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kokotg

Question about "Why this college?" type essays

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DS loathes these with a fiery passion. He thinks they set him up to sound completely fake. Anyway, though, he's finishing one up for Oberlin right now. He hasn't visited yet, but his Dad went there, so right now he mentions his Dad and stuff he remembers from college three different times in the essay. Is this a bad idea? Like does it make it sound like he's trying to play up that he's a legacy too much (Oberlin does consider legacy status, but it's a fairly minor factor as I understand it). That's not why he's doing it; it's just that that's mostly what he has to go on as far as Oberlin-specific knowledge, since he hasn't actually been there. 

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Consider showing why his Dad going there makes the school appeal...development of x, y, z ; skills acquisitions, etc that he is interested in developing.

By the way, my dc are reporting they are getting this type of question in job interviews. They expect research to have been done, and reach out to current or former employees.

 

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I would just make sure the essay is more about your ds than about Dad.  Without having read it, could he list the three points all together and then expand on how each one makes Oberlin desirable/a good fit for him?  “Dad’s sharing about his time at Oberlin over the years has made me bettter understand what I might like about attending as well.  He appreciated discussions afforded by having small class sizes, the opportunities available to incorporate the arts, and the camaraderie afforded by the requirement to live on campus all four years.” (I have little knowledge of Oblerlin - just making these up). Then he could address each issue one by one.  

I’m just randomly throwing stuff out.  Lol.  

 

Edited by Hoggirl
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Dd#1 Only had one of these, and it was really easy for that one. (Well, as easy as writing anything is for this girl, which means teeth-gnashing & hair- pulling on my end and lots of procrastination and complaining on her part. But this was less of all of those.) It was, perhaps not what the school was hoping would attract a student, but it was what brought the school to her attention. ETA: It showed her academic focus matched the school's reputation. She was admitted, but it isn't highly selective either (50% acceptance). ?

Edited by RootAnn
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Okay, thanks ? . I should clarify that it's not the focus of the essay ("I want to come to Oberlin because my Dad went there!")--it's more mentioning things like that he's interested in a particular math class taught by his Dad's favorite math professor. Or that his Dad remembers the Friday night organ pumps fondly and he's looking forward to those. 

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13 minutes ago, RootAnn said:

Dd#1 Only had one of these, and it was really easy for that one. (Well, as easy as writing anything is for this girl, which means teeth-gnashing & hair- pulling on my end and lots of procrastination and complaining on her part. But this was less of all of those.) It was, perhaps not what the school was hoping would attract a student, but it was what brought the school to her attention. ETA: It showed her academic focus matched the school's reputation. She was admitted, but it isn't highly selective either (50% acceptance). ?

 

I feel like they're so formulaic that they should be relatively easy to do, but I guess my kid doesn't do formulaic well ? 

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koktog, 

For selective schools, those Why Essays can be super important. If they have visited and researched, then they should have no problem with explaining why. Rather than formulaic, I see those essays as a super opportunity to explain why they are a perfect fit for a particular school.

Re: Oberlin. It is fine to mention his father. Oberlin, in particular, wants to know that an applicant has a deep understanding of its unique culture. Oberlin wants to feel the love, as they say. If he visited, he should mention Tappan Square or Soul Train or contact improv (or whatever floated his boat). If he interviewed, he can mention something that resonated with him. Obies are a unique bunch. The more your son can express his understanding of that, the better!

Best of luck! Such a stressful time.

Edited by lisabees
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11 minutes ago, lisabees said:

koktog, 

For selective schools, those Why Essays can be super important. If they have visited and researched, then they should have no problem with explaining why. Rather than formulaic, I see those essays as a super opportunity to explain why they are a perfect fit for a particular school.

 

I definitely don't mean that I think he should write one essay and do a search and replace for the college name ? . But he's applying almost exclusively to small LACs, so there are some common elements....there's always something about small class sizes and a small math department and getting to know professors well and then he gets into specifics about school X's math department, for example. But, yeah, I think it's really hard for him because he isn't at all sure which school is perfect for him, and Oberlin is the first he's had to write without visiting, so that makes it especially tough. And he feels like there's a BS element to it because it's "tell us why this school is perfect for you and then go do the same thing for 10 other schools." And the end result is that he DOES sound much more stiff in these essays than he usually does when he writes (or than he did in his common app essay), which is too bad. It's also entirely possible I'm a harsher critic than I should be and that he's doing fine with them! 

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1 hour ago, kokotg said:

I definitely don't mean that I think he should write one essay and do a search and replace for the college name ? . But he's applying almost exclusively to small LACs, so there are some common elements....there's always something about small class sizes and a small math department and getting to know professors well and then he gets into specifics about school X's math department, for example. But, yeah, I think it's really hard for him because he isn't at all sure which school is perfect for him, and Oberlin is the first he's had to write without visiting, so that makes it especially tough. And he feels like there's a BS element to it because it's "tell us why this school is perfect for you and then go do the same thing for 10 other schools." And the end result is that he DOES sound much more stiff in these essays than he usually does when he writes (or than he did in his common app essay), which is too bad. It's also entirely possible I'm a harsher critic than I should be and that he's doing fine with them! 

Oh, believe me, I get it! My kids thought the entire process was bs at one point or another. And it is difficult when LACs all tout the same thing and your kid isn't sure which is the best fit. On the other hand, that's awesome because it's better than a kid only having dreams about one school...and not getting in or not being able to pay for it!

Two of my kids got into Oberlin. Both wrote very personal essays that showed they were familiar with the people and the campus and the culture. One actually based her essay on two Obies who greatly influenced her life in many ways (I wasn't sure if it was a wise idea). I don't think it's a problem for your son to write about his father at all!

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The nice thing about that essay topic is that it does compel the prospective student to dig in a bit and educate themselves about the school. This might help them in the decision making process later.

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5 hours ago, kokotg said:

I definitely don't mean that I think he should write one essay and do a search and replace for the college name ? . But he's applying almost exclusively to small LACs, so there are some common elements....there's always something about small class sizes and a small math department and getting to know professors well and then he gets into specifics about school X's math department, for example. But, yeah, I think it's really hard for him because he isn't at all sure which school is perfect for him, and Oberlin is the first he's had to write without visiting, so that makes it especially tough. And he feels like there's a BS element to it because it's "tell us why this school is perfect for you and then go do the same thing for 10 other schools." And the end result is that he DOES sound much more stiff in these essays than he usually does when he writes (or than he did in his common app essay), which is too bad. It's also entirely possible I'm a harsher critic than I should be and that he's doing fine with them! 

DD also hit the point where it all felt like BS. She has very specific reasons for applying to selective LACs and she is applying to those LACs because they meet these requirements. She is now getting pretty good at evaluating the topic and school adapting and customizing parts and pieces of other essays to work for that school. She is also getting much better at pulling together totally new essays. This process has definitely forced her to be introspective and define what she wants. She is becoming a much better writer as a result of this process.

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4 hours ago, Arch at Home said:

This process has definitely forced her to be introspective and define what she wants. She is becoming a much better writer as a result of this process.

 The application process does have value, and it certainly helped my last senior grow as a person, particularly in the areas of writing and speaking. It also helped her prepare for that transition to adulthood by having to think about what she wanted in her adult life. The essays and such can be tedious, but I'm glad my kids had the experience.

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I don't think the student has to read the question as meaning why this school and no others. But explaining what a student is looking for in colleges and how school X is a match for that and that program Y and opportunity Z look exciting/interesting might feel more natural. 

For students who are applying to multiple schools the what I'm looking for may also highlight why the student is an interesting applicant. The factors they are looking for might be similar across multiple applications while the specific things at each college would be particular to each school.

 

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