In many years of working in the private college counseling industry, one key takeaway of ours is a rather simple one. The vast majority of college applicants can’t write well. This is true of the ‘C’ students and the ‘A’ students. This is true of the students with perfect and near-perfect SAT and ACT scores. This is true of the students whose SAT and ACT scores make you wonder if they were at all conscious for the exam, even for a few brief moments. And, yes, even the students with perfect 800’s on the Writing portion of the SAT so often can’t write well. In fact, in all of our years in this business, we can only think of half a handful of students who could write well. And we’ve worked with quite a few students at Ivy Coach.
Late night shows often feature interviews of folks on the streets in which they ask them who America fought in the American Revolution or who is featured on the $20 billfold. It’s always rather astonishing to observe how much people don’t know about our country’s own history. Admittedly, it’s a little bit amusing. But it’s high time that more attention is given to the writing abilities of our graduating high school students. While their teachers mostly all have good intentions, so many students are writing, well, formulaically. They’re starting sentences with “however” and “nevertheless.” They start each paragraph with a thesis sentence so we don’t have to bother reading the rest of the words…until the next thesis statement. It’s old. It’s tiresome. It’s stale. It’s boring. It encourages the reader to just skip ahead.
Dare to write a fragment. Dare to not start a sentence with the word “I.” Dare to not start every sentence with the word “I.” You may think this suggestion is silly, but you’d be surprised how many college essays feature tons of sentences beginning with “I.” Enough. Dare to be different. Dare to write creatively. Dare to write in your own unique, individual style and voice. And then, admissions officers may just take notice. Yes, we’re aware we began the previous sentence with the word “and.” And we’re absolutely ok with this! Deal with it.
While you’re here, read about how we encourage our students to ignore their English teachers (most of the time). Sorry English teachers.