Tell us about a personal quality or accomplishment that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud? How does it relate to the person you are?*
*University of California prompt
The College Admission Essay prompts your teenager (in 450 words or less) to reveal her true inner self. Geez, why not ask high school seniors to explain the meaning of life or expound upon the Fibonacci Series while they’re at it?
For adults, writing a personal statement is about as challenging as brewing tea. Mr. UnHollywood and I have had years to steep over loss, love, adversity and triumph. Judging by how often our kids don their Beatz sound-silencing headphones, we may have overdone it on recounting Glory Days. The point is adults revel in describing personal qualities and accomplishments. Millions are doing it right now on Match.com.
The same cannot be said for most eighteen year-olds who fear Personal Statements more than Behind-The-Wheel Driving Tests. At times my own kids’ self expressions are best summed up through FB status and Tweets. With overscheduled lives, SAT’s, and SnapChat, how much time does a teenager really have to mull over his own qualities and then write about them in an interesting, authentic way?
Volunteering in writing classes at Beverly Hills High School or meeting privately with students to review their Personal Statements, I have yet to read a first draft ready for launch. Most essays avoid getting real. After an initial read, the student and I talk. Frequently, the seriousness of the essay’s tone does not sound at all like the student sitting next to me.
My real problem is when the seriousness drowns out a teenager’s voice. A missing voice tipoff is word choice. They’ll write ‘amongst,’ ‘thus,’ ‘nonplussed’ and other seemingly sophisticated words that at best sound as awkward as a gurgling stomach, post-Chipolte.
Another way seriousness mucks up an essay is in theme. In their zeal to appear mature, some students write about subjects that are not, in fact, part of their everyday lives. Or they take an incident and try to infuse it with a degree of complexity that comes off like drizzling truffle oil over French Fries. Get real.
Motivation and hard work trump all the first draft goofs. At times, students just need a fresh reader to help them see flaws and make necessary edits. Other times, they realize it’s best to scrap it and start over. I pity the teenager who misses the rewrite opportunity because they waited too long to begin their College Essay or they mistakenly think they have a winner on their hands on the first try.
College essays are like pancakes, the first ones out of the pan aren’t very tasty.
Can you stand more? Follow BHMom on Facebook!