We came across a post in “The Washington Post” written by Valerie Strauss entitled “How not to bomb the dreaded college application essay” that we figured we’d share with our reader base. The post is quite accurate. Students shouldn’t wait until the last minute to write their admissions essays. They shouldn’t let the peanut gallery weigh in…even if the postman happens to say he’s an excellent writer. Students shouldn’t use words pulled from the Thesaurus in every sentence. And students should showcase their unique voice. It’s all absolutely true. Especially the bit about the peanut gallery. When we hear from parents and students that their English teachers and school counselors and barbers with an expertise in the English language weighed in on their essays and approved, that only leads us to believe their essays are much, much worse than they likely think.
But the post in “The Washington Post” misses one point that we’d like to call attention to. In the post, students like Samantha Fogel of Derryfield School are cited. We get to hear about the admissions process and her struggles with her college essays. She’s even featured in a photo with a big pink calculator. Who knew they made pink calculators? Good job, Texas Instruments. Way to market your product to people who do math who happen to like pink, too. But, in any case, one way not to “bomb the dreaded college application essay” as Ms. Strauss puts it in the title of her piece is not to be a college applicant featured on the pages of “The Washington Post” entirely!
Not to call out Ms. Fogel, but she did put herself out there to the public. Does she (and her parents) think that admissions officers don’t read “The Washington Post”? These articles don’t exist in a vacuum! Admissions officers can read, too. Especially on a subject that interests them — like college admissions. Duh. Does she think being featured in one of the world’s most revered newspapers will help her chances for admission? It won’t. The fact that writing a college essay can be stressful isn’t news and highly selective colleges don’t want students for whom writing a 650-word essay is stressful. So our advice to students who are contacted by major news publications to be featured in articles on college admissions? Avoid the limelight. Don’t risk hurting your chances for admission.
And when you’re searching for a job in a few years, do you really want your first Google search result to be about the trials and tribulations that went into writing your college essays? Likely not.