At the University of Michigan, one application essay talked about how local education cutbacks forced high school students to pay money to play team sports. As a result, the writer could no longer afford to play.
At Pitzer College, a student used the example of Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff to take a philosophical look at how much money people truly need to be happy.
As the economy has suffered in recent years and college costs have risen, high school seniors have grappled with the fallout in their own families and channeled their feelings into an increasing number of memorable college application essays about sacrifice, social policy and affluence or its opposite.
"Students never used to write about this stuff," said Angel Perez, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid at Pitzer. "I think there is this new consciousness. It's unlike anything I've ever seen."
We wanted to see these writings for ourselves, so we're asking high school seniors who are applying for college this year to send us application essays that have anything at all to do with money, working, class, the economy and affluence (or lack thereof). We'll read them all and publish the best on our Bucks personal finance blog.
"An essay ought to try to fill in the gaps, to tell us things that we don't know about you," said Erica Sanders, managing director of the office of undergraduate admissions at the University of Michigan.
Even if your family has not struggled or become fabulously wealthy, an essay about your part-time job certainly qualifies.
"Many of our engineering students will talk about building something and the costs of putting it together," Sanders said.
As we read the essays, which you should send to us at Moneyessays@)nytimes.com, we'll be looking for authenticity. We also seek a unique point of view. Not so much "Why it's good to give" or "What I learned from my job" but "How I gave or earned money in an entirely new way.
Perspective on current events certainly helps, if it goes beyond the boilerplate. Also, do you have awareness of value -- of what an education is (or is not) worth and what sort of student loan debt you may be willing to take on to get it? Have you thought through how you measure the success of the services a nonprofit organization delivers -- or the ones you deliver in your part-time job for money?
Finally, and most important, what do we learn about you personally? Be honest: That's what we really are looking for.
Ron Lieber is the Your Money columnist for the New York Times. Reach him on Twitter @ronlieber.