Why are College Essays so Hard?

For most of my classmates as well as myself, it's that time: college applications.
Thankfully, the Common Application is now online and most other colleges have tried to make their applications as uniform and painless as possible. There's very little chance of losing paperwork as almost everything now is electronic.
The one major pain that remains, however, is in writing the essay.
Now it's even harder because along with the Common Application essay I have to write many different supplements for colleges as well as essays for non-Common Application schools.
But the question remains: why is writing the essay itself so hard, and why does it remain so even if there was only one essay to be written?
I think I have an answer for my fellow seniors.
One thing that is thought of as an issue is that almost all college essay questions are broad. This is actually good after a bit of thinking, because narrow essay questions about one's experiences limits one's ability to write the essay. Thus, this isn't really an issue.
The issue comes with how one is taught to write an essay and one's interests.
Students are usually taught to write essays at the beginning of middle school. These first essays along with the multitude of essays that follow are almost completely passionless analytical essays that require students to analyze and take a stand about some facet of a novel while exclusively using the 3rd person and only using material from the book for support. These essays continue throughout high school English classes.
The essays for college applications require that one spin a story around an event or idea. It requires that one use one's storytelling and fluffing abilities to make an essay sound better even if there is no more substance to speak of.
The other thing mentioned was one's interests. I can only speak for myself here, but I am very interested in science. My interest is such that I don't really read storybooks anymore but instead stick to nonfiction science- or technology-related books or news articles. I honestly have no patience for a book that tries hard to spin a story. This is why I stopped reading The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring after 70 pages and why I generally dislike John Steinbeck's works: the authors fluff up the stories way too much with description and almost fail to mention a plot of any kind. Reflecting this, my essays tend to be very direct and to-the-point without much storytelling; I don't like writing in a style of literature that I don't like either. This, however, means that some people may think my essay needs a lot of work while others will say it's fine. For example, my mom says my essay structure needs more "maturity", while my brother thinks I could make it even less formal. At the same time, he says it should come out naturally, almost spoken, while my dad says it needs to be more like a spun story. If I cave to too many demands, it won't sound like me anymore, and that's also bad.
I guess the only solution is to ask all English teachers above grade 6 in this area/country to require at least 1 of these personal-style essays per year so that students will be able to crank them out as easily on college applications as they do analytical essays in school.
I need to continue writing my essays now...

No comments:

Post a Comment