We’re closing in on the last minutes before the January 10 deadline, but I might as well offer one last thought on application essays.

During our review of Early Notification applications, a few discussions returned to a similar theme — first put in words by Dan — that U.S. students have their undergraduate application process in mind when they write their essays, and they try too hard to “be unique.”  Working with high school students, as I occasionally do, I’ve always lamented that they sit down to write their essays with that impossible standard as their instruction.  Generally speaking, what does a 17-year-old know about being unique?

Fletcher applicants usually have a better sense of the world out there, but the “be unique” advice still doesn’t serve them well.  It occasionally leads to an essay with strange choice of content or an odd tone.  And it’s completely unnecessary.  The first essay should lay out in pretty plain terms what you hope to do at Fletcher and beyond.  The second essay offers a little more latitude for “uniqueness,” but you don’t need to bear that heavy burden when you think about what to write.  Instead, focus on a much more achievable objective: follow the directions.

The fact is that what impresses Admissions readers is a clear study/career plan, backed as necessary by prior experience.  Sure, we enjoy a heart-warming second essay, but there are many aspects of your background that you might want to share, and they aren’t all heart-warming.  And that’s fine!  Pick the topic that’s best for you, without trying to guess whether we’ve ever read an essay like that before.

In sum, be direct.  Don’t worry about being unique.  And use a thesaurus judiciously — don’t try to impress us with big words.  Follow those simple instructions, and your essays will make the case for you.

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