Admission Essays and War Crimes?
My eight year old is convinced that his third grade teacher hates him. He whines, “why else would she make me write about myself ALL THE TIME!?” Apparently, the guidelines established by the Geneva Convention state that being forced to write about yourself is a form of torture.
As a result, I have newfound sympathy for those of you, parents and students alike, who are agonizing over college essays. One of the questions I get asked regularly is, “what topics do admissions officers want for essays?” I have this bad habit of telling the absolute (and generally unhelpful) truth, “We want to know more about you.” This results in the expected eye rolling and, I suspect, comparisons of admissions officers to military tribunals (which, at times, I find entirely reasonable).
Of course, it is far easier to offer topics that you SHOULDN’T use. One of the most common topics I receive (although always under some alternate title) is, “The many reasons I detest doing any work and believe I am entitled to admissions despite miserable grades.” Others include, “I would have done better if my teachers weren’t all idiots,” or “The many ways I enjoy harming small animals,” and my personal favorite, “I’m coming to your school because my boyfriend is there and I can’t bear to be away from him and why hasn’t he called me back lately?”
All you’re really trying to do with your essay is give admissions officers some reasons to admit you. This generally involves trying to tell them two things: the first is what’s great about you. This is no time for modesty! You can use whatever hook you want, but in the end your essay should tell the reader a bit about how great you are.
The second thing, equally important but much easier (and something that should take up little space), is why you want to attend that school. You can, of course, just mention that, “There’s no place in the whole world you’d rather be than George Mason University,” (an entirely understandable sentiment). Much better, however, is to go that extra step by explaining why; for example, “I love George Mason University, not just because it is in the best location in the world with incredible access to everything D.C. has to offer, and not just because it is one of the most globally diverse institutions in the world, but especially because that dean of admissions is an incredibly witty fellow and I just want to be where he is.” Something like that might work, but perhaps a bit less stalkerish.
Before I get flamed by those of you who are regular readers– yes, I could have labeled that a “Shameless Plug,” but I was just illustrating my point. Don’t believe me? Bring on the tribunal!
Be seeing you.