2017-08-06

College Application Essays

This year, I was rather out of touch with the event's organisation - and I ended up being reminded about the event the day before, on Facebook. I joined a facilitator's group, and from that group got the itinerary which I could not find online. Then, since I had free time and needed a break from work, I turned up during "essay," and "major," advisory sessions for applicants. For the essay section, I asked where they needed help, and got sent to the "Brainstorm/Outline" stage, ended up in Room 8, was advised to advise individuals during the breakout, parked at the back of class, and waited for further instructions. Lel.

I ended up in a group with two participants and one student helper, so it was quick. Points covered:

- College admissions is a competition.

- Admissions readers are judges. You are writing your own recommendation letter. Without being too trite about it.

- Essays are structural: the judge is looking to evaluate the writer's ability to build models. Model building capacities are not evident from report-cards and other parts of the application documentation.

- What your model (essay) about is not important, which is why the essay is fundamentally open-ended in topicality. What the judge is looking for is systematic structure, for example if the model is of a house, there must be a front door, window, rooms that connect to each other, etc.

- Brainstorming: begin with a topic that makes yourself excited, so that there is some basal motivation to explore the topic. Analysing the origins of exciting feels may be informative. In one example, the student helper was led to realise that her interests in horror movies and outdoor sports are related, because these two different activities have a similar effect on her psyche. Teasing out relationships like this provides raw content for listing.

- Outlines: building a list of interests is a good start. Arranging the list in a bulleted tree structure is the next step. Rearranging the leafs and branches changes what an essay is about, as it groups ideas together. After all, the entire essay should be bound together under a single idea.

- Editing: after 2-4 private drafts, it is helpful to seek peer review. Reviewers should be people who have experience in: admissions programs, hiring for businesses, or managing teams - these could even be juniors in the writer's school, who have played a role in team selection for committees, projects, camps, etc.. Giving a reviewer the essay, the writer wants their feedback on only one question: would you hire this person?

- End of process: the more revisions and cycles of peer review conducted, the better. Feedback however should be collected in bulk, then judged as a whole. A lot of the feedback will not matter. The writer must decide on what matters, and push the essay in a specific direction, with specific opportunity costs. That is the form of essays.
General feedback: organisers had a great idea with the separation of essay-stages into rooms... with the idea that participants would move through the rooms; but participants were not aware that they were supposed to move around. My participants thought they had been randomly assigned to one room for one hour.😯😯

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