College Application Essay: A Dream or Nightmare?
Martin Luther King Jr.
Recently there has been a lot of mention in the news about reaching the 50-year milestone anniversary of Martin Luther King’s historic march on our nation’s capital. Now this may seem a little strange, but it has gotten me thinking about college application essays. Perhaps you’re thinking that I’m taking this too far, Or that I need to take a break from being a writing coach. But bear with me here, and I’ll explain.
Not unlike MLK’s speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, many essays I assist with are filled with students’ dreams: dreams of their future and dreams of their role in making this world a better place. And these dream-filled essays are coming from even the most analytical people, such as those applying to engineering programs at prestigious schools such as Michigan and MIT.
Is this a good thing? You bet! There’s a place for planning and a place for dreaming. The application essay is a place in which the student not only can—but should—allow his or her dreams to soar!
How inspirational would MLK’s speech have been if he said, “I have a plan…”? Not very, I suppose. When King spoke of his dream, it was inspirational not just to the people who shared his dream, but to all people with dreams of their own and dreams for their children. Likewise, when a student writes about his or her dreams in the essay, the admissions officer can relate because he or she was once at this fork-in-the-road of life between high school and college, student and professional, youth and adult. Dreams may differ, but we all have them; they’re what make us human.
Admissions officers see many applicants with similar GPA’s and test scores. The applicant who can write an essay that reflects his or her individuality through an interesting story will capture attention. Believe it or not, admissions officers are human, and some of their decisions, when you get right down to it, are emotional. If they like you, they’ll want you at their school. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying the numbers aren’t important. I’m saying admissions officers often turn to the GPA and test scores to rationalize their emotional decisions. Do you see the importance of the essay in the application process, especially when the GPA’s and test scores are similar among applicants? I can’t emphasize this enough: The essay absolutely can make the difference between acceptance and rejection. Think about it.
So plan on how you will finance your education and your educational path, but let your dreams shine in your essay! However, you’ll have to be more subtle than declaring “I have a dream.…” That line already has been most notably taken!
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About Nancy Frieder
Nancy Frieder hopes her passion for assisting students with their college and post graduate application essays shines through in her blogs. She created The Write Stuff Help to reduce the stress for the applicants and their parents by helping the student pinpoint an essay topic and write it in a way to attract admissions officers. Those who work with Nancy not only improve their writing, but also learn to target an audience with a unique reflection of themselves in a way that their test scores and GPA cannot. Nancy has lived in Montgomery County for more than 27 years. She has held reporting and editing positions for both local and national publications, and enjoys substitute teaching in Montgomery County Public Schools. Nancy and her husband just became empty-nesters, as both of their children now attend college. Their dog, Fez, is getting more attention than ever! Catch up with Nancy on Facebook and at her website The Write Stuff Help.
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There is much work to do to improve schools across the globe, says Geetha Kanniah, 17, a Correspondent from Malaysia, who describes attributes that she would like to see as common standards for all schools.
My dream school is first of all a school where life begins with the teacher who is full of passion and liveliness. The teacher not only grabs the students’ attention but keeps them on the edge of their seats wanting to know more. His or her enthusiasm ignites that spark of excitement that opens receiving minds to wider fields of knowledge. Such a teacher asks more questions from the students, explores with the students and is a friend to them.
My dream school is a school where teaching methods vary from the use of contemporary technologies like robotics to out-of-class experiences. Those experiences are important because they do not confine students to the four walls of a classroom.
There would also be integrated learning of subjects both in the Arts and Sciences so that the education received would not be about confining but expanding. Given choices, students get a sense of freedom, can express opinions and will be more sociable. All these make them better persons in society, possessing a wide range of skills.
My dream school would be complete with amazing facilities like classroom labs, pools, and gyms. A library and counselling centre would be at hand to enable students to be more familiar with their subjects and themselves. Studying in a hands-on environment allows students to use their five senses to gain knowledge. It moulds them to be excited about their abilities and excel with them. Also at hand would be a canteen stocked with healthy food. A balanced diet is vital for students who spend many hours in school. Clean, non-processed, nutritious food is a key feeding requirement for students.
Foreign exchange programs in my dream school would create understanding and respect. They would satisfy curiosities and instil intercultural awareness. They would be open to all students, rich and poor. Including students from all parts of the world would make this education truly global.
Sports would be given equal emphasis with academics. After all, education is not only for the mind but for the whole self – mentally and physically. Sporting activities instil a healthy lifestyle by encouraging students to be physically fit, emotionally strong, and have good self-esteem. They build team spirit, and at the same time encourage individuality. Through sports, people from different backgrounds meet and learn to respect each other.
Academic subjects must be relevant. The syllabus would include significant impact fields like environmental studies, political views, and economic struggles. It would grab the attention of students and lead them to action.
Improving schools would require international collaboration. Such cooperation would encourage dialogue and lead to common standards. Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the great engine of development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that the child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation”.
Education can bring a change in someone’s future as Mr. Mandela observed. The struggle to keep fulfilling that observation must be made by us. Students need to be inspired, amazed and be aware of endless opportunities.
While school is the best thing that ever happened to mankind, there is still yet more to do.
Photo credit: scottwills via photopincc
I am a Malaysian, who looks for adventure and thrill, and is passionate about sports. I enjoy tennis, swimming, badminton and most recently, longboarding. I also spend a lot of my time with my camera, capturing as much as I can, while documenting them on my blog: journeywithacamera.wordpress.com.
My travels give me the exposure to learn about the world. And to know and do more, I volunteer with different organizations, particularly in the marine field. My ambition is to be an explorer and to reach out to people.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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