|Admissions Essays Blog|
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Monday, February 8, 2016
The Real Agony of the College Admissions Essay
Let me start out by saying that I am guilty. I have done this thing a thousand times. I sit smugly at my keyboard, pouring many decades of writing and life experience into short, admonitory blogs to teenagers. I close the laptop feeling satisfied.
Relax, kids. It's just an essay.
So today, as I read this beautifully crafted article by a young woman less than half my age-I had to really find a way to turn the mirror on myself. When I applied to college over 20 years ago, everything was done on paper. But that wasn't the biggest difference. I really only had to write a single essay. Sure, some of the private elite schools required a second or third question, but the stakes seemed different.
They'd leave five empty lines on a paper application and ask something like "tell us something you're particularly proud of". You wouldn't feel compelled to write earth-shattering prose. It felt more like filling out an intake form at your doctor's office.
But now. Now, it is so competitive. Students wanting to get in anywhere simply must cast a wider net. Sure, they can reuse and recycle some of their own work, but that's only half the battle. Most schools require at least two or three essays, and some want upwards of five. There can't be substantive overlap.
And while 250 words may not sound like much, it's oftentimes the hardest essay of all. Imagine being told you had to write down everything you loved about doughnuts. On a piece of paper the size of a dime.
It's not just an essay. It's a massive writing assignment, and good writing isn't something that most of us can just phone in. Neither is life experience-the lifeblood of most rich prose.
So I promise-from now on, when I lecture teenagers in cyberspace, I will be more empathetic.
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