As a follow-up to our blog on why students should ignore the advice of English teachers when it comes to college essays, we wanted to share a story. Some years ago, a student of ours wrote an essay about a character in a book in response to an essay prompt that asked applicants what fictional character they most relate to. The applicant — believing that getting any and all opinions could only be helpful — decided to share the essay with her English teacher. The English teacher then read the essay and shared it with the English department at her high school.
This was her response to the student and we’ve changed the fictional character’s name to maintain anonymity: “I passed your essay to all the English teachers in my department and this was the consensus: Writing an essay about Scarlett O’Hara is a VERY bad idea. She’s not an admirable character. As literature essays go, this one is so vague. I wouldn’t pass it in class. We hope you have a back-up plan, and that you’re not married to this one. Because if you submit this essay it could without a doubt hurt your chances of admissions!” What do we think about the English teacher’s note, you ask? It’s ridiculous.
Declaring outright that writing an essay about Scarlet O’Hara is a very bad idea because the English teacher perceives Scarlet O’Hara to not be an admirable character (says her!) is absurd. Did she even bother reading the essay or did she just see that it was about Scarlet O’Hara when she passed judgment? The essay on Scarlet O’Hara, in fact, was quite excellent and helped earn this student admission to the college of her dreams. Shows what that English teacher knew. Having too many cooks in the kitchen can be a very bad thing. When students use Ivy Coach, they need no additional outside opinion. Who wants their college essays spreading around the English department of their high school anyway? Who knows how many other college essays are going around that department, too. Every student might end up with an essay about Pip from “Great Expectations” because this particular English teacher views Pip as admirable.