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This is another in a series of posts about some memorable applicants, their essays, and how we found them together.

Julie’s mother Katie called me one afternoon.  I had been recommended by another mother whose son I had worked with twice. Julie had written three or four drafts of her Common Application Essay but no one (not even her mom) loved them. The story, according to Katie, was a clever retelling of how Julie had used her skills as a babysitter to get a 3-year-old girl to stop crying. It sounded like it could be interesting, but not necessarily good subject matter for a college application essay. Katie gave me a little of Julie’s backstory – her and he twin brother Eric’s father had passed away when they were 2 years old. Katie had remarried, the kids had a loving and supportive stepfather, but Julie was a little obsessed with mortality. “Can I pursue this with Julie?” I asked Katie. “Yes you can!”

Julie called me the next night. She was, right from the start, funny, clever, and very interesting to speak with. A few minutes into the call, I asked her to tell me about her dad. Julie spoke beautifully and eloquently about the father she never knew. She had become close to her dad’s lifelong friends and heard many wonderful stories about him. Just as I could tell she was getting a little sad, I asked her to talk about her own close friends, which she brightened up about. Julie went into rich detail about who they are, how close she is with them, and how much they mean to her. “I’m not a big fan of just casual friends,” she said, something I agreed with. Julie told me that she constantly worries that her friends would leave, so she taught herself to value every minute with them. Sometimes people leave your life, and other times, people come in. That’s just the nature of things.  “That door swings both ways,” I told her. Then, without hesitation, Julie asked me if I thought it would be okay for her to write about this for her essay. “Absolutely!” I replied.

A couple of days later I received Julie’s first draft. It was about as strong a draft as I have ever read. Julie wrote about the dad she never knew, based on what her mom and his friends told her about him. She wrote about how her dad’s friends were so important to him near the end of his life. The she wrote about how much she values her friends, privately fearful that they might leave like her dad did. Julie’s powerful essay about mortality and how she lives with it was beautiful in so many ways. Its tone, style, insight, made it a home run!  The essay could have ended there. But it didn’t.

Julie closed the essay with the story about how on her 18th birthday, (the day we first spoke on the phone) her mom gave her and her brother letters their dad had written for them to be opened on their 18th birthdays. In Julie’s letter, her dad wrote about how proud he was of her, even at only two years old. Then he gave her some life advice which included having as many close friends as she could. And, to love and cherish them – exactly what her essay was all about.

Julie is a proud member of the Class of 2021 at Yale