Four Ted Talks to Inspire your Application Essays


We know you’re in the middle of writing your application essays for university admissions. Hopefully, you’re starting to make progress crafting your stories, but if you need a quick break, or if you’re looking to combat a bought of writer’s block, check out the Ted Talks below for a bit of supplemental essay writing inspiration.

Angela Lee Duckworth: Grit: the power of passion and perseverance

In this talk, Duckworth explains the concept of grit and the role it plays in student’s success: “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint”. Not only will you need grit to finish your application essays, but this talk is a good reminder that part of being a successful university student is perseverance.

Susan Cain: The power of introverts

Here, Susan Cain recounts her own childhood as an introvert and explains the power introverts have as leaders and group members: “the problems that we are facing today in fields like science and in economics are so vast and so complex that we are going to need armies of people coming together to solve them working together. But … the more freedom that we give introverts to be themselves, the more likely that they are to come up with their own unique solutions to these problems”.  This serves as a gentle reminder to consider the role you play in your extracurriculars — you don’t have to be the loudest member of the group to make a big impact.

Drew Dudley: Everyday leadership

While speaking to an audience in Toronto, Dudley advocates for changing our definition of leadership: “I’ve come to realize that we have made leadership into something bigger than us; something beyond us. We’ve made it about changing the world. We’ve taken this title of “leader” and treat it as something that one day we’re going to deserve. But to give it to ourselves right now means a level of arrogance or cockiness that we’re not comfortable with. And I worry sometimes that we spend so much time celebrating amazing things that hardly anybody can do, that we’ve convinced ourselves those are the only things worth celebrating. We start to devalue the things we can do every day, We take moments where we truly are a leader and we don’t let ourselves take credit for it, or feel good about it”. With this in mind, consider the type of leader you are and what actions you’ve taken that could be considered everyday leadership. This is sure to lead to a refreshing take on a common application essay topic.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story

In this talk, novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns that if we only hear a single story about another person, we risk a crucial misunderstanding: “Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity”. Adichie’s emphasis on the power of stories will be important to remember as you delve into telling your tales through your application essays.

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