For some this might leave you without a clue. For others it may, or at least this is my hope, do what Horace, the latin poet, says good writing should do: dulce and utile: please and instruct. My guess is that some wont like it much, but some others might. And that would prove my point about writing for an all encompassing unified reader who has never existed. I have tried to show and tell how words dont always work equally for different readers. But i also tried to share an approach to a topic thats been written about countless times with a story told as an allegory in the form of a formula. In my article on essays written for the. Us new s i encouraged students to take a risk. This entry is, in part, my attempt to follow my own advice, but i am oliver not done.
The audience reading essays for selective schools are a mixed bunch so homework there simply isnt a formula or what will move them to fight for a student or an essay, but there are foundations on which to build: essays are sentences that live and love. They often give rise to families that grow and become part of a common tribe, blood ties that stand together and support one another. The 2 in my formula is not squared; instead, it's a reminder that essays dance in a delicate dialectic. . An essay should not be a solipsistic exercise-even soliloquies are meant to be heard. The reader and writer need to cohabit in space to create a reaction that makes being come into being in between two beings: 2 becomes 3 (for those who choose to follow Hegels logic of dialectical moment). . The paradox of words bends space and time but that is what the universe does too. Einstein got that part right (and lots else too). Philosophy and physics and formulas that arent. . Thats what I have to share.
I am not saying that there isnt a way to judge whether an essay is great or just pretty good but part of the formula are the experiences and predilections of the readers. (saying relativism is true is itself a logical contradiction.) Those trained to read and write can and indeed do evaluate words that connect, and give off sparks of life. I do think most admission readers know when an essay is bad, but making subtle distinctions between the best and the good is not nearly as predictable as most books about writing college essays would have students and parents think. Ive heard too many readers disagree about essays to make me think anyone knows what will always work. Some readers have been shaped by the words of Toni morrison, others by david foster Wallace, others have not read much fiction or poetry or creative non-fiction at all but may have been moved by the beautiful prose of Darwin or the king James Bible. . we are all tissues of"tions and rhythms and sounds of words getting under our skin, or whispering indiscrete bon mots into our ears, or come flashily dressed as a provocative sight for rich or poor eyes alike. De gustibus non est disputandum, therefore, just doesnt. There are certain essays that sing and some that sink, but all are, nevertheless, subject to the subjects reading and writing training. And the best training is the act of reading and admission officers read more words in a year than most do in a lifetime. .
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Focus, vision, revision and reading the words aloud to someone else who knows about writing all help. All of this takes time and it does health take effort, but practice makes writing a craft rather than a special talent. It can be learned but it needs to be earned too. Forget the tricks; forgo the self-imposed limitations of thinking that only the dramatic stands out. It does sometimes seem miraculous that sentences on a page can sing, but ive read thousands and not just from the masters of poetry and prose, but from students who creatively carried out a controlled experiment with nouns, verbs and others parts of speech. Its not quite a science a signs but its not a dark art either.
R, the reader, is harder to define. Readers come from all races, ages, and academic backgrounds. Anyone who says they can tell how an unknown set of readers will respond to a set of words hasnt done much research. I have done my share. Ive posted essays on my blog and shared them with parents, students and educators. In some cases the responses have been anything from good, not great to publishable.
A lucky few have such stories. But everyone can become a subset of one. All it takes is the ability to put into telling detail a story that shows something personal. The essay asked for after all is called a personal statement for a reason. And anyone whos lived has compelling details and words to share. One of the best student essays ive read in a while extolled the virtues of the small.
The small means the acts that add up not to a formula but a story that no one else has because each of us generates billions of thoughts and details none of the rest of us have had or will have without the help. Each of us lives in a world thats infinite. The job for students is to take a few of those neural pathways and shape them into words that follow a path, sometimes clear, sometimes meandering, but always well-written. I dont think any topic automatically leads to pure gold or that weigh in at heavy lead (there are a few that might call for serous alchemy though: the student who wrote about the advantages of sniffing glue—a real essay submitted to a highly selective. On the other hand, ive talked with thousands of students and it does not take all that long to hear words that have the fire of healthy passion. Transmuting the heat of passion into effective prose takes work, but its a lot easier than trying to do some sort of magic or transubstantiation.
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Both must be willing and able- in this interaction everything in the universe of admission essays depends. Without a positive reaction nothing good happens. It is, however, the variables on the other side of the equation that matter (pun intended both have to come into play (and work). W, the writer, the matter at hand, has a job to do: become a subset of one. It should, but not for the reasons most think. Most approach the topics put out by the common Ap or the schools themselves as everests. They think that they have to have scaled the highest peaks or have figured out the secrets to eternal inflation in astrophysics. They think, in other words, they have to tell a tale hippie never told that will, by its genius or world-class recognition, stand out.
But essays are not in the same category as paradigm-shifting discoveries in physics. Still, tort there is a lot more to the reaction than we often think about. Let me see if I can offer a bit of elucidation of and as my proof. E, of course stands for the Essay. Like einsteins e it contains energy. Or if it doesnt, then the writers sunk. The energy is what goes in on the part of both reader and the writer.
essays., i wish I could answer this question in a few sound bite sized nuggets so that anyone reading them. Actually, thats not true. I think there are far too many nuggets of wisdom out there about essays. The problem is that if people examine them closely they often discover that verbal nuggets are often clichés. . While something like all that glitters is not gold may initially sound bright it also sounds dim too. After 3 decades of reading essays and writing about them in places like the us news, ive discovered a few things that have made me question my wisdom. But I do have a formula. like e mc2, there is a lot that goes on inside the letters and numbers.
I am not going to rave about the quality of a particular Big Mac. The same can be said about the generic essay. If an essay starts out: I have been a member of the band and it has taught me leadership, perseverance and hard work, i can almost recite the rest of the essay without reading. Each of the three mom middle paragraphs gives a bit of support to an abstraction, and the final paragraph restates what has already been said. A mcEssay is not wrong, but it is not going to be a positive factor in the admission decision. It will not allow a student to stand out. A student who uses vague abstractions poured into a preset form will end up being interpreted as a vague series of abstractions. A student who uses cliché becomes, in effect, a cliché. If we are what we eat, we are also what we write.
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This question i very similar to a previous quora question. I wrote what I thought is a fairly comprehensive answer for it and will cut and past it here. What are some good tips to write the best perfect transfer admissions essay?, i have written many words on admission essays over the years. Some of what I have shared a long while back still seems useful. For the us news, i wrote an essay about not writing. McEssay : Ninety percent of the applications I read contain what I call McEssays usually five-paragraph essays that consist primarily of abstractions and unsupported generalization. They are technically correct in that they are organized and have the correct sentence structure and spelling, but they are boring. Sort of like a big Mac. I have nothing against Big Macs, but the one i eat in Charlottesville is not going to be fundamentally different from the one i eat in Paris, peoria or Palm Springs.