Menu
Jump to content

What's with the ads?

saw

Common App Essay - writing about politics

Recommended Posts

I've been helping the son of a friend with his Common App essay. It started as an investigation of the common theme tying together a number of disparate interests, both academic and non-academic. It's since veered off into politics, and not just the procedural aspects to politics. It's at the point where a reader giving the essay a quick read may think the writer is making an analogy between a certain political figure's speech at a certain non-political rally, and rallies that led to really bad stuff middle of last century. I've tried to suggest that he walk this back a bit, perhaps to focus on the importance of the rule of law/principles, which is where the non-political version started, but each draft becomes more political! He's applying EA to one of the most selective schools, which is concerning, but I'm also concerned that a political essay is going to hurt him elsewhere. He's not explained himself very clearly at all or distanced himself from the analogy. 

 

Not really sure what I'm asking -- maybe just how much I should push back on this? Encourage him to draw out a couple of other themes and downplay the politics? I can tell that there's a very good essay hiding in what he's written, but I'm limited in how much I can tell him what to do. How much of a no-no is it to write about politics in these essays? I've always heard (and I've done quite a lot of reading and research into this) that politics and religion are off-limits (when writing about views/substance). Nothing else on the application suggests political engagement, so it's not like the essay goes into a strong interest of his. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If the essay is well written, logical, and genuine, I’m not so sure that the political subject matter is a bad thing or turnoff. At a highly selective university, standing out for your passion in any area is probably good thing. My own college essay could be described as somewhat political as I wrote about the culture shock of moving from CA to AR. It didn’t hurt me one bit. I was applying to major in Public Admin tho so there was a connection to the app.

Edited by Sneezyone
  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been helping the son of a friend with his Common App essay. It started as an investigation of the common theme tying together a number of disparate interests, both academic and non-academic. It's since veered off into politics, and not just the procedural aspects to politics. It's at the point where a reader giving the essay a quick read may think the writer is making an analogy between a certain political figure's speech at a certain non-political rally, and rallies that led to really bad stuff middle of last century. I've tried to suggest that he walk this back a bit, perhaps to focus on the importance of the rule of law/principles, which is where the non-political version started, but each draft becomes more political! He's applying EA to one of the most selective schools, which is concerning, but I'm also concerned that a political essay is going to hurt him elsewhere. He's not explained himself very clearly at all or distanced himself from the analogy. 

 

Not really sure what I'm asking -- maybe just how much I should push back on this? Encourage him to draw out a couple of other themes and downplay the politics? I can tell that there's a very good essay hiding in what he's written, but I'm limited in how much I can tell him what to do. How much of a no-no is it to write about politics in these essays? I've always heard (and I've done quite a lot of reading and research into this) that politics and religion are off-limits (when writing about views/substance). Nothing else on the application suggests political engagement, so it's not like the essay goes into a strong interest of his. 

I don't think it is a good idea to write about politics, especially when the applicant's interests do not suggest political engagement. My 2 cents is the essay is an opportunity for the admissions committee to learn more about the applicant.  It doesn't sound like this essay meets that objective. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think it is a good idea to write about politics, especially when the applicant's interests do not suggest political engagement. My 2 cents is the essay is an opportunity for the admissions committee to learn more about the applicant. It doesn't sound like this essay meets that objective.

I agree. The essay should give the ad coms more info about the applicant: who they are as a person, how they think, how they operate, what they do, etc. Unless writing about the other person reflects back to a message they are trying to convey, the person is irrelevant. My kids have rarely referenced other people, but when they have they only do it in a way that developed their theme that was ultimately about themselves.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks -- this is helpful. This boy is not a stand-out writer and just doesn't have the skill to convey the nuances of his message (especially not one week before the deadline argh!). He has three or four strong and disparate interests that are linked by a common theme that speaks to a particular type of intellectual curiosity, and I think this would be a better showcase for who he is. Parents and boy are pushing back though and encouraging the political angle, so it's really helpful to get some btdt perspective. I'll give it one more try to get him to shift direction, just slightly, but enough to change the thesis from omg politics to something that's more about him and how he thinks. 

 

I know with my DDs they wrote about strong interests of theirs in a way that demonstrated how they think and what they enjoyed about these interests, and both essays were good. I feel bad because I cannot see how this essay will make him stand out and be competitive at his first-choice school (he's a great kid but in many ways is just like so many other great applicants). School guidance counselor doesn't seem to have been terribly helpful to this kid. Argh.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The advice I heard admissions officers from highly selective colleges give kids was to write highly personal essays. The example was that their friends should be shown to pick their essay out of a stack because it was so "them."

 

The political essay may not be very individual and may come off as something anyone could write. It may also represent a missed opportunity to paint a more complete picture of the applicant.

 

If the politics in the essay are likely to be misinterpreted or offend the reader I would point that out. There was one essay I have to a friend who is well on the other end of the political spectrum from me, because there were a couple lines I thought might be read differently than intended.

 

Having said that it is the students application.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Being passionate about politics or political issues isn't a problem.  Being perceived as offensive could be a problem.  Its important they know their audience. Also, those highly selective schools work with an admissions committee, a negative vote from one offended member might be all it takes for them to look at other applicants.

 

I will say that sometimes we see our own writing differently and it can take another set of eyes.  My son just wrote an essay that included a line explaining why he was making a particular choice in higher education. It took another set of eyes to point out that if the reader hadn't make the same choice they could easily be offended by his statement.  He wasn't trying to offend, that was actually the last thing on his mind so he went back and edited. Was able to send an essay that wouldn't be taken the wrong way.  He was glad someone took the time to point this out before he created a problem where there wasn't one.  If you think this essay has veered off topic or is likely to offend then try to find a way to meet in the middle.

 

However, if politics aren't this students passion, maybe they need a new topic? As someone said previously, the main function of the essay is to get to know the writer not to write the essay you think they want to read.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

I will say that sometimes we see our own writing differently and it can take another set of eyes.  My son just wrote an essay that included a line explaining why he was making a particular choice in higher education. It took another set of eyes to point out that if the reader hadn't make the same choice they could easily be offended by his statement.  He wasn't trying to offend, that was actually the last thing on his mind so he went back and edited. 

 

I think that's part of this -- this kid has no intention to imply what he's so clearly implying. I asked, and he said he did not intend to do this at all. But if you read the essay, it's so easy to read it the way I'm reading it, and if I'm reading it that way knowing his intention and taking lots of time, I imagine an admissions reader may easily come to the same conclusion in the few minutes they have to review. 

 

Also, as has been mentioned (thanks -- very helpful to me to clarify these distinctions in my mind) it's not so much that he is writing about politics as it is that he is expressing a widely-held view about a political situation without appropriate analysis or relating it to his personal story. I could see DS writing about politics when it's his turn, since he's very interested in politics. But he's interned in DC and writes about politics for a school paper. 

 

Argh. I so much want this kid to write a good essay and do well, but it's his essay and his choices. Now I worry that the essay will affect his chances at his match schools because of how clunky it is.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As others have said, this essay really needs to tell the committee something about himself. At a selective school doing holistic review, he needs to reveal to the admissions committee where he would fit into the puzzle that is the incoming class. His political views are certainly part of who he is, but may not make him stand out from the crowd.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Liberal arts college (from what I've read) are looking for students to be good members of the community.  Because there will be lots of discussion and debate in and out of the classroom, they are looking for students who can engage with students of very different backgrounds and perspectives and opinions.   While they value students who may be passionate about their point of view, they do not want students who may end up offending and alienating other students.  

 

So it's important that your student show that they can see both sides of the issue.     If he's making a strong statement about a political figure, he may want to show that he has considered the objections others might have to his analysis.  The more provocative, the more important it is for his analysis to be nuanced.

 

You don't have much time to leave an impression on your application reader, so you want to ensure that they think your student is thoughtful and has deeply considered his ideas, and appreciates the nuances and the other side of the argument.  You don't want them to think your student is an ideologue.  

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER & RECEIVE A COUPON FOR
10% OFF
We respect your privacy.You’ll hear about new products, special discounts & sales, and homeschooling tips. *Coupon only valid for first-time registrants. Coupon cannot be combined with any other offer. Entering your email address makes you eligible to receive future promotional emails.
0 Shares
Share
Tweet
Pin
×