Blots and Scribbles: College essays provide view into minds of others

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I have a confession to make: I enjoy reading college essays.

No, I am not a crazy person. Most of the college admission essay samples I read in English class were, in my humble opinion, mediocre at best. I have no aspirations to become an admissions officer. In fact, I’m pretty sure I would abhor such a job. Aside from the horrible number of transcripts and test scores over which I would have to pore, I would probably find most of the college essays that came across my desk excruciatingly boring. Perhaps I should revise my confession: I like reading the college essays of my classmates.

Students at Clayton have been exposed to a wonderful education in composition, and, as a general rule, seem to possess the create prowess to chose creative topics for college essays. Maybe that makes CHS essays better than others, but these are not the reasons I like reading them.

In the past few weeks I’ve found myself approaching any frustrated-looking senior with essay on desk and red pen in hand and asking, ‘Hey, can I read that?’ Or, if I’m on emailing terms with the student, ‘Would you send that to me?’

Usually the frazzled essay writer is desperate enough for a creative spin or a new set of eyes to catch comma splices that the senior hands me their work without much thought. This phenomenon is great, and I must again stress that I am not crazy, because finding out how a person has chosen to represent himself in 500 words proves fascinating, particularly when I don’t know the author that well.

The interesting thing about self-perception and personal world view is that they exist entirely in one’s head. Perhaps the great challenge of getting along with other people is trying to make the life lived inside the brain and the life lived outside of it match up nicely. In writing a college essay, seniors are forced to put some of what goes on in their heads down on paper, and this process inevitably reveals some disconnect between self-perception and reputation.

Of course, the reader of the college essay must know, or at least know of, the writer in order for such a comparative analysis to work. Perhaps this is not the purpose of a college essay (after all, most students probably just want to be accepted by a college, not bare the very essence of their innermost personalities), but since I have found it possible to glean small insights about my peers from college essays, I think Clayton writers are actually trying to make honest statements about themselves rather than spouting thinly-veiled bushwa in order to look good to an admissions officer.

I like reading the college essays of my peers because most of them seem to capture something essential and otherwise indiscernible about each individual; they’re like especially well thought-out diary entries. Although the essay may not be the deciding factor in many admissions decisions, each carefully crafted two-page composition has a value beyond the college game. The opportunity to write introspectively and then share the product does not arise often. Perhaps the school should endorse college essay writing and reading as a regular practice so that students see each other more clearly through short, painstakingly written glimpses.

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