Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Quick quiz: Which of the following is not an essay topic on the latest version of the common application to gain admission to U.S. colleges?
1. Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
2. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
4. Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
5. Discuss an accomplishment or event -- formal or informal -- that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community or family.
6. Discuss a particularly significant Facebook status update. What prompted it? Where were you when you posted it? How did you feel when only four of your friends “liked” it?
The common application, which is now accepted by more than 500 colleges, is the best example of how the admissions process has become an exercise in encouraging 17-year-olds’ narcissism. Also new this year, rising high-school seniors will be allotted 650 words in which to indulge themselves. Was that because the 500 they have been given previously just didn’t do these topics justice?
The college essay as absurdist self-reflection isn’t new. When I applied to Middlebury College some two decades ago, I was asked to answer the question: “What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received?”
Alas, this was no passing fad. “Many people involved in the admissions enterprise believe -- or want to believe -- that personal essays are essential,” Eric Hoover of the Chronicle of Higher Education wrote in a blog post after interviewing a number of admissions officers. “As long as students are free to write autobiographical vignettes and creative riffs on quirky topics, then nobody can say the process is just about numbers, which it often is.”
Well, often it’s not. More and more colleges are dropping the SAT requirement. Measures of every sort of diversity -- race, geography, religion, sexual orientation -- compete with grade-point averages.
It’s discouraging enough that colleges have increasingly discounted hard measures in favor of essays, which are often “edited” by the adults in their lives. Hoover interviewed Danya Berry, a member of the common application’s panel of counselors, who said the essay requirements are a way to measure writing skills: “If you can’t write a succinct, five-paragraph essay, you’re not going to succeed in college.”
Fair enough. Yet the essays themselves don’t ask college students to do the least bit of critical thinking. They are merely exercises in what Twitter users label #humblebrags.
Of course, this generation of social-media-savvy teens already excels at trying to show how each moment of their lives is filled with significance. There is no need to encourage it. How about asking applicants about a favorite author? Sure, it’s possible it will become an exercise in how reading “Old Yeller” (does anyone read that anymore?) reminded you of the death of your pet turtle. But it’s also possible that it will make you offer some insights beyond your own, no doubt fascinating, autobiography.
What about a historical event that influenced you? Again, there will be plenty of opportunity for reflection on your own life when you reveal that the Emancipation Proclamation actually released your great-great-great-grandparents from bondage.
Or that learning about the Holocaust made you change your view of Judaism and whether God is good. Or perhaps that reading about the women’s suffrage movement turned you into an ardent feminist. But it won’t be all about you.
How about an invention that most changed your life? You might write that it’s the cell phone or the iPad. You would at least have to reflect on why that is the case, know something about its development, what life was like before it, and even -- here’s the key -- construct an argument for why this particular thing was more influential than other things.
The navel-gazing essays require only telling a story, a “narrative” about yourself, as college administrators have it. Sure, there’s a beginning, a middle and an end. It could be in a “five-paragraph” format. But it doesn’t reveal much about how you think -- just how you feel.
The thrust of the essays I’m proposing would be different. They would suggest that you are aware of the important ideas, events and leaders who came before you, who made it possible for you to spend the next four years of your life in this thing we call college.
(Naomi Schaefer Riley is the author of “The Faculty Lounges and Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For.” The opinions expressed are her own.)
To contact the writer of this article: Naomi Schaefer Riley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this article: Katy Roberts at email@example.com.
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Stupid and funny essays
Students at school or college are constantly facing the problem of essay writing. The essays can be required for many disciplines and of various types and topics. And not all students successfully pass such an undertaking. One of the most difficult assignments is writing a funny essay. Inventing of funny essay topics demands sharp brains, sense of humor, ability to analyze what is funny or in contrast silly.
There are cases when after presenting your essay to the teacher and considering it a funny piece of writing, you see the professor is laughing but do not realize the cause of this laughter. Yes, you have gained the necessary effect – to make him/her laugh, but the cause is different. His/her tear gland work because of the stupidity of your essay.
Title is the hardest part
Funny essay titles is a very challenging assignment, as you are obliged to make somebody laugh through your words and not emotions or voice. At first, you may consider it as an easy task, but compare the issues that seem fun to you and those funny for others. Are they similar? Doubtless! To succeed with a funny title, you need to try very hard.
Read more College Essay Prompts articles:
Time is your enemy
Time is also an important matter. When you lack time, you try to use some online essay help and receive numerous stupid essays, and more significant they are the same as your classmate has. For instance, there was an essay about a cow, where the writer describes a cow as a human or how a person met an alien. Is it funny? No! But the students take them and hand in such stupid essays. When the teacher puts a bad mark for it, their answers are that it is Google making us a stupid essay. To write about someone sleeping on a banana peel is also a bad argument. Use the topics that are not so banal.
Be in the right place in the right time
You should realize what kind of humor is for what. These argumentative titles are rather challenging, as it is required to use humor in argumentative background. For example, the student wrote the essay “Simpsons and Family Guy are quite alike except for the characters” forgetting that Simpsons and Family are just that very characters. And how do you find the topic “Twilight is just a confused piece of work”. Who is confused?
Yes, these topics may seem to be fun, but you should for sure not to go over the top while struggling to be humorous like this:
But the writing can become a real disaster while you are busy with persuasive essay topics. Mind the timing and balance every word you need. For example, inventing the topic “Illegal torrent downloading should be banned” the student trying to prove this idea comes to the result that if it is not a torrent you can freely download everything. In the topic “Should girls be allowed in boys’ team” the writer tries to persuade that due to their beauty girls have more chances to win and says that the team leader should be a girl. Creating the topic “How I’ve Cheated on Exam” the authors describes the process in great details, but then he says that he has to take this exam again due to a poor mark.
But even more difficulties appear when the students were asked to write an Oedipus essay especially as an application essay. Although there is one story about Oedipus, the students have succeeded to present the most stupid variants of it.
The list of funny themes is huge, but it will prompt you the correct one. It will also help you not to use the outdated topics or the ones that were re-written thousands of times
So if you lack creativity or time, do not just sill copy the information present on the net, the topics that were funny for someone several years ago but will be hard for you to reveal. Use some more reliable sources for not to turn your funny essay into a stupid one.
Read also: How to format an essay?