Artificial Essays

Teddy Carnes '17, Contributor

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I imagine that the worst part of being a college admissions counselor is reading one boring essay after another. Since I’ve spent the past month writing said boring essays, I can sympathize. I appreciate that admissions counselors need an understanding of the candidates beyond their applications, but whatever happened to the good old interview? People can hide behind what they write on paper. In an interview, people can give lip service to anything they think you want to hear, but body language, confidence, and the ability to be communicative and articulate ideas without using a thesaurus for every other word is telling. None of that comes across on paper. Even if a personality shines through an essay, is it the writer’s real personality or one they’ve adopted based on what they think the particular college to which they are applying wants? How can an admissions counselor discern whether the “voice” in the essay is really a parent or a hired college consultant?

The reason people don’t show their real personalities in their essays is because there’s too much on the line. As a result, people try to be something they’re not. I recently read a college essay written by a good friend (not from this school in case you’re trying to guess who it is). It was well written, but I literally laughed out loud as I read it. Don’t worry, he wasn’t offended. He laughed too and then read one of mine and we both laughed even harder. His essay was nothing like him and my essay was nothing like me. The truth is we don’t sit around discussing weighty, life-altering topics or our failures and the life lessons we’ve learned from them. The truth is that we don’t reflect on ourselves very often. We talk about sports, like how we can’t wait for Tom Brady to come back, or how much we hate Roger Goodell. We tease each other relentlessly about anything and everything, usually on a daily basis. This doesn’t mean we aren’t serious about things or that we don’t care about loftier issues going on in the world. We just enjoy hanging out and having fun more than we like to discuss worldwide epidemics or our coming of age. It’s not that we aren’t capable of having these conversations either. But with all the stress and work that occupies our day, it’s rejuvenating to be able to sit back and rest our minds.

With all of the emphasis on essays that are designed to “woo” admission counselors, I think that both colleges and students lose sight of what these essays were originally meant to do: to convey personality. I believe the best way to gauge someone’s personality is to talk to them. For example, you would never see an employer hire someone based on a resume and an essay. It’s the interview that matters. If interviews take too much time, in this digital day and age, why not have applicants send video clips of themselves answering the questions you would normally see on an application? If the goal is to gage the person in their entirety, I believe the ability for college counselors to assess the person, instead of words on a page, provides a better solution.


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Artificial Essays