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Last updated March 21, 2024

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The Best Way to Write College Essays About Moving

Key Takeaway

When writing a college essay about moving, you should avoid cliches. You'll have the most success if you reveal a personal insight, share something about your family context, or reflect on a significant lesson you learned.

Moving’s a big deal, especially when you’re in high school.

New state, new city, new school, new family dynamics, new friends—new everything, it may seem.

If you’ve recently moved, or if you’ve moved a lot throughout your life, you might be thinking about writing your college essay about moving.

Moving can work well as a personal statement topic, particularly when the experience shows your resilience and ability to adapt to new situations.

But because the topic is somewhat common, it can be risky if not done well.

In this post, we go over a few ways to approach a college essay about moving to avoid some of the biggest pitfalls and cliches.

Three Ways to Approach Your College Essay About Moving

Across the tens of thousands of college essays we’ve read, the following three approaches tend to produce great college essays about moving. They help writers avoid cliches and focus in on something deeply meaningful and strengths-based (remember: that’s the whole point of a college essay to begin with!).

Personal Insight

The first way you can think about your personal statement is by considering how your story about moving can reveal a personal insight about yourself to admissions officers.

Let me give you an example.

Emma moved from rural Montana to Los Angeles for her mom’s job. Sure, she could write about how she was shocked by the drastic weather differences, how she had to learn how to navigate a big city, or how she went from being in a school with 50 students to one with over 3,000.

Those topics would be interesting, but none would help us learn much about who Emma is or why we should admit her to our school.

To reveal a personal insight, Emma will have to be a bit more vulnerable and strategic. Let’s say that Emma wants to study agriculture. Emma’s college essay about moving would be more effective if it explored how she came to realize her love of agriculture only after she left her rural hometown.

Family Context

But maybe moving didn’t teach you something about yourself. Maybe it taught you about your family. Or perhaps you feel like admissions officers need to know about your family’s story to truly understand you.

This approach appears most often among students whose families have moved a lot because of a parent’s job or among those who have had a lot of changes in their home lives. Sharing your story, including the details of how a situation affected you personally, can help admissions officers learn about where you come from.

You can write about your experiences through the lens of resilience, diversity, or even joy or curiosity.

Lesson Learned

Finally, you can also approach your college essay about moving by reflecting on a significant lesson you learned throughout the process. Note that the key word here is significant.

Lessons like “I learned that I was strong and could handle anything thrown my way” or “I learned who my true friends were” are nice lessons, but they aren’t weighty enough for a college essay. Those kinds of lessons are too generic to actually tell admissions officers anything about who you are.

Let’s return to Emma for this example.

Instead of writing about how moving influenced her to study agriculture, Emma could also write about the lessons in diversity she learned when moving from a homogenous rural town to a big, diverse city.

Two Cliches to Avoid in Your College Essay About Moving

Okay, now that we’ve gone over three solid approaches, let’s go over what not to do.

Since college essays about moving are pretty common, you’ll want to avoid these overused and cliche methods. Your admissions officers will have read them a thousand times already, so they won’t be doing you any favors.

“Moving was the worst thing that ever happened to me…even though it wasn’t that bad.”

Listen. I know that moving can be really difficult. If moving was truly the most difficult thing you’ve experienced, then consider one of the approaches from above.

But too many applicants overstate the difficulty of their move solely because they think they have to write about something traumatic to get into college.

This approach leads to inauthentic essays that appear like they’re trying to pull the wool over the admissions officer’s eyes.

You don’t need to write about trauma, or even a difficult topic in general, in your college applications.

“Moving caused my grades to drop.”

The other big cliche that surfaces again and again in college essays about moving is the big Grade Drop following a move.

Moving can be such a disruption that it’s unsurprising if it affected your grades. It also makes sense that you want admissions officers to know that there’s a legitimate (and temporary) reason behind those less-than-perfect grades on your transcript.

But the problem with this approach is that it takes one of the most valuable pieces of application real estate—your personal statement—and fills it with information that probably belongs in the Additional Information section of the Common App.

Instead, save your personal statement for a topic that draws out your strengths and says something meaningful about who you are.

The Big Picture

Not every college essay needs to be written about a challenge. If your experience with moving has deep personal meaning, you can try it out in your personal statement.

But remember that you can also address something like moving in your additional information section.

Ultimately, you need to craft essays that say something personal about you while showcasing your strengths. It’s all part of what it means to create a cohesive application narrative.



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