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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 16, 2012
The Psychology of Writing the Admission Essay
In a recent New York times blog, the Dean of Admissions at a small, liberal arts college in California declared that the admission essay is "the one component of your application where you have full control over the outcome". Hmm. Seems to me that really, intelligence and hard work can also earn us a perfect SAT score or at least a 4.0 GPA, but his point is well taken. By the time you've reached the admission essay portion of the application process, it is too late to change your grades and scores. Whatever leverage you have left lies with the admission essay. For most students, that prospect is overwhelming. From this Dean's perspective, however, the admission essay is a student's most powerful ammunition.

Electing to look at the admission essay as an effective tool rather than a crushing burden may not be easy, but could be a highly effective psychological shift. As a general rule, stress is caused by our very human fear of losing control over life situations. Inherent in the college admissions process is an almost total lack of control (and a lot of waiting). We can prepare for years, but for most of us, there is always that one failing grade-- that one botched test-- that we cannot erase from our record. We thus arrive at the door of university admission forced to hand over a slightly less perfect version of ourselves than we'd hoped.

And then there's this shot at an admission essay. Here we are, in the eleventh hour, offered a small but potent little chance to realign our fates. Maybe. Why not take control here? We cannot guarantee that our reader will love what we write about, love what we do, or care about our passions. What we can do is write something memorable, and do it well. I think this is true whether the author is 17 or 34. It isn't about having scaled Mount Everest, it's about exploring the way we feel about something-anything. And if we approach it feeling like we have control over its outcome, we might have just that.


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