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Teen Trend Report

Teen Survey Results and Student Writing Contest Submissions:  4,400+ teen and college student visitors, 381+ survey responders, and 115+ essay submissions from teenagers sharing school memories.

Teen Identity - Trend Report

Teenage Identity“Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it is we did wrong, but we think you're crazy for making us write an essay telling you who we think we are.”

- The Breakfast Club.

Background on the Writing Contest:

In celebration of the upcoming 30-year anniversary of the 1985 John Hughes film classic about teen identity, The Breakfast Club, asked thousands of high school and college students across the world to share a story answering the question, "Who Do You Think You Are?"

Most college applications ask students to write a “personal statement” about who they are.  What do you include? Who are you? How do we form our identity?  Not unlike Mr. Vernon in The Breakfast Club (see below video link below for reference), we asked teens to submit a story about who they are. 

Teen Trend Report Overview:
  • Trend Report about Teen IdentityVISITS:  Over 4,400 teens and college students visited the writing contest during the month's writing prompt (Sept. 2014) from across the US (all 50 states) and dozens of international countries.

  • TEENS and SURVEY DATA:  381+ students between junior high school and college fully completed the national survey about how teens feel about their identities.
  • ESSAY THEMES:  Out of all of the topics discussed, several major themes were collectively revealed by teens and their stories about identity. 
  • Writing contest for high school students

    115+ teen bloggers submitted a qualifying essay to the writing prompt that asked, "Who Do You Think You Are." 
  • ESSAY WINNER:  Place winners, along with Runners Up and finalists were selected. 

PART I Statistics about Teenagers and their Identity

Before submitting their writing contest essay, teens were asked to complete a survey containing some questions about how they feel about their identity.  Here are the teen statistics from the survey from the students who fully completed the poll...
  • 63% of teens say they "know who they are" while 37% do not fully know their identity yet.
  • Parents & Activities/Hobbies: Teens say that "Parents/Family" and "Activities/Hobbies" are the two most important factors in shaping their identity.  These far outranked other attributes such as sexual orientation, boyfriend/girlfriends, their church, their school, or their friends.
  • 84% of students say their identities are shaped more by "Nurture" instead of "Nature" (16%)
  • 63% of teenagers say that their appearance is an important factor in their identity.
  • 37% of teenagers say that the way they view their identity now is not necessarily how they will view themselves in the future.  Most teens (63%), however, feel that their current identity as a teenager will follow them through life.
  • 66% of teenagers say that they feel most people do not see them for who they really are.
  • 51% of teenagers in 2015 have seen the 20-year-old John Hughes film about teenage identity, The Breakfast Club (released 1985).
  • What's the single biggest thing that defines you who you are today? Answers to this open ended question can be found in Stage of Life's full Teen Statistics report.  You can download the statistics report below (click on the PDF document).
Statistics about Teens and IdentityTo read the full survey results, click the PDF icon to view or save the free download.

SOURCE:  All statistics above were collected by as part of its monthly teen trend reports containing statistics and writing contest prompt responses from teens on real world issues.


After taking the survey, students submitted their writing contest essays to  From the qualifying teen essay submissions, several themes emerged:

Themes and Trends from the Teen Identity Essays:
  • Teenagers and IdentityStill Figuring It Out: It’s a standard “get to know you” type of question—who are you?—but many teens struggled to define themselves. Teens are still evolving and growing as people, so it may be some time before they can accurately define themselves with words. Or maybe they never will… is that such a bad thing?
  • Favorite Activities: Some teens found solace in music. Others found it in the pool or on the back of a horse. While hobbies are supposed to be fun, these teens had emotional or cathartic connections to their favorite ways to spend their time.
  • Bad Experiences: Of course, not all identities are found in the best of times. Some teens discovered themselves when they were pushed to the edge of sanity or emotional wellbeing. While they may carry some scars, they all emerged better.
  • Take a Risk: Sometimes you have to push yourself to find yourself. These teens believed deeply that identity comes from determination; from finding your passions; from standing up and making a difference. After all, you can’t just wait for your life to happen.

PART III:  Read the Teen Stories about Identity

Teen BloggersImmediately below, you'll find links to the winning essay, our runners-up, semi-finalists, and all qualifying essays from college students and teenagers answering the question, "Who Do You Think You Are?"

Please take a few moments to read an essay or two, especially our winner, runners-up, and finalists.

If you have the time, make a comment on the essays you enjoyed the most.  We know the student writers will love hearing your positive input (they'll get an email notifying them if you comment on their writing contest entry).

Writing contest winnerWriting Contest Winner & Finalists

First Place:
Identity:In Between by madgirl1117 (This teen found herself in a tough spot in a class) student essay writers2nd Place (Tie): 
Identity: Kaleidoscope by Gingersnap (She is many things to many different people)

Identity: Breathe by ailagan (She feels suffocated by her parents’ beliefs)

3rd Place:
Identity: Listening to Mine by kbeyeler (This teen is defined by songs)

Writing Contest Runners UpRunners Up (in no particular order)

Identity: A Nebulous Affair by reggie87 (He is grateful for change)

Identity: Keep Going by pokegeek151 (This teen reflects on her Bat Mitzvah)

Identity: [?] by zoomthemaster (This teen’s clock is ticking) 

Identity: The World of Make-Believe that Shaped Me by KL51607 (She loved to play pretend with her siblings) 

Identity: The Disorder Destroyer by blackwingbutterflies (Her eating disorder consumed her life) 

Identity: Unknown by marina3 (She doesn’t know where she’s going in life) writing contest submissions

Read teen essays from national writing contest

Read All Qualifying Teen & College Essays for the Writing Contest - "Who Do You Think You Are?"

The essays below were all written by Stage of Life teen writers for this monthly student writing contest...

Identity - Teen Essays

Essays about Determination

  1. Identity: Coach Tester by bobbijo (Always give it your all)
  2. Identity: Things that build me not only as a person, but also as a leader by MaryAlice (She loves FBLA and archery)
  3. Identity: So, About High School… by Tyler.Johnson51 (This teen can’t wait to leave the Ohio Valley and go to college)
  4. Identity: Princess Crowns and Super Hero Capes by xoxoJoleex3 (She always wanted to be the Disney prince, not princess)
  5. Identity: The Fighter by TheBoyOfBelmont (Life is a sequence of events that shapes you)
  6. Identity: My Story of Finding It by pennyproblem (She found herself in a 1,000 mile move)
  7. Identity: Knowledge by LlamadalaFace.CopyrightMe (This teen thinks of herself like BBC Sherlock)
  8. Identity: Me by yoonj2 (This teen wears different faces around different people)
  9. Identity: From Straight to Super Straight by Holleyella (This teen found her true sexuality)
  10. Identity: Withheld by meenakshi jain (She will ensure everyone remembers her)
  11. Identity: Finding Myself in High School by ron0822 (He is not afraid to take risks and make changes)
  12. Identity: The Human Turtle by Jazzerina Ballerina (She feels like two sides of a coin)
  13. Identity: Mind on Ice, Heart on Fire by kylejohns8 (This teen found a way to live his life)


Essay About an Ever-Changing Identity

  1. Identity: A lost, homeless teen trying to find himself by Xenia (This teen has no definition)
  2. Identity: I Am by Zbrook (It is important to be contradictory and changing)
  3. Identity: I am by Hoang (This teen cannot be defined by vague terms)
  4. Identity: Getting lost in the crowd by elisabethwahlgren (She wants to take life as it comes)
  5. Identity: Who are you? by Kiara (She fits lots of stereotypes)
  6. Identity: Not Born Once But Forever Changing by kaitlin159 (She’s not sure who she’ll be tomorrow, let alone in the future)
  7. Identity: Choices by nora99 (We are the sum of our choices)
  8. Identity: Indecision by JakeSteed (This teen is constantly trying to figure out what he wants)
  9. Identity: A Nebulous Affair by reggie87 (He is grateful for change)
  10. Identity: “Know Thyself” by dragon17 (She sees more of herself some days than others)
  11. Identity: Kaleidoscope by Gingersnap (She is many things to many different people)
  12. Identity: The Cover Page of One’s Life Book by debanjana1999 (Life is only beginning)
  13. Identity: Full of questions??? by resetpause2014 (This teen feels contradictory)
  14. Identity: Too Much to Jot Down by WriterJasmine (She tried to map out her various identities)
  15. Identity: Margaux Cattelona by macattelona (Nobody really knows who they are yet)
  16. Identity: Defiance is Key by Corrine (It is difficult to stand out, but is worth it)
  17. Identity: Searching… name not found by jahnae (Everyone is undefined)
  18. Identity: Indiscriminate Creation by KristenH16 (This teen is a chameleon in every sense of the word)


Essays about Being Faithful

  1. Identity: Life Lessons by author tonya (She witnessed God's mercy firsthand)
  2. Identity: Silence and Strength by Aquarose564 (With God’s help, she has pulled through life)
  3. Identity: The Man with Nothing Who Gained Everything by EmilioYanez (This teen doesn’t have to do anything alone)
  4. Identity: The Christian & The Cheerleader by ayannaww (She loves Jesus)
  5. Identity: A Two-Ton Anchor by am12298 (She watched her dad’s stresses melt away when he went to church)
  6. Identity: My Mother’s Daughter by changchongchris (She went for a joyride in the middle of the night)
  7. Identity: Keep Going by pokegeek151 (This teen reflects on her Bat Mitzvah)
  8. Identity: To be or not to be, the change by Eagle33 (She will be adventurous and daring)
  9. Identity: Unveiling the Lady Within by ShyCam1 (She hopes that people get the impression that she is a Christian)
  10. Identity: What Am I Destined For? by Cristal (This teen found God, who helped her define herself)
  11. Identity: Affecting Others by H_Call168 (Finding God taught this teen how to serve others)


Essays about Family/Friends

  1. Identity: Small Town by dsherp97 (This teen had trouble with her mother)
  2. Identity: All About Me by I am so sweet (She grew up in a small town that shaped her)
  3. Identity: Who I Am by hunter-bottcher (His dad shaped him into who he is)
  4. Identity: Lessons Learned by miranda.jackson (Identity is made from a person’s experiences and relationships)
  5. Identity by MandyShmandy (She tries not to care about her weight)
  6. Identity: It Is Our Characters That Define Us by nasimiyu (A person’s beliefs and character shapes them)
  7. Identity: Who I am is where I’m from by andi620 (A poem about this teen’s favorite memories)
  8. Identity: Creating Myself Day In, Day Out by ashlynprom (Our thought process is influenced by the people around us)
  9. Identity by sam.gaffney (Experience and family defines you)
  10. Identity: The Over-Achiever by taytompkins2000 (Who you associate with means a lot)
  11. Identity: I Weathered Like the Rocks by rachelbowanko (She is both her past and present)
  12. Identity: Beauty by meganmae (She learned a lot from her stepbrother)
  13. Identity: [?] by zoomthemaster (This teen’s clock is ticking)
  14. Identity: Breathe by ailagan (She feels suffocated by her parents’ beliefs)
  15. Identity: Growing Up in a Movement by kand512 (This teen grew up with three parents)
  16. Identity: The World of Make-Believe that Shaped Me by KL51607 (She loved to play pretend with her siblings)
  17. Identity: Who am I? by [email protected] (This teen is proud of his life)
  18. Identity: Running From the Future by jannatjaved (She was used to procrastinating important things in her life)
  19. Identity: Who I am by raeedahmed (This teen likes to act foolish and prank her friends)
  20. Identity: My Own Best Friend by Brooklyn (She realized that she just needs one friend to make her happy)
  21. Identity: The Journey to Acquire It by KaylaCook (Her heart lies in Germany)
  22. Identity: Lost and Not Found by chynam (She is unsure of her identity, but her family says she’ll be okay)


Essays about Being Hopeful

  1. Identity: Born to be Lonely? by springrose98 (She found friendship in books)
  2. Identity: More than a Miracle by CarGau14 (This teen has a lot of labels, but she is just her)
  3. Identity: The Disorder Destroyer by blackwingbutterflies (Her eating disorder consumed her life)
  4. Identity: Define Me by truthwillprevail (She is more than what her classmates think)
  5. Identity: Not Just a Letter by america233 (You are more than your grade)
  6. Identity: Perception of Oneself by Golden.Owl (We are more than what other people think of us)
  7. Identity: Defining Me, Gently by truthwillprevail (She revisits a painful memory)
  8. Identity: In Between by madgirl1117 (This teen found herself in a tough spot in a class)
  9. Identity: Sitare by WriterS (She is, by definition, a shining star)
  10. Identity: I am Not a Bat by WinterMoon (This teen gets sucked into books)
  11. Identity: Through Music by nsanagustin (Music can change people)
  12. Identity: Defined by the Hidden Truth by amijihatim (This teen is defined by education and a thirst for the unknown)
  13. Identity: Listening to Mine by kbeyeler (This teen is defined by songs)
  14. Identity: Question by Brinette (Experiment with the restraints and cliques of society)


Essays about Positivity

  1. Identity: Unconfident to Unbreakable by Urbana (Surround yourself with positive friends and family)
  2. Identity: Am I just a label? by wheeljack84 (He feels pressured to stick to the social food chain in school)
  3. Identity: Not Just Me by Orzee (She loves to make other people happy)
  4. Identity: Loving Yourself by lizaloop1 (This teen was the only black girl in all white community)
  5. Identity: Who am I? by LaughingJack4 (“I am me and I am proud!”)
  6. Identity: Who creates the greatest movements? by sansan (She always felt like a stranger in her own body)
  7. Identity: Anonymous by ali_ccia (She wants to be a fighter)
  8. Identity: Follow your bliss by h0peis_near (The things you love define you)
  9. Identity: Being me by merin (She could be many people, but chooses to be herself)
  10. Identity: Human by laurenunger (Do not be ashamed of yourself)
  11. Identity: Others’ opinion or your decision by Juliet Dauda (Her weakness is her uniqueness)
  12. Identity: A Silent Development by ashizal (She is a social butterfly)
  13. Identity: Equestrian by emilyonufer (She finds peace in riding horses)
  14. Identity: Solving Puzzles by jeremy.pulmano (Finding yourself involves finding your passions)
  15. Identity: I am the way that I am by sania10786 (Everything happens for a reason)
  16. Identity: Why I Permanently Smell Like Chlorine by hdong931 (He gained a lot of positive moments in one of his darkest times)


Essays about Struggling/Adversity

  1. Identity: The Benefits of Struggle by erd2398 (This teen is not defined by her struggles)
  2. Identity: I am by MayaRosalia (This teen doesn’t know who she is, and she isn’t sure if she’ll find out)
  3. Identity: Behind the Mask by sydneythewriter (She survived Hurricane Katrina)
  4. Identity: Sexuality by DoctorArt (Her family wouldn’t accept her sexuality)
  5. Identity: Rising from the Underworld by rebeccapark (Her injuries and dyslexia almost held her back)
  6. Identity: Scars, wires, and broken pieces by DougWF13 (He grew up on the computer)
  7. Identity: Amoeba by Tanssia (She needs to “get her life together”)
  8. Identity: Unknown by marina3 (She doesn’t know where she’s going in life)
  9. Identity: The truth without Photoshop by Nsuku (She is a Christian who struggles with depression)
  10. Identity: Stressed by tyo (This teen is stressed about her future)
  11. Identity: Leap of Faith by (This teen didn’t get into her dream school)
  12. Identity: Sshh… by TD (This teen does not like to be labeled)
  13. Identity: Anxiety by memmert (She overcame her anxiety by challenging herself)
  14. Identity: Defining Success by taylorcain (This teen struggles to deal with chronic pain)
  15. Identity: Existential Crisis at the Ripe Old Age of Fifteen by ag3560 (In the end, we are nothing)
  16. Identity: Just be Yourself by [email protected] (This teen was always angry and she wasn’t sure why)
  17. Identity: I Am Learned by Kofi Akosah (This teen was eager to overcome society’s limitations)
  18. Identity: You’ll find it by Brittany Zamor (“The closer you get to your identity the more at peace you will be”)
  19. Identity: Play-Doh? by Benjamin.Bialla (Our personalities and identities are molded like play-doh)

Video Resources About Teen Identity

As part of the writing contest and teen survey, provided the following video resources about teen identity...

Videos about Identity:

Identity SHORT FILM (Award Winning Inspirational Short)

*Identity: Short Film about a society where everyone wears masks that conceal their identity.

How do you define yourself? Lizzie Velasquez at TEDxAustinWomen

Once called the “ugliest woman alive” Velasquez talks about her triumphs and her ability to not allow her outward appearance define who she is

TEDTalk - To This Day . . . for the bullied and the beautiful by Shane Koyczan

poet Shane Koyczan

A spoken word poem about how we define ourselves and how others define us.  VERY POWERFUL.

The Breakfast Club

The ending scene from The Breakfast Club with the voice over of the “Dear Mr. Vernon” letter.

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