College Entrance Essays.

These are some of my several attempts at a college admissions essay. I caution you against stealing these, I really do. I mean, you *snort* could use them, but there’s a reason I didn’t use most of these. They mostly deal with my frustration with getting into college as a homeschooler. I recommend you use them for entertainment and example purposes only. As an added bonus, I’ve included my stunningly idealistic essay on my dream college written at the beginning of  my senior year of high school. Have at!

Why the College Admission System Needs to be Fixed.–Not Used

9/29/09

At the heart of the college admission system seems to be the question: how well were you educated—can we make something of you? Most people, if they went to the average high school and got average scores on standardized tests, have no trouble getting into college. Homeschoolers, however, are the proverbial mystery meat. What was their curriculum like? What on earth have they experienced? Who are they?

So the identity of the student and the rigor of his education must be determined. This is accomplished in most places, not by looking at the actual curriculum, essays, or portfolios presented, but by standardized testing. This is no doubt more convenient for the school than wading through the unique and very unstandardized portfolios of the individual applicants, but it places a substantial burden on the homeschooled student, and may be seen as discriminatory, especially if different standards are used to evaluate students from public schools. Case to point: The University of Georgia at Athens requires that home educated students have a Math and Critical Reading combined SAT score of 1370 and take all six SAT II tests. <http://www.admissions.uga.edu/article/home_educated_or_non_accredited_high_school.html>. By contrast, the average student at UGA has a combined Math and Critical reading score of 1263 and was not required to take any SAT II tests <http://www.admissions.uga.edu/article/first_year_class_profile.html> This does ensure that the home schooled student is up to par. The question is, how many other well qualified students have you excluded by requiring them to be as good as, if not better than, your top students?

Another one of the reasons frequently cited for selectivness in the admission of home educated students is their lack of socialization. The questions are, What is socialization? Why is it necessary?, How will socialization affect the student’s ability to function in a classroom environment?, and Do homeschoolers really lack it?

http://www.merrian-webster.com defines socialize as

1: to make social; especially: to fit or train for a social environment
2 a: to constitute on a socialistic basis <socialize industry> b: to adapt to social needs or uses
3: to organize group participation in

<socialize a recitation>intransitive verb: to participate actively in a social group”

That makes it pretty clear. Socialization is the ability to function normally and fit into the contemporary social environment.

If the student is to represent the college, than obviously they must look a bit like the social norm. It would not do for the student to stick their foot in their mouth as they recommended the college. (Though colleges have already been known to massively edit their student statements.) Nor does the college want to have to deal with major emotional or psychological baggage. Or perhaps the school is doing this for the student’s own good. They don’t want him to be friendless and miserable. The trouble with good socialization is that it often leads to partying and bad study habits in school. Is this to be desired? But perhaps students are desired to act “normal”. Good enough.

I don’t really see how socialization is necessary to learn in the classroom. Most “normal” people have difficulty sitting through long lectures without fidgeting, but socialization isn’t really an issue there. (If socialization is the issue there, then almost everyone is unsocialized and lectures are the social norm.) If they are concerned that an unconventional student might have a sudden outburst in the middle of class, then I might wonder how such an odd student even coped with studying in high school, or got good enough SAT scores to even get into college by normal standards. Most homeschoolers are quite well-mannered and reserved; if someone hadn’t been in normal society before, I’d expect them to be more shy than otherwise. So that isn’t really an issue either.

The trouble with assuming that home educated students are unsocialized lies in the fact that to do so one must assume that socialization is only attained from school. I’ll explain. If we assume that anyone can be homeschooled (as is very possibly true, except in states and countries that forbid it), the only difference between their activities will be in those pertaining to school. That someone is home schooled does not necessarily mean that they are insulated from all extracurricular activities. This fallacy seems to spring from the circular logic that if someone is homeschooled, they are under-socialized because they don’t attend school. If they are under-socialized, they obviously don’t attend any other social functions either. Even if extracurricular activities are excluded, it’s almost impossible to insulate children from social contact in this day and age. If a mother has to go somewhere, she leaves them with a nanny or (more likely in the economic situation) she takes them with her to the store, the tax office, the YMCA, etc. Even if that were not the case, the Internet still exists. That said, the society that homeschoolers tend to meet up with most is not that of the school, but that of their neighborhood. They learn to put up with a diversity of age groups.

Finally, I believe that homeschooled students are more uniquely equipped to deal with college than most conventional students. In high school, most students have teachers looking over their shoulders at school and parents at home. Homeschoolers don’t have that. After the elementary level, they are largely self-taught. They have parents, true, but many home schoolers have siblings with whom the parent is busy. College is almost exclusively independent study as well. There are professors, but after class, the professor often has seventy-nine more students to deal with and not a whole lot of time to devote to personalized attention.

Conventional students going to college often rejoice in their unprecedented freedom and unstructured days. That’s what many homeschoolers have been getting all their lives. As a result, they have already developed self-discipline, and are ready to deal with college.

Sarcastic and Frustrated College Admissions Essay–Not Used

9/29/09

How do you respond in the face of Adversity?

The way I react to adversity has, in large part, been affected by the people surrounding me growing up. My parents home schooled me, which automatically meant that I had no social contact at all. By day, I was locked in my room, insulated from contact with even my four siblings, and the two dogs that made their appearance at some point during my adolescent years. (In fact I never really did grow up. Due to my gluten intolerance, my growth was stunted by several years, and by then, even after my body matured, it was too late for my psyche to develop into that of a fully functional adult. I am stuck as a sort of Peter Pan if you will.) By night, I was locked in the basement. The only human contact I had, I attained by sending Morse code. messages through the blinds to the daughter of the next door neighbors while everyone else was asleep. As a result I became a lover of math puzzles, an avid reader of Early Middle ages history and half-decent writer of historical fiction, although I still have difficulty editing. Finally, my parents grudgingly introduced me to my siblings, in response to threats from the social services and forced a plethora of extracurricular activities upon me. I was forced to garden, cross-stitch, sew, cook, bake, take piano lessons, join venturing scouts, a robotics team, keepers at home, Awana, go to church, and even (gasp) to go to birthday parties. I had never been to a party in my life or even seen a cake, and still less did I know how to socialize. Clearly, here was something entirely new. There were people entirely unlike myself, and despite the fact that my parents had forced us to play with the all too unsocialized neighbors and fellow home schoolers, I had no idea how to settle fights or use sarcasm. Gradually though, it became better. I failed a piano recital because I couldn’t memorize pieces, but I did become the president of my venturing crew, help my robotics team to win a think award at the regional level, memorize large chunks of the Bible, and learn not to poison people with my culinary concoctions. I still haven’t published yet, though. I attribute that to my currently unsocialized status. The forums I joined have been quite unhelpful with that. This problem was further aggravated when my father took me to sit in on the second year business law class he taught at a local university. The other students terrified me, so that I sat whimpering in the corner when the class was over, but my father gave me automatic A quadruple pluses on all the assignments, so that was OK. Now I’m taking his beginning chemistry course at another university. I have to ignore the fact that there are other people in the room, but that’s also fine because they’re probably quite as unsocialized as myself.

College Essay Explaining Why I Do Not Have Humanitarian Extracurriculars–Not Used

10/20/09

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This is a question that delights most students in their preschool days, but by the time many students get to their senior year in high school, they begin to dread it. Usually, by this time, the answer has often changed so much that there isn’t really a clear-cut answer to the question. When I was five, I wanted to grow up to be one of the darling old ladies in the cloth store. In elementary school, I wanted to be a missionary nurse—but then I found that I couldn’t stand the sight of blood. In middle school, I discovered I loved patterns and math, and I wanted to become a mathematician. When I was in eighth grade, my cousin, only six months younger than I was, died of leukemia. I knew then and there that I wanted to become a biochemist and work to cure cancer forever. At this point, I’m not really sure whether I might not go into another branch of chemistry. Now, however, I know enough to know that I don’t know much of anything yet. I have time to learn. I do know that I love chemistry, and I want to learn more about it. So is a vague allusion to my perspective career the answer to the question? The expected answer, certainly, but is a career all there is to life? I, for one, can’t imagine chemistry fulfilling every outlet of my being. Is my job to become the defining force in my life? So then, what do I want to be when I grow up?

I read a lot of stories in the news about volunteering and about how fulfilling humanitarian work really is. I could see how helping others could become someone’s sole passion (at least excluding the possibility of burn-out). The trouble here is finding the time and money to make it a career. Most humanitarians are not independently wealthy. As a result, those that do such work full-time often form charitable organizations funded by donations. But the majority of the populace cannot do this. Most people do humanitarian work part-time for lack of funding. This, unfortunately, requires a flexible work schedule. I already do what most people end up doing, that is, volunteering on weekends and during the summer. Still, there is a problem. If everyone volunteered, even on alternating weekends, who would teach, fix cars, run grocery stores, and generally keep life moving here? Is the majority of the populace to be denied fulfillment except on weekends and during the summer because they cannot leave their jobs?

I believe the trouble lies in two assumptions. 1) that a career is restricted to its description, and 2) that humanitarian work is the only type of fulfilling work. I’ll clarify. A chemist is never just a chemist. A real chemist is someone who does their best to do their best for whatever is most important to them. A chemist can be a lab partner, a facility tour guide, a lab report writer, and a Christian. A chemist can also be a mother, a driver, an aspiring writer, and a grocery store patron. The trouble occurs when someone attempts to be just a chemist. A chemist is just a chemist.

So what do I want to be when I grow up? I want to serve God through what I do. I want to use everything I’ve been taught on a regular basis and never forget anything. I want to be kind. I want to be useful, even if no one ever knows. I want to love what I do, but do ever so much more. I want to be a chemist. But I want to be more than a chemist.

College Essay Describing a Learning Experience–Submitted

1/14/10

  Why I’m glad that I learned IRAC

Last year I sat in on a business law class that my father taught at X State University. It was intimidating at first. Being home schooled, I had never been in an academic class before. Most of the students were at least three years older than I was, and the class had a large amount of precise legal reading and essay questions. I tend to read slowly and focus on every detail. I had a hard time keeping up with the assigned readings and the problems.

The issue was the number of details. Law is all about details. The who, what, when, where, which, why, how, and to what extent. I loved seeing them, but when I wrote about them all, I couldn’t complete my assignments. One of the first things that I learned in that class was the IRAC method of legal writing. The method is centered around explaining the Issue, finding the Rule that pertains to the situation, Applying it, and stating one’s Conclusion. It helped me figure out which rules were really important in each law problem and find them in assigned readings. Subconsciously I began using IRAC to analyze the reading assignments and to determine how the law would apply to specific cases. I did a lot of background reading to figure out whether the way I thought the law should be applied in a particular problem was really the way it applied.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have very much time to do background reading, especially with my reading slowness, so I began to skim through court opinions to find the elements of the IRAC method. I discovered IRAC could reveal not only the path to a conclusion but also the unwritten values of the writer: for instance, in the famous Palsgraf suit against a railroad company, the writer of the dissenting opinion reasoned that in a case of negligence, the person who has been careless is responsible for any consequent loss, not only of the victim, but of the entire world. I came to the conclusion that if the law applies that way, the world can hold me liable for any actions it deems to be poorly thought out. The dissent’s assumptions amazed me.

Another eye-opening moment occurred toward the end of the course, an assignment to write a brief summary of a Clinton case confused me. I could not figure out what the issue in the case actually was. The decision had nothing to do with the charge. The decision turned out to address the defense that the president ought to be able to postpone lawsuits. It was a court case within a court case. That made me realize that while some types of details are always essential, sometimes i need to return to seemingly “nonessential” details to figure out what is important. Anyway, with so much reading, my speed on the assigned chapters doubled as I discovered how to focus on what the laws were really about.

Meanwhile, I discovered that IRAC applied to life outside of law. The reason I had trouble keeping up with assignments was poor time management. The issue was that I had little time to study because I was sleeping in on days when I didn’t have to get up early for class. The rule was that I needed to get a reasonable amount of sleep consistently. The application was that I needed to get up earlier and go to bed earlier. The conclusion was that this would lead to increased productivity. Unfortunately, by the time I reached this conclusion, it was so near the end of the semester that even if I did get up early, there was so much work to do that I still wouldn’t get much sleep. Around this time my shyness toward my classmates started to fade. I still didn’t have many conversations with them, but listening to my dad grading at night, I realized that this was just as hard for them as it was for me. That made me feel better.

Although the class was a lot of work, and keeping up with assignments was stressful, looking back on it, I really enjoyed it. The pure logic of the IRAC method is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. In fact, IRAC proved so useful that it has become part of the way I think: I still need to pay attention to details, but now I can see a pattern in them. As the result of that class and a book on speed-reading, I scored 740 on each of my SAT writing section and SAT II literature exam. In addition, I found the class so helpful that I audited a class in my chosen major—chemistry—and applied the IRAC method to the way I went over the material. I loved it.

The Ideal College 

02/08/08

(These are my desires before I had any idea what I was talking about. Read it for the humor value only. Also, it is worth noting that one of the criterion I considered including was a gigantic statue of a duck in the middle of campus. I’m still hoping.)

My ideal college would be taught by passionate and knowledgeable professors. These professor who would have a doctorates would understand their subject well enough to tell how its various parts fit together. These skilled teachers would be succinct and able to speak clearly as well as having a basic knowledge of teaching. A willing student would be able to pass the classes even if he lacked talent in the area. These professors would care about their students and offer them additional help. Alternatively, the professors would recommend places for tutoring, have assistants, or there would be other students who would help.

This college would offer a diverse array of specialized majors. The enthusiastic professors would go into deep detail while still preparing the student for employment or for more advanced study. Specialization would lead to smaller and more intimate classes. This college would offer graduate courses of study, eliminating graduates’ need to find another college with a program. Ideally, this campus would offer a diverse array of majors. This variety in the student life would result in people with different strengths able to assist others.

This college would have a healthy atmosphere. The students, including my imagined roommate, would be diligent and helpful. They would recommend the “best” professors, and they would instigate group homework sessions. These students would be relatively humble and willing to help with service projects and such. These sociable people would be humorous so that I would enjoy living with them. The campus itself would be comfortable. This safe college would have security guards and enforceable rules for the convenience of its students. There would be rules against loud music at late hours, and against alcohol and drugs on campus. There would be exclusively boys’ and girls’ lodgings that were locked at night. This campus would be also be visually beautiful. It would be located in a rural setting free of parasitic insects. There would be numerous trees as well as benches and lawns where students could study. The related buildings would be close together in a compact campus. The dorms would be in the center of the campus to allow greater accessibility.

This wonderful institute of learning would also be accredited. It would be open to most public and home schooled students. Despite lenient entrance standards, the demanding classes would require study. The college would be recognized for holding its students to a high level of achievement. The students from this college would experience flexibility in both transferring and entering graduate programs. You would be able to get a job in your field on graduation.

This college would be inexpensive. It would offer scholarships for students who maintained good grades and separate financial aid. There would be no miscellaneous fees. The college’s location would have a low cost of living. Additionally, the dorms would eliminate housing prices, and there would also be a good cafeteria. This, I think, is what would draw me to a college. The classes would be informative, but it would be the campus and the financial aid that ensured I stayed.

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