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What's Interesting to Them?

KelseyMKelseyM 156 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
Hello all,
I am a high school senior currently working on my QuestBridge application, as well as the Common Application and some fly-in applications. Essays often are regarded as the place where you really shine, and I wanted some advice as to what really makes for a polished applicant. I know of the don'ts in an essay, but I am unsure of the dos. One expert here had told me to write about what "they don't know", and to "convince them that you'd add a lot to their campus" but I am having trouble finding out what they like to hear in regards to my passions. I had a few topics in mind, but wasn't sure of their appeal. I will list my thoughts and the prompts that inspired them below:
PROMPT 1:
We are interested in learning more about you and the context in which you have grown up, formed your aspirations, and accomplished your academic successes. Please describe the factors and challenges that have most shaped your personal life and aspirations. How have these factors helped you to grow?
POSSIBLE POINTS:
- Earning high on national tests in specific subjects created an interest
- Working at my job has caused me to meet new people and develop social skills I would have never had otherwise (This is a very important EC that has taught me A LOT)
PROMPT 2:
Tell us about a concept, theory, or topic you have explored simply because it sparked your intellectual curiosity. Why do you find it intriguing? How do you want to explore it further?
IDEAS:
- Biology has intrigued me due to research regarding it heavily influencing the future of mankind
- Birds have been very interesting creatures to me for over 5 years due to their uncanny intelligence, unique physical features, and quirkiness as an animal. I have explored them by purchasing pets of my own that I regularly observe as well as creating fictional bird-human hybrid creatures in my artistic works to test the waters as to how compatible our anatomies are. I will continue to explore these works by polishing these creatures in professional works as I come to take detailed biology/anatomy classes as well as creating works about birds themselves (I feel like this could be really good, as it would tie in the first prompt with a very quirky twist that may show my uniqueness as a candidate as well as on campus; however, I couldn't really go into detail as to why biology as a subject intrigues me. The amount of content in this idea may indicate that this is good to continue with, I don't know)
PROMPT 3:
Describe an experience that caused you to change your perspective and/or opinion.
IDEA:
- Talk about my job again, except talk about the hardships of the job rather than the joys (Considering the first prompt is required and I will be talking about my job there, I don't think I should do this, should I?)

If any of you have any free time whatsoever to help me in constructing and then critiquing my essays, please message me! I also have some short responses in need of review... This is one of the most important parts of my application, and I have writing ability, but sometimes I have trouble addressing the prompt and staying on task without rambling. Writing is very important to me. I would greatly appreciate any assistance you have!
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Replies to: What's Interesting to Them?

  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33094 replies358 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    "Show, not just tell." It means you don't just explain an interest or hardships. Or just say you'll do X. You need to include examples that show strengths they look for, for their campus community. So, first you need an idea of what traits matter to them. And these need to be relevant to campus life.

    You won't be taking your birds to college. They aren't looking for "uniqueness" as much as how you actually fit- a sort of conformity. If you write about a job it should "show" how you grew and came to impact others, not just at work. The adcoms should be able to feel this and agree, as they read, (not just have to take your statementas at face value) and see how you fit at ther colleges, will be an asset. You want to be cautious about basing this on prior poor social skills. And it can be an issue to say scoring created an interest. The higher the tier, the more they want to know it wasn't just scores or grades (not, Hey, I got an A and got interested.)

    Easiest is to pick a challenge you overcame. Just enough to describe it, then how you evolved, what you're now involved with that demonstates a turn around or growth. And remember, relevant.
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  • KelseyMKelseyM 156 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited July 23
    You won't be taking your birds to college. They aren't looking for "uniqueness" as much as how you actually fit- a sort of conformity.
    I can understand this to an extent, but if this is the case, why would a prompt about a topic interesting to you surface? Isn't that a kind of prompt to show that kind of unique, yet valuable asset a candidate can have? I figured that topic would show my "intellectual curiosity" and how my mind tends to deviate into unconventional paths for the sake of fun and mental exercise. I thought it would simultaneously show something new and fun to bring to students at school X and an inner, core quality I share with most of the students at school X. Someone on a separate forum even encouraged a topic about birds, but of course, I didn't specify this direction. Man, I thought it would be good...

    edited July 23
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5487 replies10 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Google "how to hack the college essay". You don't have to follow the prompts so tightly, btw. While you can refer to what you do, you really want to show who you are. Personally, I think it's easier to do this by writing as about an incident-- an interaction at your job that sparked you, something you observed in your bitds that made you reflect on something in your life or about yourself.

    My advice is to whip out every essay you are thinking about then see what you have. Some parts may feel cliche, some like they are wasting space, and some may sing. You may end up melding certain parts into something new. Based on your posts, you write well and easily, so it'll be about revealing who you are.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 6619 replies39 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I agree to draft a couple of ideas and see what works best. Personally I think the birds idea has potential if done well
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33094 replies358 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    "why would a prompt about a topic interesting to you surface?" Because they ARE looking for how you choose and deliver your answer, whether it fits what they WANT to learn, helps them see you as both the sort they like and likely to be engaged in college in the ways they want. This shows them you understand that college target is about and your match.

    Eg, using a former poster's fav example, you may be a kid who juggles while riding a unicycle. That's not what gets you an admit.

    Intellectual curiosity isn't about the questions you ask, what's curious to you, but how you pursue it, in several ways. And that means with others, not just peers, but on a deeper level. What do you do? Even so, it's NOT about the unconventional.

    I don't see your ECs, so we get no idea what else fits.
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  • KelseyMKelseyM 156 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited July 23
    To briefly mention my ECs since I'm at work, here are the ones I have:
    - Hostess at Old Chicago (job, strongest EC)
    - Lab intern at Lee University
    - Business assistant for Finish Your Plates (my father's business)
    - Member of National Honors Society (lots of community service at school)
    - I will begin a volunteer position at a local retirement home next week or so

    I don't know if this helps.
    edited July 23
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5487 replies10 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    You've talked about your birds many times, and it sounds like something that really captivates you. I think you can work with this. But make it about you and how you think.
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  • rickle1rickle1 1815 replies14 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    It's not about what's interesting to them. It's about what's interesting to you and how you make that interesting to them. You can do that via "show don't tell".
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  • mathmommathmom 32119 replies158 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I read a really nice essay from a kid who got into Caltech whose essay was about his love of rollercoasters. He described the thrill of the ride, but also how he couldn't help also thinking about all the physics principles. I think your bird essay could be equally interesting.

    FWIW my younger son wrote essays for several prompts and then figured out which one actually had the best story about him.
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  • KelseyMKelseyM 156 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I took what advice you guys said and wrote the two essays required of me. I feel as if they're interesting. (Of course, I don't like to feel confident in myself because that's usually indicative that I do worse than I think) I've been working for hours to cut them down, but one is 100 words over (limit 500) and the other is 200 words over (limit 800). I had to stop at these numbers so I could sleep. I will work on them more tomorrow in addition to finalizing a couple fly in apps since they're due soon. Could any of you help me in cutting them down and critiquing them?
    Also, to be safe, should I also get started on the additional writing supplements for all QB partners I plan to apply to if I don't get matched as a finalist? This is a lot of writing... that's around 12 different supplements. Not a lot of time to do it either. I still have to complete fly-ins. I've just been trying to bulk up my QB app quick. Is there any benefit to submitting the app early or are they all reviewed at once?
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  • tkoparenttkoparent 144 replies2 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I agree with @gardenstategal - sketch a couple of topics out and see how they work. I have birds and agree they are captivating and could be a good topic. I was working on a homework assignment with my daughter this afternoon in the same room with our parrot and, whenever one of us asked a question, the bird responded "No" very firmly. She obviously catches the upward inflection in questions, but the idea that the bird is paying such close attention to us and studying what we do is really interesting to me. I'm not sure it would be essay material unless I could tie it into what I wanted to study, but maybe there is something there. I think it's very tempting to try and game the essays and give the AOs what they want, but I can't help thinking that must be very boring for the AOs. I am inclined to take them at their word that they would rather be surprised, or learn something, or read something that gives them insight into who you are.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33094 replies358 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Not sure why, on many threads, posters tell kids a great, on-point essay is boring. It's not gaming. They want the eureka moment of finding a match. That does offer latitude, but it needs to end with more than it started, make a point- and that's about the college, what they do look for.

    Show, not just tell. When people say they wrote about something more random, I think they forget it's not just the topic. It's *what* is delivered. The "She gets it!" moment.
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  • KelseyMKelseyM 156 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I've edited both essays to where they're in the word limit. Anyone want to critique them?
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  • brantlybrantly 3868 replies67 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 29
    Birds. Of all the things you mentioned, it was the only one that jumped off the page. It tells something about you. It shows how you think. When they say they want to know how you will contribute to campus, don't take it too literally. That doesn't mean you have to take birds to school with you. It just means how you will contribute your unique individuality. Having a student who is passionate about birds IS a contribution to campus.

    Sometimes it helps to know what others have written about. My son is a musician (but not majoring in it) and wrote about how he always has music going through his head. He described various situations and the movement of the classical piece that fit each situation and how that enhanced his life. Another student I know wrote about how much she loves puns and uses them every day. She gave examples of some of the very creative puns she thinks about. Both of these students are going/went to top schools, one of them HYP.
    edited July 29
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  • rickle1rickle1 1815 replies14 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Editing - probably the hardest part of writing. A terrific writer explained it this way. Think of the word limit as valuable real estate. Every word is worth X. Does it belong on the page? Are you mixing low rent words in the high rent district? He taught me two things:

    1. Make sure every word counts
    2. (Equally or more important) Make sure the sentence, paragraph, or thought matters. It may be written well, but "who cares?" Does is need to be said? Does it add context and flow or is it redundant and filler? If it's just taking up space, eliminate it.
    He calls that, "Don't be afraid to shoot your darlings."
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33094 replies358 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 29
    Yup, the editor's mantra: be brutal.
    A college app essay is so different than hs writing. You make your initial point quickly, then move on. No quoting needed, no thesis statement, no extraneous details. And it generally needs to end on an arc: how you grew, got more involved, stretched, did more for others, etc. They read it with the college context in mind.

    My issue with the birds topic is it's a more solitary pursuit. It may be difficult to "show" the traits colleges look for. Some kids do write about, say, their dogs. It may be a great look at the affection and interest. But the colleges want to see how it relates to them, how active you might be on campus, how you reach out. And, how you understand the college, what it does want to know, as it builds the class.

    IF the bird essay can be written with this in mind, fine. But imo, challenging.
    edited July 29
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  • brantlybrantly 3868 replies67 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Meh. Colleges want/need people with introverted pursuits too. It shows the way she thinks and gives more insight into who she is. Birding is a pursuit that offers no social capital and therefore conjures an image of a very independent-thinking young person who knows who she is and spends time on things that interests her rather than what's popular.
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  • rickle1rickle1 1815 replies14 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    ^ interesting slant. Could tie back to that point (independent thinker, don't just go with the flow to please people and fit in, create my own path, etc.)
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  • KelseyMKelseyM 156 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited July 29
    I talked a lot in my bird essay how my birds motivated me to pursue biology and how it spread to my interest with the human system. I talked about my devotion to study, including collecting feathers for analysis, buying textbooks, and filling sketchbooks with their anatomy and in different positions. I even mentioned how I am up to the challenge in combining bird and human anatomy in a way that is feasible. I think the essay is unconventional.
    The other one is slightly more conventional, as it asks for a biographical review. It includes things about my job, my dad's occupation and how I help him, etc. However I emphasized the uniqueness of my dad's job in a way that may captivate a reader. I'm not sure, though.
    edited July 29
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  • brantlybrantly 3868 replies67 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 29
    rickle1 wrote: »
    ^ interesting slant. Could tie back to that point (independent thinker, don't just go with the flow to please people and fit in, create my own path, etc.)

    But she doesn't have to SAY that she's an independent thinker or point out that she refuses to follow sports just for the sake of fitting in. She'd make it obvious by what she'd write. That's what pops out about the birding and the ways she says she incorporates it into her life. It will for sure be different.
    edited July 29
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