Kenwood Press


Serving the communities of Kenwood, Glen Ellen and Oakmont

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Publisher's Corner: 01/15/2018

If you were a tree…



Our daughter is applying to law school and, for some reason, even graduate schools make applicants write the dreaded essay, forcing you to tackle some banal prompt with contrived gusto.

Her particular theme went something like this: “Tell us something about yourself that is special or important, that we wouldn’t know from reading your application.”

I had a few suggestions.

Write that if there was something about you that you thought would catch their eye, you would have already included it in your application.

Snap! Clever and to the point, it saves the writer and reader a lot of time.

This suggestion was met with an eye roll.

How about just cutting and pasting an essay off the Internet, and we go see the new Star Wars movie again?

Double eye roll.

I admit, essay themes like this are better than ones like, “If you were an animal, what would you be,” or “Why graduate school?” Why? Because your school is right near the beach, that’s why.

I understand that schools want to see if you can reach down into yourself to tell them something that makes you stand out a little more. But if everyone is special, then by definition no one is really special, right?

So, even though we think that she (and our other kids) are pretty darn special, I suggested our daughter turn the prompt on its head and write about being “exceptionally unexceptional.” Detail the many examples of her unexceptionalness – she likes coffee black, she likes to sleep, she works jigsaw puzzles, she makes killer persimmon muffins. Make a big, long list, and then bring it back around and say that all these unexceptional things make her… exceptional!

She’s like the lead pony that walks along beside the thoroughbred at the racetrack to calm it down. She’s a therapy human for all her friends (who we’re sure are special in their own ways.) In other words, elite university, you shouldn’t be looking for more special students. You should be looking for a few nice, well-rounded, normal ones!

Even the cat gave me an eye roll on that one.

Ann and I went to the same college and started the same year, so we both had to tackle the same essay prompt, “If you were to write a book, what would you write about?” I had some difficult medical challenges in high school, so that was a slam dunk for me. Ann wrote something about picking up shells on the beach and liking the ocean. Though I’m sure whoever was reading our essays would have rather read my book, we both got in.

– Alec



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