Whether you are writing about failure or one of the other essay options, keep in mind the primary purpose of the essay: the college wants to get to know you better. On a certain level, your essay isn't really about your failure. Rather, it is about your personality and character. In the long run, were you able to handle your failure in a positive way? Colleges that ask for an essay have holistic admissions , so they are looking at the whole applicant, not just SAT scores and grades . By the time they finish reading your essay, the admissions folks should feel that you are the type of person who will succeed in college and make a positive contribution to the campus community. So before you hit the submit button on the Common Application, make sure your essay paints a portrait of you that makes a positive impression. If you blame your failure on others, or if you seem to have learned nothing from your failure, the college may very well decide that you don't have a place in the campus community.
Great essay! I, too, think it should have won. Very impressive writing with wonderful insights. Part of me wonders if the student(s) who go to Yale and USC will venture far enough from their ivory towers get the point of this essay. The thing that scares me most about those and other “elite” institutions is the constant reinforcement of the status quo, or if you will, the fear of breaking from the “narrative”–and one could hear it in their essays. The winner, Mr. Handler, tries to avoid this by calling it “pastiche.” Sadly, his voice and essay fail to break from the elite-produced, status-quo-reinforcing narrative and “…[put] it into our own words.” If you want to live in a post-narrative world, stop reinforcing it and the institutions that produce them with trite essays. Bravo Liz on doing what the winner couldn’t!