The Dreaded College Essay

It was my morning to drive the carpool and since there was one high school senior slumped in the back seat of my aging Volvo station wagon, the topic of college applications arose.

Shannon began stressing out loud about the essay she had to write for her application to a University of California campus. Like all other teenagers that I’ve known, she loathed the task and she had waited until the last minute to start writing. Applications are due next week.

Shannon told her sympathetic fellow passengers that she had started writing about her mother’s breast cancer, which had gone into remission many years ago. Now if you think that seems like the germ of a good essay, you’re right.

But it turns out Shannon was in danger of making the same mistake that so many other kids commit when writing college application essays. In her first draft, Shannon talked a lot about the disease that struck her mom when Shannon was nine and how she felt back then.

Anybody see what’s wrong with her approach? Admission officers aren’t going to give a hoot what a nine-year old was thinking about. They are eager to know how this traumatic event has impacted the 17-year-old applicant. When the kids in the car started asking her this question she was stumped since the disease went into remission so many years.

It’s so easy to be cynical about the college admission process and trust me everybody in the car fit into this category. So everyone started shouting out ways that Shannon could suggest that her life has been different because of her mom’s bout with breast cancer.

Here are two of the suggestions:

Because of the illness, Shannon is more passionate about life.
Because of the illness, Shannon is more of an extrovert because to cope she had to reach out to others beginning at a very young age.

Frankly, I can’t remember what the other suggestions were, but I think she decided to go the passionate route.

Of course if Shannon had read the copy of my book, The College Solution, that her mom bought her, she’d have a better idea of how to get that essay done right!

Hey, my apology for the plug.

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