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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, June 30, 2014
The Over-Processed Admission Essay
I've been editing admissions essays for well over a decade now. I also come from a big extended family. Lots of them have applied for and been accepted to various colleges over the years. Nearly every one of them has asked me to take a look at their essays.

Well, not them, exactly. Their parents have.

Their parents have also been good about coercing the kids into taking my advice. Or at least writing me a thank you note. I don't mind. I figure if even one small slice of my advice leaks through, I've been helpful.

This last year, I was asked again by earnest relatives to look over their daughter's essay. I did, and it was pretty good. Nevertheless, it looked like a lot of the high school student essays I read that are written by bright, accomplished kids who are totally bored with the essay-writing process. It seemed bored, scattered, lacking in structure. So I sent my feedback and scarcely gave it another thought.

Months later, I spoke with her mom. With apologetic embarrassment she told me her daughter had refused to accept any of my changes. In fact, the daughter hadn't even shared her final product with her parents. She ended up getting into one of the colleges of her choice, and she's happy with the result.

She didn't want my advice because she hadn't solicited it. She also didn't want it, because she wanted to take ownership of her work. She didn't want polish, and she didn't want it in someone else's voice. Her mom thought it was reckless. I found it brave.

I still think every written work-whether in the college application genre or the real world-benefits from a second set of eyes. The computer can't fix your structure. Still, an essay crafted from your experience will have your fingerprints all over it-warts and all.

And while we'll never know what admissions officers are truly looking for, you can't go wrong with being a little brave.


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