College Essays (A Spoof in the New Yorker)

Christopher Buckley’s spoof college essay in the New Yorker put a smile on my face.

I’m applying to colleges this fall. For essays where I must create the prompt, I am using Joan Didion:

“I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package, I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that’s what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.” – Joan Didion, Commencement Address at U.C. Riverside

The essays are where I get to pontificate…but it’s very hard to set yourself apart here. After all, everyone is coached on every aspect of the app. Hell, you can even be coached for the SAT. There’s no doubt in my mind that many essays are written or re-written for kids by parents or tutors.

I was exchanging emails with an admissions officer a month or two ago, and mentioned this frustration. I put forth this challenge: if an admissions office read my blog for the 20 minutes or however much time they spend reading a file, they would find out who I am (and whether I’d be a fit) much better than a typical admissions package. In fact, for any high school senior who has a blog, I bet their blog (or a Google search of their name) would be much more helpful than overly polished perfection.

Alas, obtaining additional "color" is a low priority. Most colleges want to move up in the rankings, which means accepting the highest GPA/board scores students as possible.

2 Responses to College Essays (A Spoof in the New Yorker)

  1. Pingback: Jarmo Merila

  2. Sam says:

    For what it’s worth, Carnegie Mellon University’s supplement has a field labeled “Personal Web Page (if applicable).”

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