy as a college essay topic.
Many students choosing Superstorm Sandy as a college essay topic.
This past October, many high school seniors and other individuals with an interest in pursuing a bachelor's degree were focused on putting the finishing touches on their college admissions materials in order to meet fast-approaching deadlines. The last thing they needed was for Mother Nature to throw a destructive curveball into their plans, but that is exactly what they got when Hurricane Sandy struck.

When Sandy (now referred to as a "superstorm") made landfall in New Jersey on October 29, it brought with it severe conditions that wreaked havoc along much of the East Coast, home to both prospective degree seekers and some of the world's most renowned institutions.

As so many people were crippled by flooding and power outages, a number of colleges and universities made the decision to extend admissions deadlines. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, Harvard University, Babson College, Cornell University, New York University and the Rhode Island School of Design were just a few of the institutions that made exceptions in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

However, additional time to submit admissions materials was not the only impact Sandy had on prospective college students, as The Wall Street Journal reports that many applicants made the storm the subject of their application essays.

Luis Hernandez is just one student who tossed his initial essay topic in favor of one focused on his experiences following his encounter with Superstorm Sandy. For an essay about the importance of community, the 17-year-old went from writing about a trip he made to South Africa to the charity he received from his teachers after the storm disrupted his life.

"When I started thinking more deeply about it, I was like, I have to write about Sandy," Hernandez told the Journal. "This moment was closer to home for me, and I wanted to show who I was to the college."

However, college applicants who think that an essay about Sandy will guarantee them entrance to their ideal school should not jump to conclusions. After all, not every student's storm experience was profound.

"No one becomes a better candidate because they've had a bad event," Larry Blumenstyk, a private admissions counselor, told the Journal. "But they might become a more interesting character if they can apply what they've learned in order to succeed in life."

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