When I'm on the road I often get asked, "What do you look for in your supplements?" I tend to answer "Well, we don't look for any one thing in particular." Helpful, right? The point is that we're looking for the best, most complete picture of YOU, and here's some advice on how!
As I am beginning to read ED applications, I can't help but think back on my own college search experience. And all I can think is, "Damn, my Tufts supplement did not follow my own current advice...." So, it took me a while, but I finally dug up (and by dig I mean search in my finder because, well, computers) my old Tufts supplements... and boy did I cringe. After reflecting on the "Why Tufts?" and "Let Your Life Speak" that I submitted to Tufts I'm going to share some essay advice. I debated for a while whether to copy and paste both essays on this blog but I decided that would be wayyy too embarrassing, so I'm settling with quotes. (I'm already cringing in my chair thinking of the meticulously thought out, IMO slightly lame, words I wrote.) I'm opening the door to my seventeen-year-old self. You should feel special. *Insert emoji where hands are melting down face*
Advice #1 (Why Tufts): BE SPECIFIC
I've said it before and I'll say it again. If you can replace the word Tufts with any other school in your "Why Tufts," the essay is probably not specific enough!!!! In my essay I wrote about applying undecided (side note: don't do it) and how the Tufts Ex-College "will help me discover my choices in an innovative unique way." I guess the Ex-College is specific to Tufts but I could have done it better. I said:
"Through these quirky courses, I can develop an extensive base of knowledge; gain new perspective, and ultimately choose a course of study that reflects my individual strengths and desires."
I could have taken it one step further, gone to the Ex-College website, and found courses that I was actually drawn to and explained how it "reflects my individual strengths and desires." For example, If I had noted "Growing up at Hogwarts: Adolescent Identity & Development" (A real class I took my senior year, by the way), this might have hinted to the admissions counselor reading my application that I love Young Adult Fiction and I am interested in Child Development. I'm going to be honest, I don't think I actually looked through the course catalog, so how could I even know the courses would be "quirky"?
Advice #2 (Let Your Life Speak): MAKE SURE THE FOCUS IS ON YOU
In my essay I wrote about how "'I'm from Malaysia" but having spent pretty much of my life in Hong Kong, Hong Kong is undeniably also my home. I then go on listing all the "East meets West" type things that Hong Kong has "from tai chi, dim sum, temples, and sam pans, to striking skyscrapers, neon-lit streets, retail therapy and international cuisines." And so the essay goes on… Basically, the idea was to show my versatile international influence and the subsequent qualities it instilled in me. But what have you really learnt about me, about my family, about my life? That I'm international? That I'm well-traveled? Yes, I probably had "gained outlook and developed skills" to make me a "well-rounded person" but isn’t that all a bit generic? Maybe I'm not giving myself enough credit, but I definitely could have put a little more of MY personality into the essay, maybe given some more personal, tangible, funny, voicey examples of my life and how it specifically impacted who I was and who I thought I was going to be in college. Going one step further, I could have thrown some intellectualism into the essay. An essay about a well-traveled third culture kid? Meh. But an essay about a well-traveled third culture kid that obsesses over/connects with the history of the British handover in 1997? Slightly more interesting!
To summarize, these are some things to keep in mind when you are writing/tweaking your essays: be specific, make sure the focus is on you, throw in your personality, show your intellectual side! Don't feel like you have to change your whole essay, but I just wanted to give you some perspective after reflecting on my past. I'll admit I have been a bit harsh to myself; I was 17 years old and I didn’t have as good an understanding of myself as I do now (thanks, four years of college). Its okay to not have the most sophisticated intellectual topics to write about. Just make sure you and your interests/passions shine through.
And well, after all, I did get into Tufts and had a fabulous time, so no complaining!! I hope you found this blog post helpful and if anything, I hope it'll help you cringe a little less in 5 years when you look back at your own supplements. Good luck! I'm rooting for you!!