Thursday, April 15, 2010

Myths and Misconceptions of the College Essay: Writing to Reveal Part 1

Mark Hoven and I had an opportunity to present at our annual GPACAC (Greater Plains Association of College Admission Counselors) conference in KC last week. Our presentation's title, "Myths and Misconceptions of the College Essay: Writing to Reveal".

Essentially this presentation was a distillation of what we will introduce to our seniors this summer during our college essay workshops.

Mark and I began by demystifying the essay's audience. Often times students broach the college essay thinking they are writing to an audience that looks like this guy.

A J.R.R. Tolkien type. Someone who wears a rumpled blazer. And smokes on a pipe. And lives among musty, old books. And peppers conversation with Latin phrases like "sine qua non".

This is the kind of person, I clarify with my seniors, you will write for in college. But not to get into college.

So who is my audience?

Someone more like this.

That's one of our Vandy college officers. His name is Chris. But I like to call him "JT" (aka Justin Timberlake). Believe it or not, most college admissions officers are far closer to a senior's age than mine. Like you (the senior), JT text messages probably 500 times a month; has a Facebook page; likes Taylor Swift's music if not has a crush on Taylor; and if you were to drop a one-liner from Wedding Crashers or The Hangover, he would probably laugh and retort with a one-liner himself.

What is important to remember is that 85% of the 3,000+ colleges and universities in the U.S. admit more than 50% of their applicants. That means that the majority of schools out there are looking for a reason to accept you as opposed to a reason not to accept you.