It was my Junior or Senior year of high school. I was completing my application to the United States Military Academy at West Point. There was an essay.
First off, I hate essays. I’m actually amazed I’ve continued to blog as long as I have, despite my obvious inconsistency. And who determines topics for college essays, anyway?
So, the topic I most wanted to write about for my USMA application (and they all sucked) was this: Who in your school do you admire the most and why?
I don’t remember what I wrote (and the internet didn’t exist in the public mainstream, nor did electronic college applications), but I remember well about whom I wrote. One of the best athletes in our class with 10 or so varsity letters, she also played (at one point in time) a few musical instruments, had been taking French since the 8th grade (rare at that time in my school district’s history), was easily in the top 10-15 students in our class of 300 plus, and was one of the kindest and well-liked students in our class, or even the school. It seemed she was gifted at everything she did. While we were in a lot of classes together, we didn’t really hang out in the same crowds since Junior High.
I asked my English teacher to read it and let me know how I might improve it. After a few days, she called me to her classroom and told me to start over. It wasn’t West Point material, the reason (she said) is that it said less about me and more about my classmate. She reminded me that I had something to offer to West Point as a student and future officer in the US Army that I needed to share – that I, in a sense, needed to communicate confidence in my own skills and accomplishments. After all, the essay is meant to tell the selection board more about, well… me.
My writing skills have been praised over the years, particularly with regard to my word selection and style. No, this essay was not about my ability to write, but rather to generate interest in me as a candidate / recruit by the board.
So, that’s what I did. I rewrote the entire essay and, eventually, was accepted to attend the USMA at West Point in the Class of 1995. I still don’t remember what I submitted, but it must have been impressive.
I went to Virginia Tech instead. The classmate in the first draft later became homecoming AND prom queen. She and I chat on Facebook from time to time as a result of rare comments on each other’s status updates.
By the way, that was the only college admissions essay I wrote.