The Folly of Recycling Essays

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: The Folly of Recycling Essays
By Deerhunter (Deerhunter) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 09:34 pm: Edit

My counselor related a tale to me of a kid from a couple of years urbane kid--played 6 instruments, spoke 6 languages--with high scores--ranked no. 2, 1590 SAT, etc--who was rejected from all the Ivies to which he applied (HYP, Columbia & Brown)...for recycling his essays. (He wrote 3 essays, submitted the same ones to each school, with minor alterations to fit each prompt.)

(Columbia's Adcom told my counselor that Ivy adcom's "talk" and "share stories" of kids...the Ivy adcoms found out that this kid used the same 3 essays, hence the rejections.)

Does anyone else know of an experience like this? I want to recycle essays because it would be horrible to write different essays, especially when certain schools require multiple essays...but I don't want to be rejected from my top choices...

By Coureur (Coureur) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 10:08 pm: Edit

This doesn't ring true. I think that recycling is so common that it is expected. In fact books on how to write essays RECOMMEND it.

My D wrote two major essay and two or three short ones and reworked them into various versions to fit the prompts of all the 11 colleges she replied to. Final score 1 rejection, 2 wait-lists, and 8 acceptances including from some of the HYPSM schools. So if they shared essay info among themselves, they didn't seem to mind about the recycling.

By Over30 (Over30) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 10:22 pm: Edit

My son also reused his essays at several schools and had no rejections. I don't know what to think about this story. I just can't imagine that these adcoms have time to compare 2 or 3 essays from 10,000+ applicants. Methinks he was rejected for some other reason.

By Dadx (Dadx) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 10:29 pm: Edit

That story is not supportable.

It could be, however, that his insistence on using mild variations of the same essays caused the readers to accurately conclude that he had put little thought and time into the submissions. THAT, rather than a recycling, is likely a contributing factor to rejections.

The schools might, of course, recognize something that had been written more toward the prompt of another school.

Spend a good deal of time on your essays. If you don't it will hurt you. It especially hurts someone with a set of high stats as you mentioned, because the expectation of the application readers will be very high regarding the essays and recommendations. You can't control the recs, but the essays are in your own hands.

Procrastinate at your own risk.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 10:33 pm: Edit

I concur with Coureur (geez, that is a tongue twister!).

It is common practice to use an essay for more than one college application. If one did not do that, and one applied to 8 schools requiring two essays apiece, that would be 16 different essays. There is no way each kid wrote 16 different essays, I can guarantee it. In fact, if colleges were so against anyone using an essay for an application more than once, they would not have adopted the common application at so many colleges! As Coureur mentioned, even college admissions help books talk of tweaking an essay to fit more than one prompt.

My daughter went down all her 8 applications and listed the essay requirements/prompts and figured out how many essays she would have to write. There were two essays she wrote that she used often on many of her apps and prompts. Some colleges even have opened ended prompts where you can choose to write about anything so an essay she had written could be used there, for instance. Then some schools had some prompts that were pretty specific that she had to come up with additional essays (one was at Tufts where she had to write "how to do something"). Also Princeton had four shorter essays but even then she tweaked and shortened one of her other essays and had to come up with only three entirely new ones, not four. From my recollection, she wrote about six essays of this type. I am not counting the Why X College essays on top of that. Now, you really WOULD have a problem if you substituted Y college in the Why X college essay and never changed the rest of that particular essay!! LOL! So, she did have 8 different ones of these to write.

Also I really don't believe college adcoms have time to go around cross checking kids' essays. I can only think that such a thing came up when some very odd or unsual essay came up and by chance two adcoms were talking and had seen the same one or some such. Even then they would not care it was the same, UNLESS it was "why X College" and the kid wrote the same essay...then it would be problem-o.


By Texas137 (Texas137) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 10:36 pm: Edit

could the kid in the story have recycled essays written by someone else? Then the rejections would make sense. Otherwise the story rings false. Everyone uses tweaked versions of the same few essays for all their colleges. That's why U. Chicago gets relatively few applicants; recycling doesn't work for that app because the essay prompts are intentionally unique. You have to *really* want to go to the U. of Chicago to go to all the trouble of writing essays that can only be used for that one school.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 11:30 pm: Edit

My counselor related a tale to me of a kid from a couple of years urbane kid--played 6 instruments, spoke 6 languages--with high scores--ranked no. 2, 1590 SAT, etc--who was rejected from all the Ivies to which he applied (HYP, Columbia & Brown)...for recycling his essays.

Deerhunter, you could have stopped at "My counselor related a tale." In this case, the operative definition of a tale is "a trivial lie; "he told a fib about eating his spinach"; "how can I stop my child from telling stories?"

This is simply a ••••-and-bull story. I am glad your counselor forgot to add that the kid also played on 6 varsity teams and participated in the Gerber Olympics.

By Anthony (Anthony) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 11:35 pm: Edit

This reeks of BS...

Not to mention that if it were true, one could argue that the Ivy adcomms have violated anti-trust laws.

By Mimk6 (Mimk6) on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - 11:42 pm: Edit

Do not worry. If the essay fits the prompt use it as often as possible. My daughter did and/or she retweaked an essay a bit and she got into two of the schools you mentioned. As it was she wrote about 8 -- 10 different essays before it was over because so many schools had multiple, "unique" essays. The whole thing is pretty obnoxious really.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 12:10 am: Edit

So many essay prompts run along the lines "describe a person who has had the most influence on your life"; or "describe an important event in your life." It would be very odd indeed to expect an applicant to write about different persons for the first prompt and different events for the second.

By Reidmc (Reidmc) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 12:31 am: Edit

The likelihood of this being true is close to zero. Did the reps pull this one at random for a conference call, or do they review all their essays together???

This counselor needs to rethink his or her coaching methods. There are several ways to convince students to take care with their essays without resorting to this whopper.

By Deerhunter (Deerhunter) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 01:35 am: Edit

Yeah, I understand where you guys are coming from--I'm a bit suspicious of the "tale" (wrong word on my part); but this kid actually attended my school a couple of years ago.

Anyway, my problem is main essay is damn original (not quite "Dynamic Figure," but close). Original enough to spark a conversation between officers, in my's very possible that adcoms WILL talk to each other about my this case, do you think "recycling" would be a problem?

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 08:31 am: Edit

In your last post, you wrote: "do you think "recycling" would be a problem?"

No. As we told you, they expect kids to if the essay prompt is similar. Also I really don't think adcoms from one school to another are sitting around discussing various essays. I think you have gotten the feedback above that says it all. If you don't wish to believe the collective wisdom and experience of the parents/kids above, then do what feels comfortable to you. If the essay is this fabulous, I cannot see why you would not use it for several schools if it fits a prompt. That does not mean you won't have to write additional essays but this one may do for a few prompts.

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