GINOCCHIO: It’s all for the ‘write’ reasons

Dec 9, 2011


I’d write countless fiction stories (countless as in: I’d never finish them. I’m sure somewhere in there was the next great novel, if I’d just mustered the attention span to see it through from start to finish.)

I joined the high school paper because I love writing that much. I consider myself pretty lucky that I also get to contribute to the Grand Haven Tribune.

I’m a senior in high school. Since the first time I sat in a classroom, I have been preparing for this year. To sum it up, it’s been a whirlwind of both beginnings and endings. It’s the end of being just a kid, the beginning of the rest of my life and other trite-yet-truthful statements.

Waxing poetic aside, I’m currently embroiled in that rite of passage every college-bound kid goes through: applying for college. Having sent in all my applications, I now wait and hope that every letter I receive back contains this word, or one of its variants: “Congratulations!”

It’s been a long time coming; and now that the hard part is over, I couldn’t be happier.

As many people know, part of the application process involves writing those dreaded application essays. Now, I write for pleasure. I really do enjoy it, and relish the ability to express all that I feel through the written word.

However, when it came to the college application essay, I was at a loss for words.

Is there anything like it? Your task is to (usually) describe yourself in 500 words or less. (And that’s if you’re lucky. Sometimes the questions are so out in left field that it’s easy to imagine the fine print of the essay saying, “How much do you really want to come here?”)

Everything about yourself? In that small of a space? Quickly one realizes that to include every minute detail about their life is not going to fly.

Which then leads to the next, much more painful set of questions: What do I say? What do I choose to leave out? Is this written well enough? Did I show these schools who I really am, and what makes me unique? Or will they dismiss it all entirely?

All those thoughts ran through my mind as I (and everyone else who has) slaved over these small, yet incredibly-difficult-to-create literary pieces.

Maybe Hemingway was wrong about writing in general, but I think he was on to something when it comes to college application essays. They are, for lack of a better word to describe it, painful to write.

That’s what makes them important, however. They’re an introduction to one of life’s most important skills: making a good first impression.

If nothing else, it is a good thing that an essay asks so much of the applicant and gives so little space to work with. Dancing around the question weakens the point of the essay. There can be no rambling: Every word has to have a purpose.

In writing a college application essay, the biggest takeaway is learning that the ability to use words with authority and purpose is vital to future success. It is, like, certainly better than, y’know, the other option where, like, you sound unsure of yourself?

Looking back, I’m not afraid of college essays anymore.

Well, except of this one from the University of Chicago — Question: “Every May, the University of Chicago hosts the world’s largest scavenger hunt. As part of this year’s hunt, students raced to find the shortest path between two seemingly unrelated things by traveling through Wikipedia articles. Wikipedia is so passé. Without the help of everyone’s favorite collaborative Internet encyclopedia, show us your unique path from Play-Doh to Plato.”

You’ve got 500 words. No pressure.

— By Mike Ginocchio, Tribune community columnist


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