HAU TWO RIGHT AH KOLIJ ESSEIGH
(Or, Step 1: Use Spell Check)
by Nicola McEldowney
Welcome to another exciting symposium in our series on Things You Should Be Able To Figure Out For Yourself! Today’s topic is: How To Write A College Essay. This is an issue that has struck terror into the hearts of mankind since prehistory, when Lucy the australopithecine was rejected from UCLA (then the University of Pangaea, Los Angeles), allegedly because her essay on her favorite pastime, picking at her armpit, was not deemed “meaningful”. The room is open to questions. Yes?
Q. How important are first sentences?
A. First sentences are crucial. Grip the reader.
BAD: “Since I was a little girl, it has been my dream to go to MIT.”
GOOD: “Did you ever try to eat your own neck? It’s harder than it looks.”
EVEN BETTER: “What are you wearing?”
Q. How important is specificity?
A. Specificity is all. To wit:
BAD: “The defining event of my life was eating Rice-A-Roni.”
GOOD: “The defining event of my life was eating Rice-A-Roni during coitus.”
EVEN BETTER: “The defining event of my life was eating Rice-A-Roni (‘The San Francisco Treat’) during coitus.”
Q. Is it okay to stretch the truth a little in your essay? I mean, you know, just to make yourself sound interesting?
A. There is no law against this, but if you do attempt to falsify yourself, you must make sure the admissions committee cannot verify your claims. Ambiguity is the watchword.
BAD: “I was decapitated on the morning of July 16.”
GOOD: “I was decapitated on the morning of July 16. Or was I?”
Q. About my Harvard essay: I forgot to proofread before sending it off, and I later noticed seventeen instances in which I referred to Harvard as “the University of Montana”. Could this hurt my chances of admission?
A. Probably not.
Q. I also ended a sentence with a preposition.
A. You are doomed.
Q: Is it okay to write an essay on my passion for bestiality?
A: Ideally, this should be listed under “hobbies”.
Q. My strongest attribute is my sense of humor. If I allow it to prevail in my essay, I’m worried I might be misunderstood and rejected despite my impeccable credentials. Should I feel free to let it shine through?
A. By all means. And for those of you not naturally endowed with a sense of humor, I suggest you obtain one. They can be purchased for under $5 at your finer Wal-Marts. Humor is imperative. Observe:
BAD: “I feel Yale and I would be a perfect match.”
GOOD: “Harvard and Yale walk into a bar...”
Q. I want to write an essay on my favorite activity. I know how many of these the admissions committee must see, so how can I try and keep it fresh?
A. Simple: don’t try. Any concerted effort will only come off as such. All you really need to do is demonstrate a deep and abiding interest in your topic.
BAD: “I like eating human flesh.”
GOOD: “I have a deep and abiding interest in eating human flesh.”
Q. Any general writing tips?
A. You want the reader to feel as if he is right there with you. Therefore, make your descriptions as vivid as possible.
BAD: “It was not in the open fight
We threw away the sword,
But in the lonely watching
In the darkness by the ford.
The waters lapped, the night-wind blew,
Full-armed the Fear was born and grew,
And we were flying ere we knew
From panic in the night.”
– Rudyard Kipling, Plain Tales from the Hills
GOOD: “It was not in the open fight (WHOK! UNGGHH!)
We threw away the sword (HUNH!)
But in the lonely watching (WATCH WATCH)
In the darkness by the ford (RIPPLE RIPPLE SPLASH).
The waters lapped (LAP LAP), the night-wind blew (WHOOSH),
Full-armed the Fear was born (WAAHHH) and grew,
And we were flying (WHEEEE!) ere we knew
From panic in the night. (EEEEYYYYAAAAAHHHHHH)
Q. Anything else?
A. Avoid passivity.
BAD: “A 1610 on the SAT was gotten by me.”
GOOD: “I went and torched College Board headquarters because a 1610 on the SAT was gotten by me.”
Q. Any advice for those of us who have to write the applicant a reference?
A. Again, I cannot lay enough emphasis on the importance of detail.
BAD: “Lindsay Ann Festertoe is the Antichrist.”
GOOD: “Lindsay Ann Festertoe is the Antichrist. I have known her for two years.”
Q.What should I have on my essay by way of identifying information?
A. The heading on each page should read as follows: “Lindsay Ann Festertoe, DOB 12/2/88, Soc Sec No. 267-42-7900, Verbal 660, Math 620, Buccaneers 7, Patriots 5, Beverly Hills 90210, Sin 27 = .4539904997 Except After C Which Rhymes With P Which Stands For Pool.”
Q. What if my name is not “Lindsay Ann Festertoe”?
A. Then you may go to hell.
Q. How should I end my essay?
Q. What if I’m writing about dolphins?
A. Especially if you are writing about dolphins.
Q. What about manatees?
A. Look, what do I care what you do?
Q. Why aren’t you writing your essay?
A. I’m here to help you.
~ FIN ~
©2006, Nicola McEldowney
©2007, Nicola McEldowney/The Snark Ascending