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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.
Monday, October 7, 2013
Are Colleges Asking for Too Much
French novelist Anatole France wrote: "An education isn't how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It's being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don't." What don't you know?

This was Brown University's Supplemental Essay prompt from a few years back. (All Brown applicants are also required to submit an essay through the Common Application). As a writer and an editor, I love this question. It is miles better than the describe-the-world-you-come-from blather offered by so many other schools.

Then again, I'm not really the target audience. For me, college was twenty-odd years ago. There's no way I can climb back inside my 17-year-old psyche and remember what it was that galvanized me in those days. I probably would've started to shut down as soon as my eyes grazed the "French novelist" portion of the prompt.

A recent Twittosphere blog took the position that colleges are asking for too much with prompts like these. And perhaps they are. College is supposed to be hard, but it is also supposed to be fun.

Maybe it says something about the company I keep, but most of my friends and I look back on those four (ish) years with nostalgia for the lifestyle. It is a coming-of-age epoch like no other. My memories aren't tied to senior year seminars but to the treasure chest of life experiences which seemed somehow richer and brighter then.

But like most challenges in life, it's easy to look back on them with a shrug. Getting into college these days is daunting. Maybe terrifying. So is it fair for colleges to expect adult-like essays from teenagers?

I say, why not? There is no right answer. If you're seventeen and you're applying to college, you need to at least know how to muse. Perhaps understanding what you don't know is the first step to a successful college career.


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