Time To Assay The Essay Situation, Part 10

, , , , , , , | Learning | June 3, 2018

(A couple of middle-aged ladies are in charge of the program I am in during senior year of high school, where I am one of 15 to 20 seniors selected to be allowed to take all classes that year in the local community college and get those credits for my diploma, in addition to being transferable to my university. These ladies are also in charge of advising us on college applications, etc. At the very beginning of the program, during the end of junior year, while we still have a full load of classes and work, they assign us “homework” to do a full-page “introduction” essay on our personal and educational background and what we expect to get out of this program. It’s not for any real grade; it’s just for their convenience in “counseling” us. I type up the entire page, and literally after finishing the last word, my computer crashes and loses all the work. I’ve spent two hours just on this essay, after doing other homework; it’s now late at night and I’m exhausted. There’s no way I can redo it. I can handwrite three to four times faster than I can type, so I write out the entire essay from memory, in as decent handwriting as I possibly can, so I can finally go to bed. I hand in the essay the next day, and the day after, the ladies return them. Note that they never stated it had to be typed, and this is a couple decades ago when handwritten homework was commonly accepted.)

Lady #1: “[My Name], why ever did you handwrite this? Essays should be typed.”

Me: “I did type it, Ms. [Lady #1], and after I finished the whole page, my computer crashed and lost all of it. It was late at night and I just wasn’t able to retype the whole thing. I know essays should be typed.”

Lady #1: “Yes, but you should have typed it. Essays should be typed.” *looks at me expectantly in confusion*

(I think maybe she just didn’t hear or understand what I said.)

Me: *patiently and very clearly* “I understand, Ms. [Lady #1]; I know essays should be typed. I did type it up. I typed up the whole entire thing. At night, after finishing a lot of other homework I had to do. And then, after I finished the whole entire page-long essay, my computer just crashed. Completely. And the entire essay was lost. It just vanished. The computer ate it. It was quite late at night and I was exhausted; it was unfortunately just not physically possible for me at that point to type the whole essay all over again. So I rewrote it by hand, since that’s a lot faster for me. It was an unfortunate, one-time necessity due to circumstances beyond my control.”

Lady #1: “Yes, I get that; but, [My Name], submitted essays are supposed to be typed, not handwritten. You should have typed it. ” *again looks at me expectantly like she’s still utterly bewildered and has not understood a single thing I said*

(I then understand this cycle will repeat forever if I say anything else… and that she appears to be missing her brain. I quietly head-desk behind her back and die a little inside. In the middle of senior year, they’re advising us on writing our college application essays. They’ve offered to review them for us before we submit them.)

Lady #2: “You can write the essay on any topic you want; it just has to match the application requirements, but really, you have all the creative freedom you could want.”

Me: “So, can you give just a vague idea of what kind of topic it should be?”

Lady #2: “It can be absolutely anything you feel like writing about. It should just show that you’re a good writer and have good grammar, and something like an example of you learning something useful from something that happened to you; any real experience or made-up story is fine.”

Me: “So, it really can be just absolutely anything? You’re sure? There’s not any certain types of stories that you, as a long-time advisor, would say it’s a better idea to write the essay about? Like, if I give you a general idea of what I want to write about, and you let me know if it’s okay?”

Lady #2: “No. There’s absolutely nothing that’s preferable. It can be any topic whatsoever. Any life event. Anything you just feel like writing about, as long as it shows the elements we discussed. There is absolutely no need to ask me to approve it first. Go wild, [My Name]!”

(I work on the essay diligently for nearly a week; I make sure it shows my decent-quality writing and good grammar, and I put in a real effort to show I learned useful things. It’s mostly on the topic of something that happened very recently, so it is fresh in my mind and seems a very obvious choice: how an acquaintance asked me on an outing with him and then just never showed up with no explanation. I discuss how I was first very disappointed but learned from it not to rely on obviously unreliable people, not to waste a lot of time waiting around or even be disappointed over mostly inconsequential events, to trust my gut feelings, and to not agree to activities I didn’t actually even want to participate in with a person I don’t trust that much just because he asks me and whines and pressures me, etc. I proof and reread the essay; I make sure it sounds good and has every component it should have, and submit it for review. A few days later, the ladies return them and give us face-to-face feedback.)

Lady #2: *with an extremely confused look* “[My Name], I just don’t understand your choice of essay at all. You wrote about a boy? Who stood you up for a date? And? Where is the point? I just mean, it seems to have no real point at all. It doesn’t make any sense to me. It doesn’t really seem to be the right sort of topic. I mean, it just doesn’t seem to have any clear point to it, or any important conclusions or learned life lessons, or a cohesive story. I just don’t get your choice of topic at all, frankly… I’m just really confused… This just isn’t the suitable sort of topic you choose for college application essays.”

Me: *head-desk*

(I rewrote my essay on something else, mostly fuelled in the effort by my sheer rage at these women completely wasting my time. No, the topic wasn’t about them, though maybe it should’ve been. It wasn’t that different in essence, though; they were different events, but still about experiencing disappointment as a teen and dealing with it productively. I DIDN’T let them read my new essay before submitting the apps. I was accepted into very good colleges, nearly everywhere I applied.)

Time To Assay The Essay Situation, Part 9
Time To Assay The Essay Situation, Part 8
Time To Assay The Essay Situation, Part 7

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