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Make It Your Own

A frustrated student once told me “But everyone cheats! All my friends are getting someone else who writes better than they do to write essays for them. Why shouldn’t I do that, and why won’t you do that for me?”

Having been on an admissions committee, I can assure you that any product provided for you by someone else will be inferior to something you yourself have produced, and in the end will not serve you well.

There is a story about one student who wrote a wonderful essay – although riddled with typos and grammatical errors, it was full of “heart”. He worked for a long time with a dedicated and ethical adviser to polish the tone so that he was presenting the very best word portrait of himself, such that any admissions officer would have developed a full and positive impression of this young man after reading his work.

Unfortunately, a family member later persuaded him to hire a “ghost writer” to produce an essay which the family had been led to believe was superior because it was so “slick”, “made him sound good”, and would, they presumed, be more effective in getting him admitted to a “top” school.

Unsurprisingly, three of those top schools to which he applied received multiple duplicates of that same essay, from different applicants, all of whom were immediately disqualified and barred from admission to the UC system and to any schools at which the Common Application was used.

Another very compelling reason to “be yourself” is that if you misrepresent your abilities to the degree that you are admitted to a school at which you will then struggle to survive, your higher education experience will not be a good one. In the long run, it is far far better to have been a successful fish in a less notable pond, than a floundering fish in a highly prestigious one.

And finally, by resorting to a fabricated piece of work, you will have robbed yourself of the incomparable feeling of accomplishment that will come when you hit “send”, and which will be magnified many times over when those “fat envelopes” of admission start arriving in your in-box.

Ask for help generating ideas on what to write about? Great! Find supportive readers who know you well to review your early drafts and offer suggestions? An excellent plan. Give your final draft to objective and critical readers for review and final polishing? Definitely!

But even through round after round of editing, be very sure that the final product remains your own. Don’t let other people put words into your mouth or alter your own unique “voice”. In the end, you are your own best spokesperson, and the one and only person who can most effectively present your qualifications to the school that is right for you.

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