So, you wish to enter the world of collegiate writing, eh? Well, that world is huge and therefore must be split into categories. If by the end of this long-winded but necessary article, you still w…
Seriously though, this post we published yesterday is the bomb diggity.
When you enter college you are given a lot of choices. The clubs you’ll join. The dorms you’ll live in. The meal plan you’ll waste money on.
But there is one major choice that many don’t think about until too late: Class choices.
When you’re in high school you generally get to choose the rigor of your classes, but not the topic.
College changes this. Instead of a mandatory “History” class you can take “American History Through Jazz” or “Middle Eastern Cuisine and Religious Influence” or “History of Sports.”
While you have a laundry list of major and school requirements, you’re largely left to your own devices to choose. So when you’re planning to register the first time, here are some things to keep in mind.
1. Watch the Rigor
When you’re looking in a course catalog you might see that there are general classes, and then more specific, more interesting classes. While the specific topics catch your fancy, be very careful. Oftentimes those classes are going to be higher level. I would highly recommend that you stick to 100 and 200 level classes your first semester. 300 classes will often require background information you don’t have (even if you took the 100 level AP equivalent) and a writing strength I can promise you don’t yet have. Stick to intro classes for your first semester, then work your way up.
2. Timing is everything
In high school you just listed your classes and a magical machine made it work. This is not the case in college. Make sure you know when the classes meet, because overlaps are impossible to work out. Also pay close attention to the timing. 8am classes are brutal in college. You might be able to avoid Friday classes if you’re very careful. Also watch your “passing periods” if you’re taking classes immediately after one another. I can get from the two furthest points on campus in 10 minutes I’d have between classes, but there are other schools where that could take an hour.
When you are writing supplements for each of the different schools you’re applying to, you might find yourself recycling your supplements for similar schools. But for some applicants, there will be one school that gets a special supplement. A love letter about the life long love they’ve had for the school.
But if you’re writing this essay be careful, because you might fall into a trap you haven’t foreseen.
When you’re writing a “Why ____” supplement you need to strike a careful balance between sucking up (10-20%), how the school can help you (60%), and what you can do for the school (20-30%). You do this by pointing out all of the amazing things the school does, what opportunities you want to take advantage of, and how those opportunities will help you with your goals (which can be concrete “be a marine biologist” or vague “learn deeply about broad subjects with passionate students”).
The thing is, the go-to answer of many “I’ve dreamed of this school my whole life,” doesn’t actually answer the question.
So when you’re sitting down to write the “Why ____” Essay, life long dreamers, keep these things in mind.
1. Legacies make sure that you talk about your experience and how you will make an impact, not about your family members. You can discuss that your parents attended the school, you’ve rooted for the teams since you were a baby in a school onsie, and you’ve loved the school your whole life. But don’t dwell on the past. First of all, you don’t want to sound like someone who was pressured into applying. Secondly, that essay makes you passive, you need active, adult, personal reasons you love the school. Third, and most importantly, saying, “everyone in my family ever has attended,” sounds almost braggy. Above all else, avoid bragging.
2. Saying that you have a life long obsession with a school doesn’t actually tell them anything about why you want to go there (aside from the superficial). Talk about what makes you love the school (do they have the a bangin program for your major? Did you grow up going to the football games and loving the community feeling of the school?). Once again, make sure you have active, grown-up, and personal reasons for wanting to go there. A life-long love is great, but you need to have current reasons for wanting to apply.
3. This one is a bit scary, but hold on tight. Prestigious schools know they’re prestigious, and that’s not actually an answer to why you want to go to a school. (“Duh it’s Harvard” means literally nothing). Saying that everyone your whole life has told you to work hard so you could go to ____ only makes you sound easily influenced and passive. Personalize it. You can say that you’ve known about the school your whole life, but as you got older you knew that it was the place for you because of (the amazing core curriculum, the citizen-of-the-world emphasis, the top of the line History professors, etc etc etc.)
So if you’ve had a life long love affair with a school include it as a cute little background story. But, life long lovers, make sure to have current and specific reasons that you want to attend. An incredible passion combined with real research is a home run when it comes to supplements.