As an applicant, Edward had so many desirable qualities: perfect GPA, high standardized test scores, a good mix of extracurricular activities, and truly remarkable skills in computer programming that he cultivated on his own.
The problem was that his writing style was painfully dry, and as a result, off-putting. It didn’t convey his winning personality or his intense passion for his pursuits, both crucial factors in successful admissions essays. Worst of all, Edward would spend countless hours crafting his dry essays, obsessing over the minutiae and losing sight of the big picture.
Having a perfect application profile with second-rate essays is like running a marathon and calling it quits less than a mile from the finish line. The first approach is to turn a strong critical eye on the writing, dissecting it completely in order to figure out what’s wrong and how to improve it. We begin with big-picture ideas (content, structure, overall purpose) and then fine-tune (word choice, sentence structure, flow) in later drafts. The second approach is to encourage extra writing exercises that help the student craft detailed, compelling narratives–i.e. “Describe the best day of your life.”
The Admissionado Approach
Since Edward signed up with us halfway through admissions season, there was no time to devote to extra writing exercises. We had to tackle his problematic essays, and we had to do it fast. Edward had already written what he considered to be the final draft of his personal statement, so he wanted to focus exclusively on supplemental essays. However, upon reading the personal statement, I quickly realized that it would only hurt Edward’s chances for admission.
It was dry, full of technical jargon, and impersonal. I explained that it would be the first order of business to fix this essay, beginning with a total rewrite, a prospect that upset Edward greatly, since he was very sensitive to criticism. Moving forward, I made sure that all of my critiques were constructive, carefully showing what was wrong and how to make it right.
After thoughtfully crafting his first revision and seeing the drastic improvement, Edward recognized the value of the editing process. With each subsequent draft, his writing grew more personal and engaging. Best of all, his passion for computer science was bursting forth, and his essays described his singular talent in a way that was both exciting and accessible.
Edward’s first admission was to the University of Maryland’s Cybersecurity Honor’s Program, and he received the Banneker/Key Scholarship, reserved for the top 1.5% of admitted applicants. Soon after, Edward received two more enticing offers: admission to both Duke University and Brown University. Considering these three exciting options, Edward chose Brown for its strong academic reputation and illustrious Department of Computer Science.
Armed with the skills to write code as well as compelling essays, Edward is sure to blaze a trail at Brown. I won’t be surprised, Edward, when I see you on the cover of Time Magazine with the headline, “The Next Zuckerberg!”