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Are my essays to cliche?

Pencils3Pencils3 6 replies2 threads New Member
I've heard that it's never a good plan to write about travel/mission trips - unfortunately, I only heard so after submitting an essay loosely based on my traveling experience. The essay in question is mostly about what I have learned from two of my family members on either side of my family, ( partially through travel) and I think it was pretty well written. I've traveled quite a bit with one of the aforementioned family members, and this travel was the other family member's dying wish. Through this essay I think I drew some pretty interesting comparisons between my WASPY matriarchal family and poorer, Jewish patriarchal family. Still, I'm having some serious regret. Is this essay too unoriginal? Should I stop using this essay? Should I delete it from the SSAT common app? Thanks in advance for your help.
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Replies to: Are my essays to cliche?

  • buuzn03buuzn03 1585 replies15 threads Senior Member
    Any writing from the heart is not cliche. Whatever you do, stay true to yourself and do not try to write what others may be writing. The admissions committees can tell what was written with passion and what was written because the writer thought it was what they wanted to read....what you've briefly described seems to be very heartfelt and poignant, so I wouldn't regret it for a second!
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  • SatchelSFSatchelSF 1372 replies13 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2017
    I'm not sure about whether it's too cliche, but do be careful how you use "matriarchal" and "patriarchal" in your essay. Those are forms of social organization, basically. What you really mean is "my mother's side of the family" or my "paternal line is of Jewish heritage" or something like that. Check your essay for this diction issue.

    As for substance, many on here disagree, but I really don't think these schools read essays all that closely. I doubt essays make much of a difference for admissions decisions. Just my opinion, who knows for sure. Since we really cannot know the true answer, it is probably good advice to act as if they do. Advice to write from your heart seems very good to me.
    edited November 2017
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  • CaliMexCaliMex 1840 replies34 threads Senior Member
    @SatchelSF - What DO the admissions folks look at closely?
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  • SatchelSFSatchelSF 1372 replies13 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2017
    @CaliMex - What do they look for? Same as elite colleges. There is a core group of applicants that they want to admit - these will be let in even if "unqualified" (in the eyes of most) or only "minimally qualified." If you are in this group, you know it already (this group includes children of the elite, children of major donors, child of someone in a position to offer the admission director's kid an internship at Goldman, etc.). This group is relatively small, but its size is probably dependent upon the particulars of the admitting school. It is extremely important that "holistic admissions" be malleable enough a concept so that "qualified" can be stretched to include this group.

    For the rest? Race, ability to pay, academic ability/promise, athletics, legacy, "special" factors like essay quality, and ECs other than athletics, in roughly that order. Very elite colleges and a very few boarding schools of course do not care too much about the ability to pay, so for those few places,it is less of an issue.

    This is based on the research that has been done on colleges and professional school admittance, in particular the data sets in The Shape of the River and data provided by law schools and medical schools. Very simple two factor regression models (GPA + admission test score) have been shown to fit the data remarkably well (r = 0.8 approx) once you factor out race of applicant. The remaining variance is where those other factors like athletics, legacy, etc. come into play. I don't see why elite boarding schools would use a different process.

    Of course, if anyone has specific insight or knowledge into the actual admissions process - other than repetition of the vague factors the admissions offices offer - I would love to see it. A whistle blower would be great! I distrust admissions offices because of the extensive, longstanding and documented instances of admissions offices lying, although admittedly this has been shown mostly in college admissions.

    Specifically, in the context of boarding schools, it is probably useful to acknowledge that not more than 20 or so schools have the luxury of being able to turn away even the most minimally qualified full pay applicant. The number may well be fewer.

    Whew! That's pretty far afield of the thread topic.
    edited November 2017
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  • CenterCenter 2204 replies66 threads Senior Member
    @Pencils3 First, your title should read "too cliche." Second, I think your verbiage (just my gut response reading your post) sounds patronizing and snobbish. I don't think any personal narrative, if honest and thoughtful, can truly be cliche but it can come across in a negative way based on tone and semantics.
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  • Pencils3Pencils3 6 replies2 threads New Member
    edited November 2017
    @Center Thanks for checking my grammar, I should have proofread more carefully. I agree with you in terms of coming off as snobbish, and I'm sorry if that agitated you. I appreciate your advice, and hope it can make me seem less narcissistic and more genuine.
    edited November 2017
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  • vwlizardvwlizard 319 replies33 threads Member
    @Pencils3, hey, don't feel bad. My kid wouldn't even think to ask if his essays were cliche. He might not even know what it means.
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  • buuzn03buuzn03 1585 replies15 threads Senior Member
    As far as the reference to how closely AOs look at essays, I think it depends on the school. My DS essay apparently won the hearts of those that read it for the school he is attending. I had no idea until the AD came up to me at orientation and mentioned it...she actually insisted I find it because I had never read it and had no idea what it was about. I will tell you, it was obvious he had written that one from the heart and was passionate about its content. So, even though not every school may pay close attention to your essays...some will - and it may make all the difference in the world!
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  • makp715makp715 146 replies47 threads Junior Member
    I'm not sure how much essays really mattered. DD wrote an AMAZING essay on her traditional naming ceremony and was rejected outright at that school, but did a good but totally NOT amazing essay for her ssat app about something else personal to her but not really a stand out type of thing. And her acceptances came from there.
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  • CenterCenter 2204 replies66 threads Senior Member
    @makp715 I second your comments. I think a compelling essay is dependent on a compelling experience or unique circumstance, which most young people dont have.... My kid's essays were solid but certainly nothing amazing. I dont think they played any part in his acceptances. I think well written and appropriate (bland vanilla) are better than unintentionally catching someone's eye as off putting.
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  • Golfgr8Golfgr8 1150 replies20 threads Senior Member
    Last year, a student on CC wrote about how his family used Medical marijuana for their dog. It’s on CC somewhere -
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  • CaliMexCaliMex 1840 replies34 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2017
    ^^^ That was @Nico.campbell ...
    BTW: You don’t have to have extraordinary or unique experiences. You also can share a unique or extraordinary perspective on something quite mundane. They want to understand what makes you tick...
    edited November 2017
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