The Ivy Coach Daily

January 18, 2022

On Sob Stories and Fake Patents in College Essays

A piece in The New York Post shines a lantern on students who tell sob stories in their college essays – a major faux pas in our book.

While we appreciate a salacious New York Post article as much as anyone, a recent piece highlighted how college applicants will sometimes tell sob stories or make up fake patents to embellish their storytelling in college admissions essays. And this of course is, well, patently ridiculous. Students need not make up sob stories to improve their cases for admission to elite universities. In fact, we always discourage students from telling sob stories. We don’t want students writing about illnesses that they, their parents, or grandparents have faced. We don’t want students writing woe is me essays as it’s an unlikely strategy to inspire admissions officers to root for them (in fact, we’re against answering the obstacle prompt for the Common Application Personal Statement entirely). And making up fake patents? Who says one needs a patent to get into a top school? That’s just silly. If a student is an engineer, an invention in the works — one the student has been creating and fine-tuning for several months or even years — is absolutely wonderful. The invention doesn’t need to be patented or even patent-pending. It’s all about what the invention is — there are great inventions that aren’t yet patented and lousy inventions with signed, sealed, and delivered patents. It’s not just about the patent!

Thus allow us to scratch our heads for a moment when we happened to read this tidbit in a piece by Isabel Vincent in The New York Post entitled “How college applicants embellish essays with sob stories, fake patents,” “Some kids will claim in their essays that they ’published’ a novel or memoir, when in fact their parents have hired a self-publishing outfit to produce what looks like a legitimate book. Other teens will write about their ’meaningful’ volunteer work in developing countries, when their moms and dads have funded the trips abroad just so they can have college essay fodder. Now, some students are even going so far as to register their own patents for research they have never completed.”

And what do we have to say about all of this nonsense? As our loyal readers likely could guess, oy vey is right! Fancy service trips in developing countries? Hiring a self-publishing outfit to put out a book? Registering patents for research that students have never completed? This is everything we at Ivy Coach are wholeheartedly against. It’s everything our students don’t do as they navigate the churning waters of elite college admissions. It’s fancy schmancy. And our students at Ivy Coach, well, they don’t present as fancy schmancy to admissions officers at elite universities. In fact, it’s a big reason why admissions officers so often want to root for them. It’s a big reason why they so often earn admission to their dream schools. Sob stories and fake patents? That’s just not in our playbook — nor will it ever be.

While you’re here, read what we’ve written in the past about sob stories in college admissions.

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