College Essays 101
Read Spencer’s Second Version
Read the first sentence.
What do you think? What are your first impressions of this sentence? How does it compare to the original version? What do you think of the writing? What kind of person might Spencer be? If you were an admissions officer, what would you think?
Read the second sentence.
What do you think about this sentence? What advice did Spencer’s English teacher give him? How do you think a college admissions officer will react to this?
Read the first paragraph.
What do you think about the language? Any words or phrases stand out? What is Spencer trying to accomplish in this paragraph? What does Spencer think of himself? What do you think or feel about Spencer? What kind of person is he? (Look closely at the sentences to see what he says about himself.) Spencer says he’s confident and a leader. Do you believe him?
Read the second paragraph.
How’s Spencer doing now? What do you think of him? Who does the essay seem to be about? What do you think a college admissions officer would think about Spencer? We won’t ask you to read the third paragraph.
Read the common reactions.
We’ve led this workshop to thousands of people, and almost everyone has thought Spencer is a jerk. Spencer himself was embarrassed by this essay.
Issues people have with this essay include:
He uses words incorrectly.
His opening paragraph is scattered, with no clear point.
He talks about himself like he’s a gift to the universe (try reading this in a pompous tone of voice: were I not able to be confident in myself, I wouldn’t have the ambition or self-accountability I have today. Summer camp gave me that ability, and yet I had always taken that gift for granted.)
The second paragraph is all about Darius, not Spencer.
In the second paragraph he seems to think he’s too good to work with Darius.
He doesn’t do a good job with Darius, and is unkind and unsympathetic.
He feels victory (vindication) for having done a terrible job.
He doesn’t sound like a teenager.
A student in one of our workshops summed it up: there’s a difference between being a nice guy with a sophisticated vocabulary, and being a jerk with a thesaurus.
The Roommate Test
If this were all you knew about Spencer, and you learned that he (or she) would be your roommate, would you give a:
- thumbs up, excited about your new roomie?
- thumbs sideways, need to wait and see?
- thumbs down, you do not want this person as your roommate?
In our live workshops, 99.5% of people give Spencer a thumbs down. Every now and then someone thinks he can’t possibly be that bad and is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.