This is another in a series of posts about some memorable applicants, their essays, and how we found them together.
Alex was one of my favorite recent applicants. Bright, introspective, funny, Alex had the grades and test scores he needed – 4.0 student and a 1560 SAT score. He loved science, even tutored kids in biology and chemistry. Alex planned to study biology in college, then likely onto medical school. His personal statement needed to reflect his interests, which were varied. He ran track, participated in student government, and had many others. But my hope for Alex was to write a deeper more meaningful essay than “what I did last summer.”
Alex was a writer, but in secret. Only a few close friends knew this. Alex wrote whenever he had spare time, between classes, after an exam, in the car on long rides. I found this fascinating, so I asked if I could read a few short stories he’d written, which were wonderful! With a little bit of digging, I got Alex to share that he was writing a play, a drama about a complicated family (not his own!). I never asked to read the play as it was a work in progress. But as a writer myself, I wanted to know what it was about writing this play that was so important to him.
Alex was expected to excel in academics by his family, teachers, and friends. There was all the pressure in the world to be at the top of his class. The play was a respite from academics. He was writing the play simply for himself, with no hope or expectation to get it produced. Alex shared the struggle of writing it. He got animated talking about the successes of plot and character, but also of the failures of which there were many. Writing a play is hard! And Alex told me that so many of his creative choices didn’t always work out, making him have to start from the beginning. It was frustrating to say the least. I expected Alex to complain about this, like most writers do. But he did not. Alex loved the challenge, the try/fail/try again aspect of it all. It was inspiring to see such an attitude. “Look, I’m writing this for fun. Just to do it. Just for the experience.” And that my friends if you are still reading, was what his personal statement was all about.
Fascinating applicant. Powerful and persuasive essay. Alex got accepted to, and is currently attending, Yale!