The Third Culture Kid’s College Essay

The Third Culture Kid’s College Essay

This article was contributed by Naumita Chopra, Admissions Advisor for Magnolia Advisors.

“Where are you from?”

Third culture kids (TCK’s) hate this question, because there is no short, one-word answer for it.

Maybe you were born in New York, but you can barely remember anything as you left at the age of 2. You celebrated your 3rd Christmas in London, 8th birthday in Dubai, Diwali in Mumbai just before your 11 th birthday and Chinese New Year in Singapore at 14.

If you are a TCK applying to universities, the essay that typically connects with you most is the one about your ‘background story’. After all, you have lived in 5 countries and attended 6 schools. The experience defines you and has shaped your personality. It is often the first story that comes to mind.

However, sadly there is a class full of students at your school who are writing the same story. Meanwhile you are trying to stand out – trying to differentiate yourself from others. In that spirit, here are some dos and don’ts for your college essay:

DO: Present a snapshot of your personal experiences of living overseas including visuals, smells and feelings. Try to connect with the reader through your narrative.
DON’T: Write about all the ways in which you weren’t culturally sensitive; the faux pas, the things you baulked at and felt yucky about.

DO: Write about how you have grown and changed through the experiences you have had moving around.
DON’T: List all the countries you have lived in and the schools you have studied at.

DO: Observe the mundane, small things around you. One of the more interesting essay I have read was about a student’s bus journey to school in Istanbul – a snapshot of a progressive Islamic nation straddling two continents: Asia and Europe.
DON’T: Feel that the ‘nomadic’ essay is the only one you have to write. There are surely more interesting things about yourself to write (and for admissions officers to read).

DO: Run your essay by your counselor, teacher or family member to be sure you are on the right track. Ask them if the essay represents you.

Check out the online magazine Denizen for some interesting advice for TCK’s: