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Approaching the College Essay

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Title: Approaching the College Essay


1
Approaching the College Essay
  • David Schindel Sandia Preparatory School
    Beverly Morse Kenyon College
  • Jeremiah Quinlan Yale University

2
(No Transcript)
3
An Approach to the Intentional Essay
  • NPR This I Believe format
  • http//www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?story
    Id4538138
  • Essay Parameters
  • Clear statement of belief
  • Story that reveals the discovery of the belief
  • Conclusion that reflects on the belief
  • Concise (300 word maximum)

4
Steps
  • The educator curriculum for This I Believe is
    available on the NPR website. I condense it to
    use in workshops.
  • Lesson One Brainstorm
  • Head the paper with I Believe and write
    non-stop for twenty minutes.
  • It is alright to repeat, but write for the
    allotted time.

5
Step Two
  • Examine (discuss with class) the sheet for your
    core belief the one that remains constant.
  • State your belief in a declarative sentence for
    example, I believe in the power of names.
  • I typically write an essay along with students
    to illustrate.

6
Step Three
  • Take the statement of core belief and develop it
    into one paragraph which defines the belief
    broadly.
  • Be certain that your belief is clearly stated and
    specific.
  • Avoid beliefs that are too general (i.e. I
    believe in friendship).

7
Step Four
  • Tell your story. Show the reader through a
    specific illustration of how you arrived at your
    core belief.
  • Begin with a stream of consciousness reflection.
  • -- Be certain that the story illustrates the core
    belief you have stated in the intro.

8
Step Five
  • Write the conclusion that returns the reader to
    the core belief.
  • The conclusion need not restate the belief but
    must concretely connect your story with your
    introduction.

9
This I Believe Essay
  • In previous lessons I have used Eboo Patels I
    Believe essay We Are Each Others Neighbor
    (November 7, 2005). This year I am using Kamaal
    Majeeds essay Being Content with Myself (May
    7, 2007). I intentionally select I Believe
    essays that will resonate with students and
    stimulate discussion about content and craft.

10
Being Content with Myself By Kamaal Majeed
  • Since my middle school years, Ive been asked
    this question more than any
  • other. It seems to me that too many people have
    let society program into their
  • brains what should be expected of me, a black
    person, before ever interacting
  • with me. But I believe in being who I am, not
    who others want me to be.
  • On my first day of high school, going into math
    class, two of my classmates
  • pointed and laughed at me. I initially thought
    my fly was open, or that
  • something was stuck in my teeth. But as I took
    my seat, I heard one of the
  • students whisper, Why is a black person in
    honors? So my fly wasnt open.
  • An honors-level class had simply been joined by a
    student whose skin was an
  • unsettling shade of brown.
  • Many people think my clothes should be big enough
    for me to live in, or expect
  • me to listen exclusively to black music. In
    seventh grade, a group of my
  • peers fixed their cold stares on my outfit
    cargo shorts and a plain, fitting T
  • Shirt. They called out to me, Go get some
    gangsta clothes, white boy.

11
Page 2
  • In one of my Spanish classes, as part of a review
    exercise, the teacher asked
  • me, Te gusta mas, la musica de rap o rock? Do
    you like rap music or rock
  • music more? I replied, La Musica de rock. The
    look of shock on my
  • classmates faces made me feel profoundly
    alienated.
  • I am now in my junior year of high school. I
    still take all honors courses. My
  • wardrobe still consists solely of clothes that
    are appropriate to my proportions.
  • My music library spans from rock to pop to
    techno, and almost everything in
  • between. When it comes to choosing my friends, I
    am still colorblind. I
  • continue to do my best work in school in order to
    reach my goals and yet,
  • when I look in the mirror, I still see skin of
    that same shade of brown.
  • My skin color has done nothing to change my
    personality, and my personality
  • has done nothing to change my skin color.

12
Page 3
  • I believe in being myself. I believe that I --
    not any stereotype should define
  • who I am and what actions I take in life. In
    high school, popularity often
  • depends on your willingness to follow trends.
    And Ive been told that it doesnt
  • get much easier going into adulthood. But the
    only other option is to sacrifice
  • my individuality for the satisfaction and
    approval of others. Sure, this can be
  • appealing, since choosing to keep my self-respect
    intact has made me
  • unpopular and disliked at times, with no end to
    that in sight. But others being
  • content with me is not nearly as important as me
    being content with myself.
  • Kamaal Majeed is a high school student in
    Waltham, MA. In addition to his studies, he
    works part-time at the local library, and enjoys
    studying foreign languages and writing a personal
    journal. Majeed hopes to pursue a career in
    journalism. Essay quoted from NPR This I
    Believe Archives.

13
Use of Sample
  • I have used Patels and now Majeeds essay for a
    number of reasons
  • Story from high school and/or by a high school
    student
  • Story relates to a core ethical value
  • Essay is tight and uses well both personal
    narrative and personal reflection.
  • Story promotes discussion of content and form.

14
The Editing Process
  • The Editing process is the key to the Intentional
    essay and is student generated.
  • Brainstorm the characteristics of good writing.
  • The brainstorming process allows an opportunity
    to review principles of good writing and
    parameters of standard written English.

15
On Being a Good Neighbor Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • To illustrate Intentional writing, I use the
    opening of Martin Luther King Jr.s essay On
    Being a good Neighbor.
  • I should like to talk to you about a good man,
    whose exemplary life will always be a flashing
    light to plague the dozing conscience of mankind.
    His goodness was not found in a passive
    commitment to a particular creed, but in the
    active participation in a life-saving deed not
    in a moral pilgrimage that reached its
    destination point, but in the love ethic by which
    he journeyed lifes highway. He was good because
    he was a good neighbor.
  • I use this example to demonstrate Kings free
    style and his control. King exemplifies
    intentional writing.
  • I typically make copies of the entire essay and
    find time to discuss the Samaritan and the ethics
    of altruism.

16
Conclusion
  • You now can hear your own voice. Now
  • Write with that voice.
  • Edit with the criteria you established for good
    writing
  • Have another pair of eyes read your final draft
    with attention to spelling and mechanics, but
    without content comment beyond,you are unclear
    here.

17
An Essay that Worked
  • Madelyn Sullivan graduated VMS in 2005 and
    participated in my first experiment with this
    technique. She wrote the essay on the next
    slides in a flurry of inspiration and forwarded
    it with her application to Bowdoin College after
    self-editing using criteria established for good
    intentional writing.

18
An Example
  • I voted on November 2nd. As an eighteen year old
    woman in America, I am
  • legally allowed to exercise my right to vote.
    Although my heart beat slightly
  • fast, and my hands shook unsteadily at the
    polling booth, upon arriving home
  • from my first voting experience, I was filled
    with a sense of accomplishment
  • and relief. I sat on the couch that night, when
    I picked up a Time magazine and
  • began to read an article on Sudan by Massimo
    Calabresi.
  • The vast nation of Sudan is divided by
    both religion and culture, but mainly
  • ethnicity Arabs and Africans. While all
    citizens of Sudan and African, the
  • nomadic tribes of Sudan are referred to as Arabs,
    while the sedentary tribes
  • are called Africans.
  • The images I saw of the battling Arabs and
    Africans were stark and the
  • stories I read were more horrific. The
    Janjaweed, devils on horseback, is an
  • Arabic group of local tribes funded by the
    Sudanese government to crush the
  • Radical Sudan Liberation Army. The group began
    attacking civilians, claiming

19
Page 2
  • that they were aiding insurgents. Janjaweed ride
    or fly into African villages,
  • firing guns on men and children alike. They rape
    the women, leave most of the
  • children, and kill all of the men. These are of
    course loose rules. One woman
  • described a Janjaweed rampage A fighter
    unwrapped a swaddling cloth and
  • rolled a newborn onto the dirt. The baby was a
    girl so they left her. Then the
  • Janjaweed spotted a one-year old boy and decided
    he was a future enemy. In
  • front of a group of onlookers, a man tossed the
    boy into the air as another took
  • aim and shot him dead.
  • Suddenly voting did not seem as important as
    it had minutes earlier.Suddenly
  • I didnt want to go to school the next day, but
    fly to Africa and give all my hot
  • lunches to a starving family at a refuge camp.
    What surprised me the most,
  • however, was a common theme throughout the
    article about the lack of world
  • response. We cannot let another Rwanda or
    Holocaust occur while we are

20
Page 3
  • Alive. Genocide is supposed to be a thing of the
    past. It is a story we read
  • about in books or a special we watch on the
    History Channel. Let Sudan be
  • the one time the world learned and said never
    again and meant it.
  • As I sat on the coach, brimming with tears and
    watching the muted images of
  • election results, I felt a desperate sense of
    despair. I had to remind myself that
  • I am able to affect what happens in my life.
  • I voted on Tuesday. I am a woman. I am
    eighteen. And I had a choice. I am
  • lucky, and I have the obligation to help people
    without my same rights. On
  • Tuesday, what I voted for will not only affect my
    local and national community,
  • but also the world. I am indebted to the
    citizens of countries like Sudan to vote
  • for them, to give a voice to the people who
    cannot speak above the gunfire and
  • violence in their country.

21
Page 4
  • I realized then that my trip to the ballot box
    was perhaps not so futile and that I
  • would indeed attend school the next day, no
    matter how great my desire to flee
  • the country and save the world as a
    self-proclaimed knight-errant. I reminded
  • myself that although I am an adult with adult
    responsibilities, I am still in high
  • school with plans to go to college. I can only
    hope that the best possible use of
  • my time right now is to attend school to better
    educate myself. I can only hope
  • that what I learn today will give me the courage
    and the knowledge to stop
  • tomorrows holocaust.
  • Madylyn Sullivan, November 2004
  • Madylyn now attends Bowdoin College.

22
Resources
  • I came to this format after struggling with the
    question of how much editing is
  • appropriate and after listening to This I
    Believe essays on
  • countless Monday drives home. I refer you to
    www.npr.org/allthingsconsidered
  • or thisibelieve.org.
  • On questions of the ethics of editing college
    essays, read Sam
  • Pattersons article Philosophically Informed
    Exploring the Ethics of Help in
  • The Journal of College Admission, Summer, 2007.

23
  • The Application Essay in the context of a small,
    selective, writing-intensive liberal arts
    college.

24
Common Application Personal Essay
  • This personal statement helps us become
    acquainted with you in ways different from
    courses, grades, test scores, and other objective
    data. It will demonstrate your ability to
    organize thoughts and express yourself. We are
    looking for an essay that will help us know you
    better as a person and as a student. Please
    write an essay (250-500 words) on a topic of your
    choice or on one of the options listed below.

25
Common Application Signature
  • I certify that all information in my application,
    including my Personal Essay, is my own work,
    factually true, and honestly presented.
  • ________________________________
  • Signature Date

26
Kenyon 76
27
Voice starts with prewriting 1
  • Write down six or seven adjectives you would use
    to describe yourself.
  • What have you done in the last month or two
    which has made you proud or which has surprised
    yourself.
  • Merge these ideas and just write dont edit
    at this stage, just let the ideas flow.

28
Voice prewriting 2
  • Where will you be tomorrow at 130 p.m.? Why are
    you there and how do you feel about it?
  • What are you looking forward to the most on
    Monday? Why? What are you least looking forward
    to?
  • Tell the story of your name

29
Whats in a name?
  • Oh, to be cursed? To bear the burden of my
    ancestors and be helpless to change my fate! I
    share with my family an affliction not a
    disease, but a name. There is no need to quote
    Shakespeare for me. Ive heard it many timed
    before Whats in a name? That which we call a
    rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.?
    Thats easy for you to say, William. Your name
    isnt Wiener.
  • I am a Wiener and, believe me, to grow up with
    such a name can be painful at times. In my early
    years, I suffered countless jeerings as to the
    nature of my surname, mostly of the hot dog and
    frankfurter motif. (It was not until I began
    school that the more colorful images arose.)
    Being a proud little man, I rose to defend my
    name. On most occasions I was pounded furiously.
    Through these altercations, I learned not only
    that I was incompetent in the arena of
    hand-to-hand combat, but also that, if I merely
    ignored the insults, my compatriots would lose
    interest. They did and I was accepted. They
    called me Weenie.
  • I was Weenie for my entire childhood. I will
    be the first to admit that, as a nickname,
    Weenie lacked some of the masculine hardness
    found in such classics as Rocky or Tex. Yet,
    I was content. At least as I grew older my
    friends began to approach my name with some humor.

30
Whats in a name? (cont)
  • Upon my entrance into junior high my curse
    became a blessing. Suddenly everyone found it
    funny and even some of the eighth grade girls
    found it cute. I began my assault on the world
    destined for greatness, armed with a sense of
    humor and the ultimate ice breaker, Hello, my
    name is David Wiener. Yet, it concerned me.
    Could my name impede my ascent? I didnt know a
    congressman or an astronaut named Wiener, nor a
    professional athlete, for that matter. I decided
    to become the first Wiener to achieve some form
    of historical greatness.
  • Now that I am entering college, am I on my way
    to fulfillment? Not yet, perhaps, but having
    been a Wiener all these years has given me an
    essential tool with which I may find happiness
    and success. My name has given me a sense of
    humor, not that I have the quick wit of a great
    comedian or the animation of a clown. More
    importantly, being a Wiener has enabled me to
    laugh at myself. Ive learned that to be too
    grave in ones defeats is painful and
    unnecessary. No one can achieve anything great
    without first achieving some failure. I believe
    that a successful man is happy and that a happy
    man is one who can frolic in his successes and
    chuckle at his defeats.
  • Whats in a name? I still hear snickers when
    my name is revealed to strangers and, on many
    occasions, I still have trouble convincing others
    of my sincerity when I introduce myself. This,
    however, is a necessary byproduct, of a name for
    which I am thankful. I am a confident Wiener. I
    am a happy Wiener, and if anybody can take a
    joke, I can.

31
(No Transcript)
32
Hi, my name is Jim
  • Hi, my name is Jim, and since brevity is the
    soul of wit, I will meekly attempt to convey to
    you a succinct summary of my ephemeral existence.
    Allow me amnesty as I am often a bit
    alliterative. Time is of the essence throughout
    humankind, and with every word I write, the
    nearly endless ebb of extravagant expressions
    flows like a rushing river, fleeing futilely
    towards an irrelevant ocean. Dam!
  • Almost eighteen years ago, I dove headfirst
    into an unknown world. The same as so many
    before me, I was blinded by the splendor of a
    brave new world as I grew physically, mentally,
    and morally. Rapidly I realized physical
    maturity, and much more gradually began to
    realize the latter two. This is not to say that
    I am anywhere near completion of my self, for
    there is much to learn in life and much which I
    will never learn while meandering through this
    soiled sphere.
  • I am sorry that I see the glass as half empty
    even though I have hardly sipped lifes luxurious
    liquid. This is my flaw, hopefully not fatal,
    but nonetheless discouraging. I wish I could
    hold on to some transcendental hope, but at this
    point, an afterlife seems to me simply a
    self-deceiving dream, and faith connotes a need
    for something to depend on.

33
Hello my name is Jim (cont)
  • It is my belief that all humankind is really on
    the same ship. I hesitantly refer to the Bible
    in saying that we are all on the proverbial ark
    in the storm, albeit a dinghy with no
    destination, and increasing numbers of
    individuals grow nauseous with every passing hour
    at sea. Theres that ocean again, and my mind
    and my fingers have drawn my self into a literal
    circle, spiraling like an omnipotent double helix
    out of my control.
  • This circle was my choice, however, because it
    is so representative of the human condition. The
    specific circle mentioned in the essay contains
    only its author, but the human circle is very
    real, it is this spiraling sphere we call earth.
  • The previous 341 words have been abstract
    opinion and I hope I have presented myself
    clearly. If not, let me bore you a bit longer
    with relative specifics about myself. I dont
    want to sound too controversial so Ill delve
    into the tranquil waters of my personal religion,
    philosophy, and politics. I consider myself to
    be an agnostic existential libertarian. Say that
    three times fast and then think about it. On a
    conventional philosophical spectrum this would
    place me at polar ends, but I would consider this
    manmade device to be a spiraling circle. Theres
    that circle again and here comes a wave of
    white-capped words. Dam it, Jim!

34
I HAVE RIDDEN A PIG
  • I have ridden a pig.
  • Stay with me here. I mean this in the most
    literal sense possible. I. Rode. A Pig.
  • I was four. We were visiting Moms family
    friends on their farm. The had a hog that was
    roughly the size of a fridge, if you knocked that
    fridge over and gave it a horrible stink. Moms
    friend thought it would be just grand if I rode
    it awhile. I was smallish, and the hog was
    huge-ish… surely this was a no-brainer.
  • Im happy to say this story does not end with me
    in a hospital with a fractured spleen and various
    other injuries. I sat on the pig, it leaped
    around a bit, and then I hopped off and went
    inside. My mother smelled me before she saw me.
    I didnt see the problem. I was all right, after
    all. Except for being and I cannot stress this
    enough very, very smelly.
  • (I promise I am going somewhere with this.)

35
I have ridden a pig (cont)
  • My mother has many friends of the farmer
    variety. This is because Mas childhood took
    place in a small, empty tourist town. The house
    was tiny, especially seeing as it was crowded
    with eleven people. This is if you didnt count
    the guns and the dogs. (Many, many guns. A few
    dogs). Your opportunities ranged from toilet
    cleaner to waitress in that town.
  • (I promise this essay is going to get to me.)
  • From just hearing how my mom started out, you
    wouldnt be able to guess where she is now. It
    turns out mom has this gift for international
    relations. She now works in D.C. at an extremely
    prestigious company whose work I have trouble
    explaining to people. All I can really tell you
    for sure is shes a consultant, shes brilliant,
    and she enjoys her job.
  • The point is this life is very much like a pig.
    It is very big, and it is full of life and
    stink. You can just sit there, but letting it go
    along will generally land you in slop. Nobody
    wants slop. Your other option is to grab it by
    the ears and make the crazy bugger go where you
    want. Its harder, but you end up somewhere much
    better. I think my mom, somewhere along the
    line, reached forward and grabbed that life-pig
    by the ears. I think thats awesome. I think
    shes inspired me.

36
Finding a summer job One of the problems that
Karl Marx found with the capitalist system was
that many people were forced into occupations
where they could not have pride in their work and
were, because of this, unhappy. I never would
have believed that a Marxist theory could have
any application to a seventeen-year-old student
until this summer, when I had an experience more
grueling than the SATs, more confusing than
James Joyce, more frustrating than a dead car
battery in a Minnesota winter this was the
summer I went job hunting. ……………………………………………………………
…………………………… So what did I learn from this? I
learned that it is easier to find a job with a
temporary agency because there are fifty people
competing for fifty jobs, rather than fifty
people competing for one job. I learned that
most of my friends who worked at places such as
the ones I applied to, got the job through some
sort of connections. I learned to find work
using the skills and experience I already have.
I learned something about working in an office
this summer, and about the people who try to make
the workplace enjoyable, even if the work itself
is tedious. I learned that most people in
low-paying clerical work do not have pride in
their work, but that they stick with it because
it gives them a purpose, a responsibility, and
even a social environment, and that a group of
people with a task to do, no matter how mundane,
can find a way of having fun. I learned that
Marx was maybe a bit of a pessimist.
37
The Application Essay in the context of a
comprehensive, liberal arts college with a large
applicant pool.
38
Reading the Sheer Volume of Essays
  • 21,000 applications. 14 or 15K have high grade
    points and strong testing (aka, they could do the
    work)
  • 20 readers. Reading 25 applications a day/ 6 days
    a week. 50 essays/day- 300 essays/ week.
  • What separates students out in this incredibly
    strong applicant pool?
  • Personality and Resonance - from extracurricular
    activities, recommendations, interviews and..
    essays

39
3 Questions to Ask Before You Even Write the Essay
  • Who am I?
  • Is this essay about me? Is it reflective?
  • Is this essay about me NOW?
  • Is this essay in my own voice?
  • Does this sounds like me? Like my mother?
  • Will my counselor know it is me?
  • Does this resonate?
  • What do my activities say about me?
  • What will my teachers say about me?

40
An Example
  • I voted on November 2nd. As an eighteen year old
    woman in America, I am
  • legally allowed to exercise my right to vote.
    Although my heart beat slightly
  • fast, and my hands shook unsteadily at the
    polling booth, upon arriving home
  • from my first voting experience, I was filled
    with a sense of accomplishment
  • and relief. I sat on the couch that night, when
    I picked up a Time magazine and
  • began to read an article on Sudan by Massimo
    Calabresi.
  • The vast nation of Sudan is divided by
    both religion and culture, but mainly
  • ethnicity Arabs and Africans. While all
    citizens of Sudan and African, the
  • nomadic tribes of Sudan are referred to as Arabs,
    while the sedentary tribes
  • are called Africans.
  • The images I saw of the battling Arabs and
    Africans were stark and the
  • stories I read were more horrific. The
    Janjaweed, devils on horseback, is an
  • Arabic group of local tribes funded by the
    Sudanese government to crush the
  • Radical Sudan Liberation Army. The group began
    attacking civilians, claiming

41
What Would I Write?
  • e1 is a mature reflective piece on voting and
    making a difference in the world. Talks about
    voting Darfur. Realizes that college will put
    her on the path to make a difference. I like the
    strong and sensitive person that emerges here.

42
What Would Resonate?
  • Maddy has strong convictions and is not afraid to
    follow them. For example….
  • She is respected by everyone in the building for
    her compassion and maturity.
  • She cares about her community and the greater
    world around her and as the leader of xxx, she
    raises the awareness of her peers.
  • Young democrats? Debate? MUN? International
    Relations club? Service? Any leadership?

43
Whats in a name?
  • Oh, to be cursed? To bear the burden of my
    ancestors and be helpless to change my fate! I
    share with my family an affliction not a
    disease, but a name. There is no need to quote
    Shakespeare for me. Ive heard it many timed
    before Whats in a name? That which we call a
    rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.?
    Thats easy for you to say, William. Your name
    isnt Wiener.
  • I am a Wiener and, believe me, to grow up with
    such a name can be painful at times. In my early
    years, I suffered countless jeerings as to the
    nature of my surname, mostly of the hot dog and
    frankfurter motif. (It was not until I began
    school that the more colorful images arose.)
    Being a proud little man, I rose to defend my
    name. On most occasions I was pounded furiously.
    Through these altercations, I learned not only
    that I was incompetent in the arena of
    hand-to-hand combat, but also that, if I merely
    ignored the insults, my compatriots would lose
    interest. They did and I was accepted. They
    called me Weenie.
  • I was Weenie for my entire childhood. I will
    be the first to admit that, as a nickname,
    Weenie lacked some of the masculine hardness
    found in such classics as Rocky or Tex. Yet,
    I was content. At least as I grew older my
    friends began to approach my name with some humor.

44
What Would I Write?
  • e1 is a funny piece about his last name. if
    anyone can take a joke, he can. full of
    metaphors and self-deprecating humor but not sure
    what we get out of this essay. He writes well and
    with enthusiasm but there is no take home.

45
What Would Resonate?
  • Great sense of humor
  • Other students enjoy his presence in class
  • He think outside of the box and pushes learning
    in the classroom.
  • Verbose in class discussion and in writing.

46
Bibliography and Acknowledgements
  • National Public Radio. All Things Considered,
    This I Believe Archives.
  • Patel, Ebbo. We Are Each Others Business. The
    Interfaith Youth Core. Chicago.
  • Majeed, Kamaal, Being Content with Myself
    AlL Things Considered, May 7, 2007.
  • King, Martin Luther, Jr. On Being a Good
    Neighbor.
  • Fiske, Edward R. and Bruce Hammond. Fiske Real
    College Essays that Work. Sourcebooks, Inc.,
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