I promise, this is the last time I beg for your essay help!





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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: I promise, this is the last time I beg for your essay help!
By Ilcapo (Ilcapo) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 05:22 pm: Edit

You guys really really helped me fix up this Mail essay, and I am 99% sure that I will be sending this as my "main essay"...only problem is that it needs to be cut down tremendously. Roughly 250 words!

First, let me know what you think about the actual concept and what not. Are we SURE that I should send this one in, is it strong enough to compete with other top applicants?

Second, help me cut words! I know that I am very verbose...but I can't help it. Thats why I need you!


To an outsider, my early fascination with letter writing might appear borderline fanatical. To a seasoned traveler, exposure to lands both near and far in the form of letters could seem rather pathetic. However, to me, the epistolary travels which the postal service has provided me with have granted me the ability to understand places and people outside the bounds of my town, state, or country.

When I was in first grade, my mom brought home a magical box she thought might cure me of the home-sickness I was feeling as a result of the 300 mile move we had just made. Though today it might be mistaken for a small space ship, at the time, the Gateway 2000 was a fascinating, cutting edge piece of machinery. Looming large above my tiny frame, the PC that sat in my basement seemed to be the solution to my boredom and restlessness. Despite its enormous size and thunderous groaning, however, the computers functions were shockingly limited. Games or internet navigation an impossibility, I begrudgingly began the process of mastering the art of Microsoft Office. Though it took a few days and a plethora of hideous brochures, flyers, and calendars, I soon mastered the art of Microsoft Word letter writing. With so many people back in Connecticut waiting to hear from me, the application provided a perfect mix of fun and practicality. Though my mother stared quizzically at me as I typed away, she could not complain - my boredom had been temporarily cured. This rather unique letter writing hobby soon developed into a joyous occupant of my time. In the mornings I would carefully place the letters into the mailbox on my way to school, and in the afternoons I walked home eagerly in hopes of their being a letter awaiting me. The day I was finally bitten by the letter writing bug was the same day I received my first response. The joy that seeped deep within me when I found my very own letter propelled me into a letter writing frenzy which I still cannot escape.

It was an interesting dilemma that posed the first challenge to this obsession; I had run out of people to write to. It was my mother who came to the rescue again, however, when she purchased me a book that contained a list of businesses, celebrities, and dignitaries followed by their personal addresses. Suddenly, I was opened up to a world of possibility wherein the actor I saw on screen or the pitcher I saw at Shea Stadium became as accessible as my friends in Connecticut or my neighbors down the street. Not knowing who a particular addressee was didn’t stop me from researching them and subsequently sending off a letter either. Kofi Annan, a man I had never heard of, soon found salutations from a first grader for his intervention on behalf of Serbs living in Bosnia. Drew Barrymore, the actress who had just exposed herself to Dave Letterman and the American public, received my letters of encouragement in battling her drug addiction. Even President Bill Clinton got a piece of my mind, in the form of harsh criticisms against his actions in office. As each letter was sent off, my family grew weary of me having my hopes dashed by not receiving a reply. But just as quickly as I sent the letters out, the replies poured back in.

As each letter came to me, a new lesson was learned. Naïve to the idea that a celebrity might have his or her very own therapist, I spent most of my time acting as a generous giver of advice to celebrities many times my age. In return, I received celebrated encouragement, fascinating ideas, and sometimes, the dreaded form letter. With each day I spent juggling my “real” friends and those which I knew only by mail, I grew more confident in the diverse character I was becoming. As both giver and receiver of a range of thoughts, each piece of advice passed through me, leaving a mark of distinction or a question to ponder. Whether it be Maya Angelou’s encouragement to stay in school and go to college or Pat Benetar’s rambling on the benefits of music education, no lesson was lost.

Sometimes, the letters granted me great opportunity as well. When by chance I chose to write to a Newsday film critic whose reviews I disagreed with, I never imagined that years later I would still be in touch with him, or that I’d still be mentioned in his columns from time to time. Another opportunity came when I sent off a letter to a man whose name I had come across as an up and coming chef who would be hosting his own television show. When the cooking expert got back to me, he invited me to one of his first tapings for a personal tour and taste test. After a little begging, my mother agreed to trek into the city with me and watch some random chef cook us a garlic risotto. My mother, always my biggest supporter, was finally rewarded for her efforts with the opportunity to meet Emeril Lagasse years before he would make it big!

Some days, after I had dropped off the mail, I would lie on my bed and imagine the envelopes that were floating across the world with my address on their upper left hand corner. My imaginations took me to the most spectacular places, and showed me the world without ever having to leave home. The estate of Princess Diana, the prison cell of Rubin “The Hurricane” Carter, and even the Capetown ministry of Desmond Tutu suddenly revealed themselves to me. For the period of time when I awaited a response, the imaginations were blurred in my mind - but when I opened the mailbox to find that a letter had been sent back, the picture became clearer. Whether these thoughts came from near or far, someone famous or average, an awareness of all ideas helped foster in me a sense of respect that was blind to fame, race, gender, or class. As I have continued to grow as a person, the letters have been replaced by people and places. Classmates in a lecture hall, the dangerous streets of Harlem, co-workers at a museum– learning from other people's choices has helped me create a clearer identity for myself. Though the power of mail may have subsided at the hands of e-mail and instant messaging, the physical letters I hold in my hands or tack on the wall have taught me more about my self and the world that I live in than any screen ever could.

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 05:39 pm: Edit

Ilcapo:

The subtext of your essay has got to be The Book of Revelations . You like to use the phrase "such and such revealed itself to me."" But what does that mean exactly? That such and such replied to you? that you imagined (rightly or wrongly) something or other about such and such? Also, do you mean images rather than imaginations?
Finally, I know of at least two applications that will cut an essay off after 500 words. So watch your length!

By Ilcapo (Ilcapo) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 06:47 pm: Edit

hahah I do that all the time! Even when I look over my essay for instances of saying "reveal" they somehow escape me, I think I have developed an extreme tolerance for the phrase!


I'm gonna do an actual text search for it right now...

By Ilcapo (Ilcapo) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 06:50 pm: Edit

Ok wonderful, nice and fixed now.

So Marite - do you like the essay? Your opinion means alot to me, just so you know! lol

By Xdad (Xdad) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 08:29 pm: Edit

Ilcapo, your problem seems that you have become enamored with every word of this essay. Despite its repetitive publishing, there has been little improvement when it comes to style.

Take a look at your introduction:

"To an outsider, my early fascination with letter writing might appear borderline fanatical. To a seasoned traveler, exposure to lands both near and far in the form of letters could seem rather pathetic. However, to me, the epistolary travels which the postal service has provided me with have granted me the ability to understand places and people outside the bounds of my town, state, or country.

When I was in first grade, my mom brought home a magical box she thought might cure me of the home-sickness I was feeling as a result of the 300 mile move we had just made."

Now, look at the words that clutter the simplest of sentences:

"To an outsider, my early fascination with letter writing might appear borderline fanatical. To a seasoned traveler, exposure to lands both near and far in the form of letters could seem rather pathetic. However, to me, the epistolary travels which the postal service has provided me with have granted me the ability to understand places and people outside the bounds of my town, state, or country. (simply writing world would suffice)

When I was in first grade, my mom brought home a magical box she thought might cure me of the home-sickness I was feeling as a result of the 300 mile move we had just made."

Your editing has to be brutal: you need to eliminate every word that is not essential, and omit colloquial expressions. Just look at the word "me" in your essay: most are superfluous. In the same vein, you could omit the majority of adjectives and adverbs. While you may feel that they add strength and vigor to your essay, they simply compound the problems of your florid and verbose style.

Just think that the adcom EXPECTS your essay to start with a bang, to be precise and direct, to be a tad surprising, to get him excited. Do you think that you accomplish that objective?

Ilcapo, you need to change your style and find a simpler style. For instance, your off-the-cuff reports on the NYC protests were more vivid and compelling than this essay. I truly feel for you as I believe that you can write a LOT better than the final product shows.

I like the idea behind the essay but I do not believe that many adcoms would read much further than the opening 4-5 lines, and that would be a shame. Do not give up, you can do it!

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 08:37 pm: Edit

Ilcapo:

I have to agree with Xdad. Do with the rest of the essay what he did with that one passage and prune. I also liked the protest essay a lot (although things also revealed themselves to you in that essay, too, if I remember correctly!)What you need is to find a more direct voice, a simpler style, some vivid images (which you had in your protest essay).
You can do it. Read the essay to yourself aloud, see if you can prune words that do not carry their weight in meaning.

By Achat (Achat) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 08:53 pm: Edit

This whole sentence is unnecessary:
"Though today it might be mistaken for a small space ship, at the time, the Gateway 2000 was a fascinating, cutting edge piece of machinery".

Then these words:
"Despite its enormous size and thunderous groaning, however, the computers functions were shockingly limited. Games or internet navigation an impossibility, I begrudgingly began the process of mastering the art of Microsoft Office. Though it took a few days and a plethora of hideous brochures, flyers, and calendars, I soon mastered the art of Microsoft Word letter writing. "

Why not just say 'The PC was devoid of too many applications but I soon mastered Microsoft Word and started writing letters'?

You need to go over every sentence and think does it belong here? Anyway, I liked this essay a lot! Now if you could just cut it down to size.

By Achat (Achat) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 08:55 pm: Edit

I loved the protest essay, btw. Could use some elimination of words as usual but it was good!

By Achat (Achat) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 09:05 pm: Edit

I'd also recommend breaking up the last paragraph into 2. It is too long.

I liked the intro too. You've made progress!

By Ilcapo (Ilcapo) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 09:26 pm: Edit

heheh, some harsh criticisms! my oh my lol.

i can take it well though :)

i cant help the writing style, so frustrating lol

i'm actually gonna do some trimming and then move on to the protest essay because i get very irritated very quickly lol

By Ilcapo (Ilcapo) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 10:13 pm: Edit

735! 735! 735!!!

I went from 1200 to 735!!!!

Only 200 words to go!!!!

HELP ME...I'll give you a dollar...no really if you can just briefly look this over ONCE more and see if you can pinpoint any extras, PLEASE HELP OUT!


To an outsider, my early fascination with letter writing might appear fanatical. To a seasoned traveler, exposure to lands both near and far in the form of letters could seem even pathetic. To me, though, the epistolary travels which the postal service provided have granted me the ability to understand places and people outside my ordinary realm.

When I was in first grade, my mom brought home a computer to cure me of the home-sickness that resulted from a 300 mile move. When I complained that there were no programs for a kid to enjoy, my mother reminded me that in her day, a refrigerator box could satisfy a child for years. With so many people back in Connecticut waiting to hear from me, I decided to take a note from my mother’s ascetic childhood ways and master the art of Microsoft Word letter writing. This rather unique letter-writing hobby soon developed into a joyous occupant of my time.

The first challenge to my obsession came when I ran out of friends to write to. That problem was again solved by my mother, when she purchased me a book that contained the addresses of anyone who was anyone. Suddenly, I was opened up to a world of possibility wherein the actor I saw on screen or the pitcher I saw at Shea Stadium became as accessible as my friends in Connecticut or my neighbors down the street. Not knowing who a particular addressee was didn’t stop me from sending off a letter, either. All it took was a little research for me to gain the ammunition to write a powerful letter – and in no time I was sending off encouragement to Drew Barrymore, gratitude to Kofi Annan, or criticism to the President.

As each reply came in, a new lesson was learned. I, being a kid, did my best to grant child-like wisdom to these icons. In return, they granted me advice that came from first hand experiences across the world. As both giver and receiver of a range of thoughts, each piece of advice passed through me, leaving a mark of distinction or a question to ponder. Whether it be Maya Angelou’s encouragement to stay in school and go to college or Pat Benetar’s rambling on the benefits of music education, no lesson was lost.

Sometimes, the letters granted me great opportunity as well. When by chance I chose to write to a film critic whose reviews I disagreed with, I never imagined that years later I would still be featured in his columns. Another opportunity came when I sent off a letter to a chef planning his own TV show. When the cooking expert replied, he included an invitation to his first taping. After a little begging, my mother agreed to trek into the city with me and watch some random chef cook us a garlic risotto. Mom, always my biggest supporter, was finally rewarded for her labors when months later she realized she had eaten with America’s hottest chef, Emeril Lagasse! It was on the drives home from our various endeavours that we wondered how the simple idea of writing a letter had taken us all over the world.

Some days, after I had dropped off the mail, I would lie on my bed and imagine the envelopes that were floating across the world with my address on their upper left hand corner. My imaginations took me to the most spectacular places, and showed me the world without ever having to leave home. The estate of Princess Diana, the prison cell of Rubin “The Hurricane” Carter, even the Capetown ministry of Desmond Tutu became new worlds to explore. Whether these images and thoughts came from near or far, someone famous or average, an awareness of all ideas helped foster in me a sense of respect that was blind to fame, race, gender, or class.

As I have continued to grow as a person, the letters have been replaced by people and places I have witnessed first-hand. Classmates in a lecture hall, the dangerous streets of Harlem, co-workers at a museum– learning from other people's choices has helped me create a clearer identity for myself. Though the role that mail plays in my life may diminish as I begin to see the world in more tangible ways, the wonderful introduction to humanity the letters from my past granted me will never be replaced.

By Achat (Achat) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 10:31 pm: Edit

You don't need the 'to' in the end:
"The first challenge to my obsession came when I ran out of friends to write to. "

"I, being a kid, did my best to grant child-like wisdom to these icons. "
Remove "being a kid".

You could remove this entire sentence:
"It was on the drives home from our various endeavours that we wondered how the simple idea of writing a letter had taken us all over the world."
You will be saying this later as well.

You could also remove this entire sentence:
"As both giver and receiver of a range of thoughts, each piece of advice passed through me, leaving a mark of distinction or a question to ponder. "

Or maybe remove the words "As both giver and receiver of a range of thoughts".

You could also remove the following sentence:
"Not knowing who a particular addressee was didn’t stop me from sending off a letter, either. "

By Ilcapo (Ilcapo) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 10:37 pm: Edit

698 - Close enough???

By the way, the schools are all small LACs, can't they just read 198 more words!!

By Achat (Achat) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 10:48 pm: Edit

Well, if you want to remove more words, you have to make a value judgement and remove some of the sentences that are superflous. For example, is Pat Benatar important to you?

Also, this sentence sounds preachy:
"Whether these images and thoughts came from near or far, someone famous or average, an awareness of all ideas helped foster in me a sense of respect that was blind to fame, race, gender, or class. "
Do you really need to say that?

Also, you will be saying this later, so why not remove it:
"It was on the drives home from our various endeavours that we wondered how the simple idea of writing a letter had taken us all over the world."

By Ilcapo (Ilcapo) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 11:30 pm: Edit

OK I cut out the parts you talked about AChat - I'm down to 650, and its close enough for me...

Do you like the conclusion?

By Achat (Achat) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 11:33 pm: Edit

Yes, I liked the conclusion as well as the opening paragraph. I don't know about 650, though. Susan and all will tell you to trim more..

By Marestar20 (Marestar20) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 12:41 am: Edit

I've talked to my English teacher about the word count thing, and he's said that a seasoned reader can tell if you're 25 words over, so a whole 150 words over would really, really stand out.

Also - I can't speak to this with any authority, it's just speculation - but what if the excess made you look, to the reader, like you can't/won't follow directions?

- Mary

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 08:18 am: Edit

I don't have the time to edit your essay though I think other parents on here have given you GREAT advice....I will speak to the word count. I think it is ok to be REASONABLY within the word count. I would define that as 10% over, which in this case would be not more than 550 words. They won't be counting your words but they did ask for 500 and they can tell if an essay is not in that ballpark as they read tons of them. If they did not care the length, they would not say so. Following directions matters. My kids tried to stay within the 10% rule. Yes, it took lots of editting and it felt difficult at first to think what more could be cut, but already, your essay has improved a lot since you started cutting. Nobody said it was easy but you can do it. Before you did not think you could cut anything, and now you have, and it is better. I am sorry to not go through it to edit but I just cannot do that for every poster. I think you should show some family members and a teacher who might be able to give feedback or edit/cut advice. Please stay around 550 though. 650 is not in the ballpark of 500 and it will be noticed.

Susan

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 08:35 am: Edit

>>This rather unique letter writing hobby soon developed into a joyous occupant of my time.>>
Another example of verbosity. First, something is either unique or it's not. It cannot be rather unique, which does not mean the same thing as unusual.

You could easily shorten this sentence to: "soon, letter-writing became an absorbing hobby." Seven words instead of 15. In fact, the rest of the paragraph makes that clear enough, so you could skip that sentence altogether without loss of meaning.
>>of their being a letter awaiting me>> Yikes. You mean there, don't you?
>>The joy that seeped deep within me when I found my very own letter propelled me into a letter writing frenzy which I still cannot escape. >> Unnecessary. You've already made your point.

If you do the same to other passages, I'm sure you can cut another 100-150 words.

By Achat (Achat) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 08:38 am: Edit

Ilcapo, you will have to be tough with yourself and make a value judgement as I said before about what you want to remove. For example, is a movie critic's word important to you? Or is visiting Emerill Lagasse? Since I am such a foodie, I would say Emerill Lagasse but I also love movies, so it would be very hard. But as with most things in life, these are tough choices. I would go with the movie critic since I love food so much (and Emerill Lagasse in particular) but then again writing to a movie critic means you are capable of critical thinking as well...I would waffle like this for a while but then cut one of them out. Is Diana important to you? In my view, Diana is the least important figure you mentioned. And who is Rubin Carter? I didn't recognize him.

Susan is right about 650 not being in the ballpark and could be noticeable.

If you don't want to remove any of the references to famous people, then maybe your introduction to letter writing could be trimmed down a bit. Do you need to go into so much detail of why you got into letter writing? Couldn't "I did not know what to do with my time, my mom got me this address book of celebrities, and I started writing letters to famous people" be enough?

By Xdad (Xdad) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 12:14 pm: Edit

Ilcapo -or should I write Il viaggero?- set your essay aside and let the text play in your mind for a few days. Think about your sentences and try to find a style that would mimic how you tell a story to your best friend. To be effective, you should be able to tell this story from the beginning to the end, in a fluid motion. Think it will be a ... 3 minutes speech! It should not be too hard because the essay is all about you.

Your essay is improving and you are approaching rapidly the polishing stage. You have one last step left before the final editing, and that is to check your grammar. spelling, and sentence construction. You may decide to show your essay to your english teacher and ask him -or her- to focus on the grammar and spelling. One word of warning ... english teachers are usually NOT experts in college application essays. HS essays are different beasts, and they follow different rules.

You also have reached the point where you need to stop working by consensus. The final editing for voice and style has to be YOURS.

The issue of length will depend from school to school. You can start checking the various applications, and decide if you will go online or not. Some online applications use a CHARACTER count as opposed to a word count. Writing a lengthier essay is a gamble that is better not taken. You would have to have an exceptional essay to go over the word count. I do know that an applicant who was highly successful -she was accepted to all her targeted schools, including Harvard and Stanford- wrote essays of 4 to 12 pages. However, she was a truly exceptional writer and ... had perfect scores and world-class EC. We will never know if she was accepted because or in spite of her essays. In your case, there is no dilemma: you could reduce the original 1200 words to 400 words and be more effective. You should have no problems in editing the last 150 words, and not lose anything important. You still have plenty of superfluous words in your essay. Again, look at this: "After a little begging, my mother agreed to trek into the city with me and watch some random chef cook us a garlic risotto". You do not need the "with me" and the "us". Also, is it essential to know that the risotto was garlic? Absolutely not! In fact, the whole Lagasse story should not take more than 40-50 words. If I had the choice, I would take the entire story out, but that reflects a personal bias, as I consider him to be an annoying and illiterate fool.

Remember that the objective of the exercise is to cut out all unneeded words. Again, that is why applications are different from high school writings or a novel for the Fabio purple crowd. There is no great writing, just great editing.

By Marestar20 (Marestar20) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 12:39 pm: Edit

Achat, Rubin Carter is also known as Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, as in "this is the story of The Hurricane." Bob Dylan's my study music. ^.^

By Achat (Achat) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 01:05 pm: Edit

Sorry, my son is also a fan of Bob Dylan and I shoulda known. I looked him up, I guess he is an interesting character...and could be left in the essay.

By Achat (Achat) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 01:07 pm: Edit

I guess Xdad is right, one cannot write an essay by consensus. Ilcapo needs to do this himself.
Also see the thread on 'Essay length' in this same forum.


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