General thoughts about posting your essays online

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Discus: What Are My Chances?: December 2002 Archive: General thoughts about posting your essays online
By MIT Mom on Tuesday, November 12, 2002 - 09:30 am: Edit

Dear prospective college applicants,

I honestly don't think it's a good idea to post the text of your college essays online in a public forum in an effort to solicit comments from total strangers. You don't even know the people who make these comments and suggestions about your essay. But most importantly, you don't know who may decide to borrow portions of, or ideas from, your essay. I would stick to having your essays reviewed by people you know and trust -- teachers, family, and friends. And keep the text of your essays private.

There are several good books and chapters of books that discuss what makes a good college essay. College admissions officers also usually talk about the essay during meetings with prospective applicants.

Finally, the single most important piece of advice that can be given about writing a college essay is that the reader should get to know you better as a person after having read your essay. You should reveal your personality and how you think. You should flesh yourself out as a person and add more dimension to yourself than just test scores and a GPA. This doesn't mean you have to write about yourself, you just have to honestly reveal yourself in what you write.

P.S. Also, BE REALLY CAREFUL when you include the name of a college or university in your essay!! Be sure to CHANGE IT when you sent the same essay to a different college! Don't send an essay to CMU saying that, " has always been my dream to study computer science at MIT."

By 94grad on Tuesday, November 12, 2002 - 10:14 am: Edit

On a related note, make sure your rec writers also change the names of specific schools. One of my recommendations to Wesleyan said, "....and I'm sure she'll do very well at Amherst College."


By steveh on Tuesday, November 12, 2002 - 11:59 am: Edit

I know! This is ludic! I can't even imagine posting my essays on this forum. THESE PEOPLE ARE APPLYING TO THE SAME SCHOOLS THAT YOU ARE!

By h on Wednesday, November 13, 2002 - 03:15 pm: Edit

well, for people who will actually post their essays on here... do YOU think they'll get into these competitive schools? just a thought...

By bump on Sunday, December 01, 2002 - 11:11 pm: Edit


By Northstarmom (Northstarmom) on Monday, December 02, 2002 - 02:04 am: Edit

MIT Mom: I agree with you.

In addition to risking having their essays stolen by the lazy, those who post usualy get horrendously incorrect feedback. Sometimes I think that posters deliberately give bad feedback so as to reduce the competition.

And I have no clue why anyone would request essay advice from an anonymous board filled mainly with college applicants and parents who are not insiders in the admissions process. Instead of posting essays here, students would be better of asking their guidance counselor or English teachers for advice.

Similarly I have no idea why students would post on these boards to find out their chances of getting into certain colleges. If they want that info, they could do far better by simply reading one of the college guides and seeing how their stats compare with accepted students at the colleges they are considering. Applicants also probably could find out useful info on the colleges' web sites.

Whether or not people here think one is a good applicant is pretty meaningless.

Why would they possibly think that college applicants could determine other students' chances of college acceptances?

By Richard from FL on Monday, December 02, 2002 - 02:19 am: Edit

If you want to know your chances, there are a few reputable posters on PR *gasp* that morally bankrupt site, who actually know what they are talking about. One works in Harvards office, and one, a close friend of mine, works in Northwestern (as a clerk, not an adcom) and helped a kid put together an app that got him in ED. Some of these kids, due to their experience rubbing shoulders with the real adcoms, know what they are doing. Some, like me, get their knowledge secondhand, but receive so much of it (from people, literature, and online) that they become well learned. Admissions isn't hard if you research every day, I've been working on my research for about 18 months. I wouldn't be so quick to have kids discount all of the advice they receive, they just need to be cautious as to what advice is good, and what advice is poor.
Northstar, I know you are experienced with admissions, but that doesn't discount the knowledge of others. Thats like saying people in physics class can't help each other with their problem sets, since they cannot possibly be fluent in the field. But the collective knowledge of a mass of people is adequate enough to assess ones chances, especially at a place (like PR not to sound like a troll) where one can simply ask last years applicants where they applied and got in based on their stats, and base their decisions on past applicants experiences. Have more faith in kids, especially very smart ones.

By Northstarmom (Northstarmom) on Monday, December 02, 2002 - 09:28 am: Edit

Richard from Fl, I know that there are some other thoughtful posters here who have some on target advice. The problem, though, is that it can be virtually impossible for a naive student to deliniate who is giving good advice from people who are deliberately giving wrong advice and who, in the case of essays, may be stealing their ideas.

I have seen posters who seemed well meaning who tore apart excellent essays. I have seen posters who seemed well meaning give horrendously wrong advice -- false hope to people who lacked the stats and ECs to apply to top schools (and who also seemed to lack safeties) -- and discouragement to people who did seem to have a shot at top schools.

Of course, Dave Barry is extremely helpful and knowledgerable, but he is not answering questions having to do with people's chances, and he isn't critiquing essays here.

People who really need essay advice or who want to figure out whether it's worth it to apply to a particular college should get essay advice from some of the excellent books and Internet sites that are available. They also should use their guidance counselor, English teacher, and college students who are attending or were accepted at the college the seniors are considering.

They also can get lots of good info from college guides, college adcoms and college web sites.

If students can afford to, they also can pay a consultant for help. From what I have seen, though, there's plenty of excellent info available through books and other sources that don't rely on electronic bulletin boards populated by the competition.

By MIT Mom on Monday, December 02, 2002 - 11:26 am: Edit

To Northstarmom,
Thank you for more clearly articulating exactly what I was trying to say.

I have a question that's been nagging me about this list. Kids, very nervous about the college application process, have really "opened up" about themselves on this list, telling where they're from, giving their exact numeric stats, describing complete details about their ECs, and sometimes even giving their names. They also occasionally give their application strategies, saying which schools are their top choices, and which are their safeties.

The title of this website, "College Confidential," is quite a misnomer because there is nothing "confidential" about anything any college applicant posts on this list. Anyone with Internet access can easily read what anyone else posts. My concern -- perhaps unfounded -- is that someone in an Admissions committee could, with actual college applications in hand, easily figure out exactly which of their applicants have posted to this list. And sometimes the things kids say here are not the sort of things they'd want an Adcom to read, nor do they come across in an entirely favorable light.

Am I being too concerned? Adcoms certainly have better things to do with their time than lurk in this message board, but I am still wary of the possibility.

By Northstarmom (Northstarmom) on Monday, December 02, 2002 - 03:43 pm: Edit

I suppose anything is possible, but I know that the Harvard adcom who visited my area last fall was not even familiar with the Princeton Review site when I referred to it. The adcoms have such horrendous travel schedules, and have so many applications to read that I doubt they'd spend their free time browsing in places like this.

By bump on Tuesday, December 03, 2002 - 11:51 pm: Edit


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