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Is This An Acceptable Writing Style for College Essays?

bb10128bb10128 11 replies4 threads Junior Member
My son's prose style differs from those of typical high school students. For example, while most students would simply state "I would love to come to UK to study", his NATURAL voice would be something like "I long to cross this pond, to touch that sceptred isle, that blessed plot."

This really is not showing off or anything like that. I know it is out of his genuine admiration of British history/culture.

But I am not sure if it is a good idea to just be himself and write like this. Would this come across as too over-the-top, overly flowery? Should he go for the plain version instead?

I am rather torn. Please advise. Many thanks.

p.s. This specifically involves his application to a UK school. But I have the same concern for his US essays too.
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Replies to: Is This An Acceptable Writing Style for College Essays?

  • DustyfeathersDustyfeathers 3706 replies85 threads Senior Member
    My gut instinct tells me to approach this over time and in steps. I also think that he will find the right college for him, if he uses his sincere voice. i hear you, Mom, and your concern that his voice might be "too flowery" for some colleges. Any style is not quite right for some colleges.

    With that said, here is how I might approach this.

    1) have him brainstorm six or seven topics, then cross out the ones he doesn't want to do, leaving maybe two or three.

    2) Allow him to write two or three different essays from the heart, different content. One of these will become his favorite probably and the one he chooses to submit. Importantly here is that you say nothing about how or what he's writing. He needs to get rid of the jitters of writing this Important Essay. He's breaking the surface of the white page. That allows him to move forward. So let him write. "Just write. No big deal" is all you need to tell him at this stage.

    3) Help him brainstorm two or three trusted editors and suggest that he run his essays past them. The can be his guidance counselor, and favorite English, History, Algebra P.E. teacher or whoever and maybe two friends or maybe a priest/rabbi or the like. At this stage these trusted outside readers will help him find focus in his message plus probably mention his style. Little adjustments will help him hone his tone so that it both has his (by this time matured) voice and his heartfelt message. It also relieves you of being the "baddie" who's in the difficult position of having to edit his work.

    Obviously this method takes time.
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  • bb10128bb10128 11 replies4 threads Junior Member
    Thanks DF. I guess would indeed let him just write the first drafts with full abandon and then come back to re-assess after a few days. Will definitely let others critique, as you suggested.

    Writers get self-absorbed as easily as dogs enjoy their own bark.
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  • BKSquaredBKSquared 1808 replies9 threads Senior Member
    edited September 24
    Yes, your son should use his own voice/style, but remember these essays are not a writing competition where you get bonus points for showing off your vocabulary. Word limits are important -- it is generally better to convey more ideas/points with support than fewer points with a lot of excessive descriptions. IMO a lot of wasted words in your UK example.

    Essays are part of the "selling" materials to the colleges he is applying to, and he should treat it as such. Part of that should include providing a sense of style/personality but not at the cost of not getting across points succinctly.
    edited September 24
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  • bb10128bb10128 11 replies4 threads Junior Member
    Thanks @BKSquared. When there is a word limit, there is no doubt that he should not meander in his piece, as you kindly and forcibly pointed out in my other thread. (Many thanks, indeed!)

    When there is no word limit, I feel a bit tempted to "take the bait" and let him write as if for a literature piece (and naturally show his well-rounded-ness in literature, history, philosophy, etc) -- he will major in computer science. In the UK example, those Richard II lines just naturally and fittingly came to his mind.

    But I fear this may potentially irritate the reader, especially if she is in a hurried mood, and possibly backfire. Or she may feel my son is trying too hard.
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  • BKSquaredBKSquared 1808 replies9 threads Senior Member
    Perhaps UK or some schools don't provide word limits. Nevertheless, if you are aiming for highly selective schools, AO's of these schools personally have about a thousand (or more) apps to assess in a first read -- Yale I know has 26 AO's this year and they will likely need to get through 35-40,000 total apps They might have 10-15 minutes per app. While I am sure they appreciate well written pieces with a good writer's flair, more is not always better. It is not just the risk of annoying a reader, it is also the risk of diluting other parts of the app which may prove to be more critical.
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  • yearstogoyearstogo 884 replies30 threads Member
    edited September 24
    From what I have read and the AOs I have listened to it seems they merely scan the essays to confirm it is consistent with the rest of the application and to see if there is anything else in the essay that is not elsewhere. Our kids spend a lot of time on writing the essays but it does not seem they play the role in the admissions process that many say they play.

    As far as I can tell there is a process to eliminate many applications for various/obvious reasons but there are quite a few remaining that are then eliminated in the shaping process.
    edited September 24
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35932 replies404 threads Senior Member
    edited September 25
    Here, clear and concise always beats flowery. You're trying to communicate something very important for a college admit review. Not paint a mural.


    If he's aiming high for US colleges, adcoms will look for some ability to "self edit." Doesn't mean you can't have a little fun. But carefully.

    "Know your audience."


    CC makes a lot of the idea a great essay can tip. Truth is, for a highly competitive college, a poorly thought out topic or execution can sink an otherwise good app.
    edited September 25
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  • bb10128bb10128 11 replies4 threads Junior Member
    Thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts. I am much obliged.
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