This headline from The Chicago Tribune, “The New College-Admission Essay, Short as a Tweet” and a discussion of this article in the NY Times “The Choice” blog, “Aiming for Brevity: Quirky Application Prompts” discuss some short answers that a few colleges have asked for.
As I have talked about in a previous blog (Sept. 14), the Common Application isn’t so common these days. Yes, the main body of the application, including an essay, goes to all common app colleges that the student applies to. However, many colleges also ask for additional essays and/or short answers as part of their supplements to the common app. Some of these match the description in these articles. Some are questions that students need to answer without exceeding a very small character count and some ask students to complete the partial sentence they have provided.
Why are colleges asking these questions? In my opinion, it is to get to know the student. Although the student has probably already submitted at least one essay before they get to these short answers, I believe that the colleges want candid responses and think this is the way to get them. The application essay is a very important part of the application and as such, many students are so concerned about how it will be interpreted, that the student may be too cautious when writing and not reveal enough about himself. Or, and this is a real concern for the colleges, the essays may have started out in the student’s voice but may have been edited heavily by parents, teachers and other adults and that voice sometimes becomesmore faint with each edit.
When I work with students on the essay process, the hardest thing for many of them to do is to relax and write. Some have asked me, “What does College X look for in the essay?” hoping to write something that admissions office is sure to like. The answer is always the same—they want to hear about you in your own voice. That is much easier when students can relax and be themselves.
With these very short answers and fill in the blank types of questions, there are no right and wrong response and students can relax and answer.