I wanted Brown badly
I wanted to go to Brown University because all my favorite people from high school went there, many of them writers; I wanted to go to Brown because I knew there students had autonomy over course selection and I was used to picking for myself. I wanted to go to Brown because…it felt like a natural fit.
And because I drank the elitist cool-aid, sorta.
I didn’t exactly approach the process with an open mind, more like a targeted mind that was open to me getting what I wanted most…
“I can see myself there!” I said. And so said everyone else. Sometimes, everyone else’s predictions for you feel annoying. But it’s most annoying– and probably also most accurate– to imagine that all of that conviction could be irrelevant.
I didn’t exactly feel stress-free about it:
What if all those extremely nice things teachers and administrators said about me were just friendly praise, bred by familiarity, or outright ego-building flattery?
What if, outside the incubator of my notorious high school, I was just….your average somebody? No more pickable than someone else?
Self-doubt went bananas.
These days, just being “somebody” is pretty great. But at that moment, it was hard to imagine.
Truth is: it’s really easy for colleges not to see you, or see you accurately. It’s really easy not to see yourself.
The essay for Brown was my ticket
So I knew my essay for Brown had to be good. I was a damn writer, after all. Had been since kindergarten. I had things to say. I could say them, and be seen.
My college essay writing process was a bit different than yours. I guarantee. And it’s also one reason Essay Intensive exists now.
I wish I’d had what I’m offering you: a way to make the process itself, not just the goal or product, of value. Instead, it was torture.
I find it funny in retrospect, but retrospect is no good in the moment.
When I was a high school senior, the application for Brown University (in fact, my alma mater) required you to write your essay BY HAND– yes, BY HAND, that archaic instrument!
You also had to attach a (passport style) picture: is that last part even legal? Maybe Brown was secretly connected to a mail-order bride company. Or was conducting a study on relationship between camera-face and handwriting under pressure.
My handwriting was the neatest in my graduating class. So neat that I was often asked to fake notes from parents, excusing students from class–and maybe I did, maybe I didn’t.
However, who knew what Brown was looking for when they asked you to write by hand– your penmanship generally? The confidence in your stroke? Your ability to use whiteout, or transcribe your thoughts perfectly in the first round?
That my handwriting was type-writer good, enviable, didn’t stop my loving-but-anxious father from leaning over my shoulder telling me certain letters were “impossible to read.” I must have recopied the essay a dozen times, printing with a carefulness I hadn’t used since I mastered my letters in kindergarten.
What did I write about? Well, I don’t remember struggling that hard to find a topic, not the way my students seem to struggle. And in the end, legibility was not a problem. I wrote about a hilarious and telling event that had happened in my junior year.
On my high school Spanish class trip to Spain, I had to explain to my home stay family what I would eat. I mixed up two vocabulary words, at my own expense: I told my host mother, picky eater that I was, don’t worry “Como MARIDOS!” (I eat husbands) when I meant, “Como MARISCOS!” (I eat seafood). Her face crumpled in confusion, and this error brought home to me the importance of language.
I don’t remember the meaning I made out of that event, though I could invent something now to please you. There are lots of different meanings, one is how easily we can mistakenly say things we don’t mean, and suffer the consequences.
But I remember the arduous process of writing out each sentence with cramps in my hands at my dining room table. My father looking at what I was doing; asking my mother if SHE could read it. She was unfazed: yes, she said, she could.
I think we had mariscos for dinner to celebrate when I was done writing; we were a family who loved fish.
Months later, after ferocious anxiety dreams while waiting for the letters, I got accepted into Brown.
But here’s how it works: they don’t tell you why, they just tell you yes or no.
Me and You
I was so so lucky, to be born into a family who by hard work and good fortune and privilege could afford to send their kid on to a great education at a private college. As a teen and even more so as an adult, I feel the magnitude of that staggering opportunity and its price tag.
So I’m trying to help you optimize the opportunity hiding in the requirement of your college essay. And breathe a sigh of relief by comparison that there is no way you have to write the real thing by hand.
Right this very minute, if you haven’t already, I encourage you to pick up your pen, your pencil, and start your process by hand in a notebook, with these prompts that will help you get at your compellign story material (available by request).
Whatever your education costs, in dollars and effort and sacrifice and time, writing your essay with our approach will lead you toward that priceless and marketable goal of knowing yourself so much better.
Contact us for the details of working together; YOUR process doesn’t have to be agonizing– it has to be illuminating. No matter what school you want to go to.
Need someone leaning over your shoulder, egging you on? My dad is busy, but we can do that for you. We’ll compassionately question your essay until you nail it.
And that stuff about price tag? We’re committed to offering sliding scale where need is demonstrated. Tell us your situation.