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Through our very own editors and guest writers, this blog will discuss the INSIDE scoop on the admissions process of various schools and programs. If you wish to ask a specific question, please write to us, and we will make every attempt to address your questions in our future blog discussions.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
Essay Food for Thought
If there are a million different ways to write an admission essay, there must be at least as many ways to give advice about how to write one. This time of year, counselors, blogs, websites and college fairs are ripe with ideas.

As a writer, I often find that relentless focus is often anathema to the creative writing process. Everyone's heard of writer's block. I'm convinced it gets worse, the harder we try to, well, write. It is usually the simplest thing that triggers an idea. Something I saw on tv. Something someone posted on Facebook. Something totally unrelated to the thing I was trying to write about in the first place.

Almost any student sitting down in front of a blank screen knows what it feels like to be totally stumped. Especially when writing an admissions essay.

This is why I really appreciate the universities that come up with whacky essay prompts. The University of Pennsylvania, authors of the tantalizing "write page 217 of your 300-page autobiography" essay prompt, are introducing a new one this year. Based on a quote from Benjamin Franklin, the admissions committee asks the following:

"All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move. Which are you?"

Hmm. Even if it makes you scratch your head, it isn't a conversation-stopper. Consider this, from the Common Application:

"Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you".

Every time I see a creative prompt like Penn's, I see an opportunity for students to move outside the standard essay fair. If nothing else, sharing these prompts is a good way to provoke discussion. And like I said, the strangest flecks of inspiration can be found in even the most mundane of conversations.


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