Author Archives: Nodebud3498

Why It’s Impossible to Write a Good College Admission Essay

As published in The Week on June 25, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 7.55.17 AMAs the parent of a rising high school senior, I’ve been to my fair share of college information sessions lately. The admissions officer always concludes with the same set of comments about the application: namely, that the college essay must capture your true and authentic voice and reveal the essence of who you really are. Exactly that line, 100 percent of the time.

I look over at my son every time, his eyes glazed over. I love this kid, and the essence of who he really is astounds me. But there is no way in hell that he, flipping through his Instagrams and quietly plotting his next meal, is going to have an easy time summing up his essential him-ness in 500 words.

Heck, I’m 45 and I am just beginning to find my voice. Show me a 17-year-old kid who’s able access his true and authentic voice in a way that shares the essence of who he really is, and I’ll show you a kid who maybe doesn’t need to go to college.

My college essay went something like this:

I am the student body president of my high school. In this capacity it has been my job, along with the rest of the student council, to review our school’s honor code. Upon this review we found that a discrepancy existed between the school’s policies on cheating and stealing. Heretofore, this had not been addressed. I strive to excel in all areas of my life, and I hope to bring this energy to college so that I can make an impact there as well.

They read this, and they let me into college. “Every class could use a good solid narc,” they must have said. “Let’s let this honor nerd in.”

If I had really wanted to share my 17-year-old essence in my true authentic voice, I would have submitted this:

I’m so tired from all this schoolwork and this thing with the student council. I’m sorry I even brought it up, because now the whole honor code needs to be re-written. Luckily Michelle Jaffe is senior class president and smarter than me and she’ll do it. Whatever, Michelle. My friends and I go to the beach a lot. My friend Julie and I like to stop for grilled cheese and fries on our way, and we’ve found that one place has better grilled cheese and another has better fries, so we stop twice. I think it’s important to know what you want and go out of your way to get it. There’s a boy I like, and I really hope he calls me. Also, I’d like to go to college because it’s time to move out and my friends are all going.

This is the girl that showed up on campus, the one with the two-part plan for procuring the best in fried food. There was more to me at this point, most of which I can only see in retrospect. There were buds of character traits, hints of interests. But, at 17, they were not clear to me in a way that I could have explained to a team of admissions officers thousands of miles away.

I think a better way to get to know these kids would be to ask a series of questions about their habits. “How often do you make your bed?” would be a good place to start. Studies show that people who make their beds have a whole host of positive life habits. And it might shed a little light on the kids who describe themselves as “dedicated to service.” If you really wake up in the morning looking for new ways to serve, you probably start by making your bed. Zero percent of the teenagers currently living in my house makes their bed on a regular basis.

So my kid is going to write this essay in the next few months. I’ve been politely asked not to help, which makes me want to strangle him and hug him at the same time. I hope he gets across some of the real things about himself. He likes math, but not as much as he likes his friends. He likes history, but not as much as he likes Chipotle. That’s the kid who’s going to show up at college, ready to figure the rest out.

Now Extinct: The Cringe-Worthy Prom Photo

As published in The Week on May 27, 2015 As I feverishly photographed my son and his friends before the prom, it occurred to me that something was not right. The boys looked as I expected in black tuxes and combed hair. But the girls were all wrong. Their dresses were simple and flattering. Their… Continue Reading

Giving Away the Old Books (and grabbing half of them back!)

As Published in The Rye Record on April 17, 2015 I admit that I’m unusually attached to paper. Words on paper, to be specific. I save select cards, notes and love letters in a box that I’ve been carting from state to state for nearly thirty years. Those letters have an energy to them, the visual… Continue Reading

Cracking the Dress Code

As Published in The Rye Record on April 3, 2015 A few weeks ago, before the thaw, I was invited to a dinner party and was told in plain English to wear a dress. Honestly, I was just as happy to have been told what to wear as I was to be going to a… Continue Reading

A Californian in Winter

As Published in The Rye Record on February 20, 2015 No matter how long we’re away and how pale we become, there are subtle ways to spot a Californian. We say freeway instead of highway, we wait in line rather than on line. Pop quiz: do you happen to know the date of the Academy… Continue Reading

Death, Taxes and Dinner

As Published in The Rye Record on February 6, 2015 Much is made of death and taxes. Their unavoidability, the fact that they are always hanging, ominously, just over our shoulders. But death comes about only once in a lifetime, and tax season’s just once a year. Dinner, on the other hand, happens every day.… Continue Reading

Warning: It’s Christmas, Mom Might Snap

As published in The Huffington Post on December 18, 2014 One of my favorite holiday traditions is watching stuff I’ve seen a hundred times and sobbing in front of my television. By the time Harry Bailey says, “To my big brother George, the richest man in town,” I’m pretty much a mess. Among these odes… Continue Reading

Motion to Limit the Use of the Word “Amazing”

As Published in The Rye Record on November 21, 2014 Being a contestant on a reality TV show is an amazing journey. I know this because, when interviewed, each and every one of those contestants (win or lose) says what an amazing journey it’s been. I’ve never been on one of those shows, so I’m… Continue Reading

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