We came across quite an entertaining little story on the pages of “The New Yorker.” The story, entitled “College-Application Essay,” is written by Paul Rudnick and it’s presumably tongue in cheek. At least we hope that it’s tongue in cheek. We hope a college applicant like this doesn’t actually exist, though we know from our many years of experience that indeed there are many applicants like this. The character portrayed in the story, Adam Harper Steinem Mandela Kellowitch- Frane (ok, it’s definitely tongue in cheek!), is quite the Gatsby-type figure. He lives in a fancy high-rise in Manhattan, attends a privileged academy (the academy mentioned is fake…much like the rest of the piece), and develops alternative fuels in his spare time. Because who doesn’t?
Here’s an interesting excerpt from the silly piece: “When I was twelve, I first became aware of the world’s suffering, and I used the dividends from my trust fund to fly to Berlin to help the victims of the recent tsunami. Upon my arrival, I discovered that, while the tsunami hadn’t affected Berlin, I could still express my empathy for the victims by joining an activist performance troupe and mounting a piece entitled ‘Younami: The Superstorm Inside Us All.’ Upon my return to the States, I was accepted as a legacy to the prestigious St. Callowmere Academy, where I pursued my passionate yet quirky interests in designing chairs without legs for people who’d rather sit on the floor; developing alternative fuels, including my rage at my stepmother; and writing, directing, and starring in a Web series about my dorm room (inspired by my unpublished graphic novel about the mouse who lived in my desert boots). I have also volunteered as a tutor, helping public-school children learn to lie about it, and to stop already with the colorful backpacks, because it’s a dead-ass giveaway. I have also excelled at lacrosse, wakeboarding, and riding the subway while thinking, Look at me, I’m riding the subway!” Very funny.
And while this essay may be tongue in cheek — ok, it’s definitely tongue in cheek — there really are students who come off this way in their college applications to highly selective colleges. Those service trips to countries of the Third World — this is how it reads. That hour a year you spend volunteering at a soup kitchen? This is how it reads. That privilege that is ingrained in every fiber of your being…this is how it reads. So don’t come across this way. Even if Paul Rudnick is portraying an extreme example of a college applicant, the less extreme versions of this type of student are really bad too. Portraying yourself in any way like this in your college applications to highly selective colleges will most certainly lead to rejection. And deservedly so.
While you’re here, check out this piece on What Makes A Bad College Essay.