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Authenticity Is Key on the Application

The headline of an MSNBC article last week screams, “Typo On Your College Application May Get You In.” The insinuation is that if you make some mistakes on the application you look more human and less like an automaton.

But the real point of this article is on the essay: demonstrating some humility, a bit of human frailty, or a dose of self-awareness is likely to lead to a more informative essay than one that shouts out your accomplishments, your invincibility, and your ability to overcome anything life might throw at you.

Super-heroes are out. Real people are in.

Literally.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

In an age when applicants all seem to have volunteered, played sports and traveled abroad, colleges are wary of slick packaging. They’re drawn to high grades and test scores, of course, but also to humility and to students who really got something out of their experiences, not just those trying to impress colleges with their resume.

The trend seemingly should make life easier for students — by reducing the pressure to puff up their credentials. But that’s not always the case.

For some students, the challenge of presenting themselves as full, flawed people cuts against everything else they’ve been told about applying to college — to show off as much as possible.

My advice to students is to not pretend. To be themselves. Not to be afraid to demonstrate their humanity.

I also make clear that the essay is theirs: I won’t write it for them. Of course I provide pointers and ideas for restructuring, and clarifying points. But I try not to put ideas into their heads or words into their mouths. As a professor, I taught college students for years how to write term papers, how to construct an elegant paragraph, how to develop the trickle of an idea into a gushing torrent of insight. It’s something that I enjoy, and frankly I’m pretty good at it.

My aim is to guide from the side, provide counsel, and set the course. The navigation of the essay is up to the student.

Mark Montgomery
Montgomery Educational Consulting
“Mapping College Journeys”

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