Electric Guitars and College Essays

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Discus: College Search and Selection: June 2004 Archive: Electric Guitars and College Essays
By Monoe (Monoe) on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 03:30 pm: Edit

Two questions...

-I play the guitar. I'm not a god, but I think I'm better than most 17-year-olds who say 'I play the guitar' - I give it lots of practice each day, and I taught myself. I'm told that sending in a recording only works if you're Juliard material. I've been advised to write a song and send in the sheet music. How else might I allude to this ability of mine, which I think sets me apart from many other applicants?

-I have all this college essay energy right now, but no way to expend it (I'm a junior)...I don't want to start composing essays without knowing the exact prompt, because I can't "twist" essays of mine once they are written (I write them too exactly) and because I want to say specific things about each school I'm applying to. Do any of my schools not change essays each year? Bard, Amherst, Wesleyan, Middelbury, Harvard, Brown

Thanks, guys.

By Eyesclozedtight (Eyesclozedtight) on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 04:45 pm: Edit

my best friend is really into guitar as well and he and some of my other friends started a band. to all of the private schools he applied to he sent a copy of their EP, and i think he even talked about his band in one of his essays too. he got into his top choice which was LMU, so i guess it didn't hurt.

By Monoe (Monoe) on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 04:56 pm: Edit

Well, as for concrete things relating to the guitar, I will have done the following by the time I apply:

-gotten hired to play for people waiting in lines to tour tall ships

-played for 250 people at a Rotary Convention (which I went to as a representative of my Interact club, so, doublewhammie)

-recorded in a serious recording studio one song (and hopefully more this summer) and although I won't send this song in, will just mentioning it be a plus?


By Baltodad (Baltodad) on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 07:40 pm: Edit

Colleges like essays that don't use the same old stereotypical subjects.

My son managed to fit most of his essays around his guitar playing (self-taught, and just for his own enjoyment). Since he was applying to engineering schools, it was a nice change for the admission folks.

For essays with longer word counts, he got into talking about the electric guitar's marriage of art and physics, and how that mirrors the practical and artistic sides of his own brain.

Don't bother sending a song unless: (1) you want to be a music major, or (2) it's a quirky liberal arts college (Reed; Bard).

By Monoe (Monoe) on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 07:41 pm: Edit

Yeah, that's pretty much what they tell me. Thanks.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 11:40 pm: Edit

Write them now. Trust me, you'll be able to use it for a few of your colleges. I wrote 3 during the summer and used all 3 for all 11 colleges I applied to.

By Monoe (Monoe) on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 10:16 am: Edit

I have jotted down a few notes, but I'm slightly confused. Do colleges want a narrative that shows something about me, or do they want me to actually talk about myself?

I.E. "I rolled out of bed and strapped on my Nikes; I couldn't stop thinking about Moby Dick"


"I love to wake up and usually I wear Nikes; I like to read"

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 11:34 am: Edit

>> I have jotted down a few notes, but I'm slightly confused. Do colleges want a narrative that shows something about me, or do they want me to actually talk about myself?

Here's one old dad's opinion:

It's not a question of what colleges want. It's a question of how you can best "pitch" yourself. I've read essays written both ways that worked.

As a corollary, I would not use the exact prompts as the starting points for your essays. That, of course, is what you want to do in an English Lit essay. But, this is different. You want to start by figuring out the two or three qualities or experiences that YOU want to emphasize on your college application -- the things you want to serve as your "identity" in the application process. Then, figure out how to apportion the available essay prompts to present those "bullet points".

For example, at most schools, you will be using the common app and a supplement. The essays will be:

a) a short essay on your most meaningful activity

b) a short essay on why Acme College is an ideal fit for you.

c) a open-ended personal statement essay that can be essentially on any topic you like. Some schools couch this in a "flakey" prompt like "Write page 123 of your autobiography", but it's the same question.

In general, I believe that most high school seniors would be more likely to write a decent narrative with action that reveals something about themselves -- easier to avoid the trap of platitudes and grand, sweeping, pronouncements.

Just one idea on a guitar essay. You could use guitar playing as a metaphor. For example, an essay could be an ode to the flat 7th -- that wonderfully ambiguous note. Bend it up to a 7th and you've got the quintessential sound of formal Western music (maybe it makes you think of your academic side). Bend it down to a 6th and you've got the twang of American rural music (maybe a metaphor for athletics?). Play the flat 7th and you've got the quintessential sound of gospel, blues, and rock n' roll (a metaphor for your free sprited side?)

By Monoe (Monoe) on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 11:48 am: Edit

Thanks a lot - that is helpful! I'm not at all worried about the writing, the word choice, the flow - I'm a writer. I just want to make sure I present the topics in the correct format to let colleges know who I am. I am thinking about these for what you call my 'identity':

-playing guitar
-reading dictionaries
-having dreadlocks
-writing, reading

About that last one - some of my best writing comes of love, but is this not appropriate for college? I'd like feedback on my proposed 'identity.'

Thanks so much!

By Cooldude (Cooldude) on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 01:04 pm: Edit

i disagree with Baltodad u definately should send the song in, coz the adcoms want to see the level of ur dedication and talent. I distinctly remember reading an article about this in which most colleges preferred it if u sent in a tape. As for me i'm into drumming and am definately going to send in a studio recorded solo.

(btw if u are planning to send one it better be recorded in a studio, i doubt adcoms would like a buzzy tape with poor sound quality.)

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