I’m looking at the other side of college essays. This is not the side the admission officers see, but the side the students write, what they write and how they say it. So often we see guidelines on how to write the college essay. Directions like put it in the first person, make it creative, start with a grabber, finish strong, talk about you , and do this all in anywhere from 100 to 500 words are typical.
Consultants, counselors and English teachers are the ones who read them in their infancy, the rough stage, just when the thoughts are brewing. What I have seen and read is more authentic than the finished version on the applications. For the most part these are 17 year olds who have been taught in school how to write in the 3rd person, about the other thing and rarely about themselves. So, first there is the need to overcome that teenage insecurity, be humble College Selection Process, yet boast, sound confident and do all that in respectable English. I overlook the slang and instant messaging language so prevalent and work with students on extracting what I find so appealing about them. They all have it – that appealing thing. For some it is simply the way their closet looks and for others it is their personal experience of sitting together at a family meal. The good news is that these students are willing to open up with someone like me knowing that I do not evaluate, judge, grade or accept or deny them. It is an honorable and trusted relationship. I suppose what I see is what many admission officers would like to – the rough cut so to speak. Unquestionably, once student essays have been revised, edited and polished several times, they take on a new more formal look. Colleges are attempting to get the right look at students.
University of Michigan for example is attempting to have students think “outside the box” by posing ethical dilemma questions like, “Describe a setback or ethical dilemma that you have faced. How did you resolve it? How did the outcome affect you? If something similar happened in the future, how would you react?” Tufts is taking a more scientific approach to student essays and applications by hiring their dean, a psychologist to work on evaluations, “The first question might not sound so different than those on a typical application essay, but this year’s questions will be designed and evaluated based on psychological research. Tufts officials hope to better identify future leaders and predict college grades.”
So, even before the final essays get submitted, I am thoroughly impressed by the rough drafts – their subject matter, written quality, determination and yes immaturity of the students writing. I’m grateful I see that first draft. It is authentic, the truth and apparently what the universities want.
Jeannie received her Masters Degree in Education from the University of California, Los Angeles and is Founder and President of the Los Angeles based independent college counseling firm College Connections. She has an extensive educational background having served as counselor, school administrator, admissions director, teacher and curriculum supervisor for over twenty years in both the public and private sectors. Jeannie has done admissions counseling work for over fifteen years and continues her work of the past ten years as an independent educational college consultant. Jeannie has been awarded professional membership with the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA). Her affiliation with the National and Western Association of College Admissions Counselors as well as the Higher Educational Consultants Association keeps her on the forefront of innovative and current trends in college admissions and education.