|Admissions Essays Blog|
|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.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Improving your Writing by Being Active and Involved
They say advice is what you ask for when you already know the answer but wish you didn't. I think this must feel especially true when you're a teenager. Particularly during the run-up to college.
The market is saturated with college counselors, editors, and how-to books on writing good personal statements. Like the diet industry, most students would rather take a pill than actually exercise and eat nutritious meals. It's human nature.
Unfortunately, when it comes to writing a good personal statement, no amount of editing, structuring, brainstorming, or proofreading is going to help you turn out a top-notch composition if you don't have the substance to back it up. Simply put-you need to have some experiences in order to write about them.
So the best advice I have for the high school freshman with their eyes on a good university is to be active and involved. I don't mean signing up for every club on the menu just to pad your resume. If you're ambivalent about yearbook committee, it isn't going to enrich your high school experience, and isn't going to become fertile narrative ground for an admission essay.
I'm suggesting you find something meaningful that you like to do. You cannot cobble together a good "experience" essay using handfuls of disconnected pieces. Those five times you spent an hour at the local nursing home are going to ring pretty hollow if you were just punching a clock, so to speak.
If you've truly experienced something that has changed you, it will be easy to write about it. You will have the ability to reflect, introspect and share in a way that is also meaningful to your reader. Just remember, experience can't be built overnight. So start today by opening your eyes and ears, and taking a real look around you.
Monday, June 16, 2014
Testing Accommodations for Law School Candidates
Last month, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the organization responsible for administering the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), settled a disability claim lawsuit to the tune of $7.73 million.
A class action suit was filed in 2012 on behalf of LSAT test takers, alleging that the LSAC routinely denied student requests for testing accommodations. Many students with chronicled medical histories of physical and other learning disabilities were among the plaintiffs. The suit argued that even candidates who had applied for and received testing accommodations in the past were turned down by the LSAC.
The LSAC's failure to offer things like extra time to students in the administration of the LSAT was deemed a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prevents discrimination against persons with disabilities.
Another key provision of the settlement is the agreement by the LSAC that they will no longer "flag" scores of test-takers who do receive accommodations. Doing so was deemed a sort of asterisk on a student's LSAT score, alerting the law school that the applicant had a disability.
With more than 6,000 plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the multimillion dollar settlement will ultimately be spread thin. For their part, the LSAC is not offering any admission of guilt-just stating that settlement is the best way to put this all behind them.
The settlement is also good news for future test takers with a variety of disabilities. Though some argue that the LSAT is not an accurate indicator of law school success, it is still given a tremendous amount of weight in the admissions process. A few points can make a huge difference.
Which means that extra minutes for a student that needs it, could make all the difference in the world.
Monday, June 9, 2014
How to Choose a College Major
I'll be honest. My memories of filling out my college application have grown rather patchy over the years. We did it on paper, and had to do separate applications for most colleges. At least some of them required us to list a major. At seventeen, I knew everything about the world and basically nothing about it. So when I had to select a major from the university's list, I picked something practical.
I knew business was about making money. I'd taken one Economics class in high school and never really warmed to Econ's tireless allegiance to the theoretical. Still, it seemed sensible. Right? Yeah, I really had no idea.
I dropped Macroeconomics just a few weeks into the first quarter of my freshman year. It was a proverbial "weeder" course, and I'd been successfully weeded.
I switched my major a few more times for spurious reasons. I had a real predisposition for being practical, but that meant very little to me since I truly had no idea what I wanted to do for a living. Worse still, I was bouncing ideas off other kids my age. Apart from the engineers, no one else had a clue either.
As it turns out, my college degree never really served as a professional pivot-point. I believe this is true for many students, excepting the select few who already have their eyes on doctoral work in a specific field, or a career in medicine.
I wish I could tell today's students that it's okay not to have your future mapped out at seventeen. That it's okay to flounder through the general education courses and settle on a college degree in a field that invigorates. That there is no "right" major. That experience is the greatest teacher of all.
Or you could just check the practical box, and let the chips fall where they may.
Labels: How to Choose a College Major
Monday, June 2, 2014
Stepping Back from your Personal Statement
Have you ever looked back at something you wrote last month, or last year, and struggled to recognize it? Wondered who came up with those thoughts? Or why you kept using the same ridiculous phrase? Ever felt embarrassed to re-read something you once soulfully poured onto paper? (Like the time I found my teenage journal and dug into some of my old boyfriend angst. Cringe-worthy stuff.)
If the answer is no, don't worry too much. Writing consumes much of my professional life, so forgetting what I wrote last week can be an occupational hazard. There is, however, something to be said for taking a step back from any composition. Especially one that is deeply personal.
Your college admission essay is just that. Only it isn't stream-of-consciousness drivel, destined only to die a lonely death on the pages of your diary or at the foot of your Facebook feed. Instead, it's something that someone else is going to read. Something someone else is supposed to read. It's also supposed to make you look good.
As an editor, I can safely say that it's obvious to me when a college admission essay has been written last minute. It isn't just the grammatical mistakes and lazy structure. It's the obvious lack of intimacy that the writer has with their subject matter. They seem rushed and disconnected.
I have a feeling they too could see those deficiencies, if only they took a moment to step back. When you slow down a bit, you pick up on a lot of missed details.
So while I know school just got out this week, and you've pretty much packed away your pencils 'til September, consider this advice. Start writing now. It doesn't matter if it's bad, or disorganized or off topic. It's a starting point. And when you read it again in a month, or three, you'll be surprised at how easy it is to fix it.
I promise you, when you're struggling with writer's block-something old, awkward or poorly written is always a better place to start than a blank piece of paper.
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