This is one in a series of posts about some memorable applicants, their essays, and how we found them together.
Jessica came to me after a long phone call from her parents. They told me that they had started working with another college application essay consultant but it wasn’t the right fit. Jessica never sparked to her, several meetings had failed to produce a strong Common Application Essay topic, and they were worried. Before they could hire me I told them I’d have to speak with Jessica to see if she wanted to work with me. Two minutes into my phone phone call with her it was clear she liked me and wanted to find a great topic.
We did an initial one hour phone chat, I got to know her, who she is, what drives her. Jessica was fun, open, and very expressive about her life. But as we neared the hour mark, we weren’t finding a topic we both loved. I could hear the panic in her voice, so I did what I always do: I set up a time for us to speak the following day. Her voice brightened, and she agreed.
The next day we had another one hour conversation. In it I dug deeper, trying to figure out what was fascinating about her. And like the phone call the day before, we weren’t finding anything. Also like the day before, Jessica started to panic. I assured her that there was nothing to worry about and we should just relax and have a good time. Nearing then end of the call just as I was ready to schedule another consultation for the following day, I asked Jessica what I thought was a fairly innocuous question: “what’s the worst thing that ever happened to you?” I could hear Jessica getting excited as she told me about a recent babysitting experience. “I babysit this 7 year old girl. And every time I do her parents put out the board games for us to play – but we’d always end up watching television instead.” On one recent night the little girl suggested they play chess. Jessica is a very good player, the captain of her chess team. She was excited to teach the little girl how to play – until she was the one who got taught. “That little girl beat me!” After the game, the 7 year old started to tease and taunt a now humiliated Jessica. Then she got silent on me. Clearly this was tough for her. But I sensed something else was going on. “What was happening in your life around that time?” I asked her. Jessica explained to me that she had just changed schools, had made no friends, and wasn’t doing very well in class. This beating had a profound affect on her. Over the next few days she was haunted by this loss. “How?” “Well, she was just so confident. She’d never played chess before and she beat me. And I envied that confidence. I wish I had that for myself.” I asked Jessica how she grew from this loss. “I took so much inspiration from her. I realized that the reason I was so depressed and unhappy in school was because I had such low self-esteem.” Jessica realized that life is all attitude. In the days and weeks after this loss, Jessica turned it all around. She started making friends, she joined some groups, and found her inner self. “I learned a huge lesson from that loss.”
This was to be Jessica’s Common Application Essay!
Jessica is at Yale, Class of 2019.