May 16, 2011

How To Write A College Application Essay Or Personal Statement

hogwarts.jpg


Sometimes you know something but the full significance never makes it to consciousness, because your very soul rebels against the implications: we've been doing it wrong all this time?

NYMag: You've Got Mail: Inside a top college's admissions room.  That college is Sarah Lawrence.  Ring a bell?  Some of you silly people will remember that Blair on Gossip Girl got rejected from there, but anyone over 30 will no doubt remember The Simpsons:

Mr. Thai [Thai restaurant owner] to Bart: Put flyers on doorknobs.  Then I get more business. Send daughters to small liberal arts college. Swarthmore. Maybe Sarah Lawrence. Call professors by first name.  Dynamite!

Bart later tosses them in the dumpster, and when the restaurant owner finds out:

Mr. Thai: You a quitta!  Quitta boy!  Now restaurant fail. Children go to state college. Serious students powerless against drunken jockocracy. Baseball hats everywhere.

Sarah Lawrence evaluates a student's performance in three spheres: academics, writing, and "personal", defined as extracurriculars and "other background." I'll leave the merits of "other background" to The Weekly Standard.  The issue for us here is the college essay.

Read this:

Standardized tests are supposed to correct for the ways high-school grading systems vary, so to make up for that, Sarah Lawrence's committee uses a sample essay graded by a high-school teacher to determine the curriculum's rigor. But the samples also tell something about the readers. "I had one essay that said how awful Twilight was"--the essay was about damaging themes of female submissiveness in the series--"and I was like, 'Admit her!' " says Melissa Faulner, a 2006 grad on the committee. Whereas what the readers wryly call TCML essays--"theater changed my life"--are looked at more skeptically.

No doubt, NO DOUBT, critics of higher education and multiculturalism will jump on the implication that the committee leans left, way left, and will favor those applicants  with similar predilections.  WRONGINGONTHEFLOORLAUGHINGMYASSOFF.  Read it again, you've missed something crucial.

'Admit her!' " says Melissa Faulner, a 2006 grad on the committee.
Still don't see it?  There's a very good chance that the only person who will ever read your college essay is 25 years old.

II.

In every college admissions website, they are referred to as "Admissions Officers."  While I didn't assume they were in the military, I suppose I did assume they were... old.  er.

And some are, I guess, there's got to be an Admissions Dean in the building somewhere.  But the average applicant is writing an essay that he thinks an adult with a suit and three kids would want to read.  Instead, it's probably being read by someone who can't wait for the new iphone and still bites their nails.  Ten grand says they think Jon Stewart is "a freakin' political genius."

But surely there are some adults on the committee?  The article focuses on Tom Marlitt, director of West Coast Admissions.  They don't give his age, they give a physical description. Media-- and The New Yorker is probably the wost offender of this--   offers a physical description of their subject as a code about their character in exactly the way the media would never allow a regular person to do.  If they profiled me it woudl start, "Wearing a disheveled undershirt clutching a rock..." and leave it to you to make an objective assessment (="drunkard, likely unbalanced.")   What they say about Marlitt is: "a spiky-haired man in all beige."  That's media code 50 year old acting like a 25 year old.

Look, nobody likes 25 year olds more than me, especially ones that are too pretty to get into Sarah Lawrence.  And there's little sense in arguing the merits of college admissions being determined by a 25 year old vs. a 50 year old when the whole college game is a carny act that works only because we agree to pretend it does, runs FIFO, and is subsidized by the government.  It is what it is. 

But if 85% of the applicants have already been weeded out before it gets to the committee, and they have been weeded out by a 25 year old, or a 50 year old who thinks he's a 25 year old, it would make more sense to write an essay for a 25 year old.  Not for a 50 year old, which is what most people do, employing the maxim, "What essay would make my Dad happy?"   So you get: quote from some uncontroversial famous person; affirmation of one's heritage/parents; generic sycophantic praise of the school; vague promises of changing the world.

college essay.PNG
Admit him!

Before you write your essay, profile your Admissions committee members.  They, not "the school", are the ones accepting you, and writing an essay for a theoretical "Admissions Officer" is like having sex with a theoretical "vagina."  Yes, it means you'll be submitting different essays to different places, but this kind of information may save you from describing  how much you admire Kissinger's foreign policy:


tom marlitt.PNGIf you're targeting a(n actual) 25 year old, i.e. someone who through no fault of their own has been conditioned to prefer brevity, appeals to emotion, and branding, here are the words you want to include in your essay: "sex" (as self-expression, not conquest), individuality, curiosity,  hypocrisy, naked.   25 year olds have hypertrophied BS detectors, so nothing contrived.  Bonus if you can include some dialogue in your essay, everyone loves a supporting cast.  Triple points if it can be read ironically, or if it is funny, especially in a self-deprecating way.







Comments

Poor undergrad edu majors p... (Below threshold)

May 16, 2011 5:56 PM | Posted by spriteless: | Reply

Poor undergrad edu majors paying for the priveledge to labor for the school for a degree.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -1 (3 votes cast)
You do know this is precise... (Below threshold)

May 16, 2011 7:11 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

You do know this is precisely the most useless time of year to make this post, don't you?

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 14 (22 votes cast)
Love it. Kids with 80% cogn... (Below threshold)

May 16, 2011 8:02 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Love it. Kids with 80% cognitive empathy and 20% affective empathy = "only a little bit" antisocial.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 2 (6 votes cast)
Don't you suspect that by t... (Below threshold)

May 16, 2011 10:12 PM | Posted by Jim: | Reply

Don't you suspect that by the time most admissions officers at competitive schools reach 30, they've moved on to becoming admissions consultants - shadow writing counter-culture essays for $120/hour while the kids they were hired to shepherd are standing in line opening night to see Twilight?

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 11 (11 votes cast)
At my school, almost all of... (Below threshold)

May 16, 2011 10:23 PM | Posted by Sean P.: | Reply

At my school, almost all of the admissions counselors were people who, upon being unable to decide how else to apply their sociology or communications degrees, decided that the best course of action was to hang around at college for a few more years. Is it really so wrong of me to think badly of people in their mid 20s who want to hang out with teenagers?

(I actually looked: all but the two people in charge are under 30.)

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 15 (19 votes cast)
"...the whole college game ... (Below threshold)

May 16, 2011 11:11 PM | Posted by noob: | Reply

"...the whole college game is a carny act that works only because we agree to pretend it does, runs FIFO, and is subsidized by the government."

hear hear!

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 20 (22 votes cast)
<a href="http://www.youtube... (Below threshold)

May 17, 2011 4:25 AM | Posted by Steve Barton: | Reply

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0bmsWkZ4dc

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -6 (6 votes cast)
"Look, nobody likes 25 year... (Below threshold)

May 17, 2011 10:23 AM | Posted by Drunken Jockocracy: | Reply

"Look, nobody likes 25 year olds more than me, especially ones that are too pretty to get into Sarah Lawrence."

---

It's funny because it's true. For all their good points, liberal arts colleges aren't exactly teeming with babes.

I sometimes wonder why that is. What's the difference between state colleges that have drop-dead gorgeous stunners every which way you look and places like Sarah Lawrence?

I doubt it's the courses available or that the girls at the liberal arts colleges are more intelligent. I don't hear of many electrical engineers coming out of those places.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 1 (33 votes cast)
After that, Alone's only ch... (Below threshold)

May 17, 2011 12:27 PM | Posted by Jack Coupal: | Reply

After that, Alone's only chance of getting an invite to deliver the commencement address at Sarah Lawrence is for a sultry SL student to seriously hit upon Alone, while he is bussing tables in the Betty Friedan Memorial Dining Hall.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -4 (10 votes cast)
"...almost all of the admis... (Below threshold)

May 17, 2011 12:59 PM | Posted, in reply to Sean P.'s comment, by Liz: | Reply

"...almost all of the admissions counselors were people who, upon being unable to decide how else to apply their sociology or communications degrees, decided that the best course of action was to hang around at college for a few more years."

True. I'd go so far as to say that the admissions section of a university tends to be staffed by graduates who are, in comparison with the rest of the student body, failures.

The money's not great and I've always thought that the mark of successful students/universities/parents is that they/their students/their progeny can't wait to go on into the big, bad world.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 10 (18 votes cast)
Just curious, does this ent... (Below threshold)

May 17, 2011 3:42 PM | Posted by Jim: | Reply

Just curious, does this entry exist because, after the whole C-team thing, you thought "There goes the soccer scholarship fantasy" and immediately began researching the general admissions process?

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 4 (6 votes cast)
I was just getting over the... (Below threshold)

May 17, 2011 4:49 PM | Posted by medsvstherapy: | Reply

I was just getting over the trauma of reading that exact admissions essay 100 times.

Why would a 20-something from India quote Vince Lombardi? Why?

And why provide generic sycophantic praise of our school, when you can google our ranking and actually put a number to how great we are? Is google too slow?

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 11 (13 votes cast)
whelp, looks like it's suic... (Below threshold)

May 17, 2011 7:20 PM | Posted by thestage: | Reply

whelp, looks like it's suicide again for me

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 6 (8 votes cast)
You confirmed my suspicions... (Below threshold)

May 17, 2011 10:10 PM | Posted by Avadoro Worden: | Reply

You confirmed my suspicions. I didn't expect it to be this bad. The whole enterprise is a shell game.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 1 (3 votes cast)
who says egg crates are jus... (Below threshold)

May 18, 2011 11:30 AM | Posted by noob: | Reply

who says egg crates are just for chickens?

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 2 (2 votes cast)
I graduated 15 years ago fr... (Below threshold)

May 18, 2011 3:39 PM | Posted by JustMe: | Reply

I graduated 15 years ago from a Jesuit school. The admissions committee was comprised entirely of Jesuits. Not one of them was under 55. I shudder to think who's reading them today at my alma mater.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 4 (4 votes cast)
"here are the words you wan... (Below threshold)

May 18, 2011 10:41 PM | Posted by medical uniform: | Reply

"here are the words you want to include in your essay: "sex" (as self-expression, not conquest), individuality, curiosity, hypocrisy, naked"

How about "Facebook"? Your post makes me laugh and as well as think about the reality of admission on college. Whew!

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 6 (6 votes cast)
I'm an avid tlp reader and ... (Below threshold)

May 19, 2011 12:17 AM | Posted by Moriel: | Reply

I'm an avid tlp reader and a current student at Sarah Lawrence, and I have some comments:

1. I think you're underestimating our recently-graduated admissions officers. I have one friend who stuck around to do that, and he definitely doesn't bite his nails, and prefers Noam Chomsky to Jon Stewart. I trust my peers to populate my campus far more than I would adults; they know intimately what is expected in the classroom, and they know what kind of people are interesting and enjoyable with which to be in class - a really important factor at SLC, where most classes are small seminars.
2. Seriously, spend 10 minutes there and then tell me if you still think there's such a thing as women too pretty to be accepted. You're probably just jealous that most of them are sleeping with each other.
3. It has been my experience that an appreciation of irony just comes with the liberal arts territory. My 50+ year old professors enjoy it just as much as my peers and I do. You of all people should know you can't deconstruct without irony.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -28 (48 votes cast)
in your attempts to counter... (Below threshold)

May 19, 2011 1:25 AM | Posted, in reply to Moriel's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

in your attempts to counter the post you reaffirmed all of its points. so there's that.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 34 (34 votes cast)
I wasn't really trying to c... (Below threshold)

May 19, 2011 1:36 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Moriel: | Reply

I wasn't really trying to counter anything; I agree that it's mostly recent graduates reading college admissions essays and therefore applicants will be more successful if they gear them as such. In my second point I was more or less just cracking a joke, and in the other two I was just pointing out a little bias on The Last Psychiatrist's part (read: agism). It's definitely happening. I don't think it's a bad thing. My school is progressive and confident enough to trust the young people it trains, and I'm proud of that. I also don't think they're trying to fool anyone into thinking it's old, uptight academics reading the essays.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -14 (24 votes cast)
@MorielI just look... (Below threshold)

May 19, 2011 3:01 AM | Posted by Drunken Jockocracy: | Reply

@Moriel

I just looked through the Sarah Lawrence website. Lol, just count yourself lucky that those girls are your sexual competition rather than, say, the sorority crews at places like USC.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 1 (15 votes cast)
I'm telling you, not a fair... (Below threshold)

May 19, 2011 3:05 AM | Posted, in reply to Drunken Jockocracy's comment, by Moriel: | Reply

I'm telling you, not a fair sampling!

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 1 (5 votes cast)
Its because pretty girls ar... (Below threshold)

May 19, 2011 5:41 AM | Posted, in reply to Drunken Jockocracy's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Its because pretty girls are social and want to party with their friends at state college, meanwhile ugmos with emo hair and glasses want to study their useless liberal arts bullcrap at private schools.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 0 (18 votes cast)
You're kind of an asshole.<... (Below threshold)

May 19, 2011 5:44 AM | Posted, in reply to Drunken Jockocracy's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

You're kind of an asshole.

Women are worth more than sex and looks. I bet you're a ripped bodied brad pitt looking type, right? Oh, no, you're pasty and skinny with a paradoxical beer gut, but thats okay because your a man and men are better than women and don't have to be vessels for sex in order to matter.

The dumb whores in sororities do nothing and are worth nothing except ensure that date rape rates remain high.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -14 (32 votes cast)
"Chomsky" + "deconstruction... (Below threshold)

May 19, 2011 2:32 PM | Posted by medsvstherapy: | Reply

"Chomsky" + "deconstruction" = marxist.
"Chomsky" + "deconstruction" + liberal education later than 1979 = unaware marxist.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 19 (21 votes cast)
If you're knowledgeable eno... (Below threshold)

May 19, 2011 3:24 PM | Posted, in reply to medsvstherapy's comment, by Moriel: | Reply

If you're knowledgeable enough to make the assessment, i've got to assume you're one of us. Or actually, more likely, a bitter, aging faculty member.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -7 (9 votes cast)
Good advice. If only my ex ... (Below threshold)

May 19, 2011 8:14 PM | Posted by Susannah F-C: | Reply

Good advice. If only my ex had been lucky enough to receive such input prior to writing about his dad flipping out, abandoning him, his bipolar mother and siblings to become a woman in his application essay. I did warn him. Oh well.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 1 (5 votes cast)
I happen to think that the ... (Below threshold)

May 19, 2011 8:22 PM | Posted by Moriel: | Reply

I happen to think that the best college admissions essay is one that exists in some middle ground, tackling real challenges, but doing so with a sense of humor. People of all ages can appreciate that.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 4 (4 votes cast)
does anyone know how Florid... (Below threshold)

May 19, 2011 11:57 PM | Posted by noob: | Reply

does anyone know how Florida Bright Futures Scholarship is funded? i'll give you two guesses.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 2 (2 votes cast)
I have one friend who st... (Below threshold)

May 20, 2011 1:56 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I have one friend who stuck around to do that, and he definitely doesn't bite his nails, and prefers Noam Chomsky to Jon Stewart.

He used to, but biting was too difficult with the thick-rimmed black glasses that make him smart.

Wait, did you actually say he prefers Chomsky's opinions? On what? I thought Noam left us back in '68; or maybe that's when he left the world of science and ventured off into the political hinterlands without his clozapine. I forget. Too much tequila, limes and gonorrhea in state schools.

- V

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 10 (10 votes cast)
Otherwise, after you finall... (Below threshold)

May 20, 2011 8:16 AM | Posted by Jess: | Reply

Otherwise, after you finally receive your degree, don't stop in your endeavors. You can be just as disingenuous while writing your resume.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 3 (3 votes cast)
Can everyone agree to stop ... (Below threshold)

May 22, 2011 5:08 PM | Posted by nichengl: | Reply

Can everyone agree to stop mentioning Chomsky in these comments? It's nice that some of you know the name of a famous intellectual, but it's clear most of you know nothing about him.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 9 (11 votes cast)
Haha, seriously, thanks.</p... (Below threshold)

May 23, 2011 1:38 AM | Posted, in reply to nichengl's comment, by Moriel: | Reply

Haha, seriously, thanks.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 0 (4 votes cast)
...and please don't substit... (Below threshold)

May 23, 2011 9:52 AM | Posted, in reply to nichengl's comment, by medsvstherapy: | Reply

...and please don't substitute nietzsche.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 5 (5 votes cast)
Plants are fashioned by cul... (Below threshold)

May 23, 2011 8:01 PM | Posted by noob: | Reply

Plants are fashioned by cultivation, men by education.
-Jean Jacques Rousseau, Emile, Book I

is Rousseau ok? wut about Wittgenstein?

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 6 (10 votes cast)
My college essay was about ... (Below threshold)

May 23, 2011 10:38 PM | Posted by emailmeifyouwanttotalk: | Reply

My college essay was about how I pissed myself during a baseball game while playing left field in the 6th grade cause I was too timid to ask to go to the bathroom. I applied to 10 places. I was accepted into one. It was a place filled with the kind of kids who would make fun of me on the baseball field. Go figure.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 11 (11 votes cast)
What are modern American co... (Below threshold)

May 24, 2011 7:26 AM | Posted by someone: | Reply

What are modern American colleges even for? Do you learn anything even remotely useful in them? My impression is that they exist only for liberal and feminist indoctrination, casual sex and substance abuse.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -1 (13 votes cast)
The following does not ha... (Below threshold)

May 24, 2011 5:15 PM | Posted by Harry Horton: | Reply

The following does not have any real relevancy to the above article but I found this info on the internet for May 2011. Johnson and Johnson getting sued more substantially by the Federal Government over ripserdal here in May 2011. THe following news articles carry the story.
(1) J&J reserves money in federal drug probe- Business week Linda A. Johnson.
(2) J&J's Risperdal charges could cost $1 Billion - THe Street.
(3) US seeking $1 billion from J&J in risperdal probe. Reuters.
(4)Feds seeking 1 billion from J&J over risperdal marketing - Wall Street Journal (blog.).


This previous information following South Carolina doctor's claims of being duped on misleading prescription writing information by J&J over risperdal. THe psychiatrists in the southern state since March have filed a lawsuit against the New Jersey Pharmaceutical Company for fraudulent practices.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -2 (4 votes cast)
At least this explains why,... (Below threshold)

May 27, 2011 11:32 PM | Posted by Ferris: | Reply

At least this explains why, after applying to the same school twice (don't ask), I did better with the essay about why the transporter in Star Trek would disprove the existence of God (in comparison to I-have-overcome-difficult-life-challenges), despite lower SAT scores and fewer extracurriculars on that application round.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 4 (4 votes cast)
"The dumb whores in sororit... (Below threshold)

May 28, 2011 12:15 AM | Posted, in reply to Moriel's comment, by metridious: | Reply

"The dumb whores in sororities do nothing and are worth nothing except ensure that date rape rates remain high."

I can only assume that blaming women for being raped is some sort of elite feminism only a Sarah Lawrence student can understand.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 15 (15 votes cast)
There was a post secret eve... (Below threshold)

May 30, 2011 10:21 PM | Posted, in reply to metridious's comment, by Eightbitman@gmail.com: | Reply

There was a post secret event at my uni during my senior year. A girl admitted to being raped and said it turned her into a huge slut. She had hoped someone would notice the change in behavior and see it as a cry for help. She said while crying that "no one cares... No one cares" I felt sadness and alienation. Her problem was everyones now. My inability to connect to others could never be addressed that way. I am very happy to be done with college. It was an awful place for me.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 2 (6 votes cast)
"I wasn't really trying to ... (Below threshold)

June 25, 2011 10:21 AM | Posted, in reply to Moriel's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

"I wasn't really trying to counter anything"

oh please...

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 3 (3 votes cast)
This blog assumes that actu... (Below threshold)

August 1, 2011 4:59 PM | Posted by Nivek: | Reply

This blog assumes that actual student applicant write their own college application essays?

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 0 (0 votes cast)
and prefers Noam Chomsky... (Below threshold)

April 27, 2012 3:54 PM | Posted by Aaron: | Reply

and prefers Noam Chomsky to Jon Stewart

how adorable

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 0 (2 votes cast)
That's great.I like your po... (Below threshold)

November 13, 2012 2:53 AM | Posted by Essay Sample: | Reply

That's great.I like your post.Thanks for sharing this with us.Keep posting more informative post.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -1 (1 votes cast)
If I ever become a famous i... (Below threshold)

January 9, 2013 11:20 AM | Posted by Michael May: | Reply

If I ever become a famous intellectual, I'll discuss how people tend to borrow the names of other intellectuals to enhance their own self in the eyes of others without fully understanding what they say.

That way, when people use my name out of context, it will be hilarious.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 2 (4 votes cast)
It is obvious that every ov... (Below threshold)

September 4, 2013 4:34 PM | Posted by Foreigner: | Reply

It is obvious that every overview has its own strict structure and people must be aware of this serious feature to avoid poor chaotic and senseless narration. We can rise hands in favour of some of the already made. Our ability of writing high school essays is based on educational technique of top universities.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -1 (1 votes cast)
hooray... (Below threshold)

December 15, 2013 3:08 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

hooray

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -1 (1 votes cast)
[url=http://www.softassembl... (Below threshold)

March 10, 2014 9:55 AM | Posted by The Man in the Iron Mask, An Essay promo code: | Reply

[url=http://www.softassembly.com/The-Man-in-the-Iron-Mask-An-Essay.html]The Man in the Iron Mask, An Essay promotional price[/url]. New titles

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 0 (0 votes cast)

Post a Comment


Live Comment Preview

April 23, 2014 18:58 PM | Posted by Anonymous: