Television: Is it a suitable guide for writing application essays?


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So, the reason you haven’t heard from me for a few weeks is that I have been neck high in application essay writing, as well as moping and procrastinating.  I still have some more stuff to do, but the worst of it is over.  I don’t think I did a very good job, but I’ve hit the submit button on them none the less.  The schools I’m applying for are probably way out of my league, but I’m thinking of this whole process as being kinda like buying a really goddamn expensive educational Lotto (lottery) ticket, except instead of queuing up at the newsagent to buy it, you have to churn out at least 2000 words of arsekissy crap about your hopes and dreams per application. And instead of winning money, you win a place in a good school that’s going to cost you lots of money.  So I’m not expecting to win the jackpot, but it would be nice… except for the potential debt?

That’s not to say that I wasn’t honest about my goals in my essays.  And I do really, really, really wanna go study. It’s just, ya know, not me, to gush on about my hopes and dreams and how the world can be changed if we all work together etc, as anyone who knows me face to face knows 🙂  I keep my optimism buried deep under piles of cynicism to keep it safe.

Application essays are also a very foreign art form for Australians.  With our highly centralized undergraduate admissions process, you don’t have to do them.  Nearly every university decides to let you in or not using your University Admissions Index (UAI). I remember writing some brief essays for some of the scholarships I applied for as an undergrad, but nothing as dense as these ones.

It was hard to decide what to write. Most of my exposure to the American-style university application essay or personal statement has been through teen drama series.  Pretty kids cry their way into Yale or Harvard or… actually, it’s usually just Yale or Harvard, or perhaps Texas State if they are from the wrong side of the tracks… on the back of some sob story that apparently reveals their inner mettle.  My Australian friends also have the same perception of the admissions essay, and one of them (Heather) emailed me some helpful topic suggestions such as:

– Why losing my mom at 12 made me the person I am today (obvs not true, Hi mum!)

– Why growing up as a nerd made the person I am today (… no comment)

– Why my love triangle with my best friend and his best friend made me the person I am today (once again, not true.  If only.  I need some drama.)

She also suggested an opening paragraph:

“Where I come from, Ivy League is not a phrase you hear very often. Unless of course you are referring to the under-14s rugby club made up of habitual truants from the local high school, known colloquially as the ‘Skivy League’, but then of course it is only a homonym, and so my original point stands…”

She’s very clever, that Heather. SHE SHOULD GET A BLOG.  HINT HINT HINT.

But I decided that perhaps, at the masters level, the sappy letters to admissions deans outlining how a 17- or 18-year-old  become an amazing person through some sort of personal tragedy wouldn’t quite cut it.

But no matter what I wrote, it sounded lame.  It’s hard to write application essays without resorting to cliches.  I’d rewrite sentences because they contained a cliche… and find that in rewriting it, I was making another.  It’s also difficult to strike the balance between enthusiasm and desperation.  You don’t want to beg.  You want to win favor, but don’t want to be obsequious.  And you also have to talk yourself up, which is always kinda vomit inducing.  And in amongst all this stuff that’s completely uncharacteristic, you also feel like you need to let them know a little about your real self.  The self that doesn’t write essays about how great they are or their long term career goals.  All in less than 800 words.

Frankly, it’s the worst kind of writing to do.  And television LIES about the reality of it. Tsk tsk.

But it made me think, if I was going to write an OC/Gilmore Girls/etc style application essay, what would I write it on?

Maybe “how years of perfecting the fine art of procrastination has made me the shoddy application essay writer that I am today.”  Postmodern style.

One Response to " Television: Is it a suitable guide for writing application essays? "

  1. ella says:


    She’s very clever, that Heather. SHE SHOULD GET A BLOG. HINT HINT HINT.