Tuesday, May 12, 2009

College Entrance Essays from a Different Angle

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a very interesting article on the college admission essay. So what, you might think. It's the time of year that high school students all across the country are waiting by the mail, hoping a thick envelope arrives welcoming to their desired college.

Well, the paper turned the tables and assigned essay questions to 10 college presidents. Some found the task more difficult than they thought. Some questioned their topics. But all turned out some interesting essays. Included in the group were Oberlin President Marvin Krislov and former Kenyon president, Rob Oden, now at Carleton College.

Krislov was asked: "Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence." He chose to write about Nelson Mandela.
A few years ago, I traveled to South Africa, and visited Robben Island, where Mandela was incarcerated. I was astonished to learn that in prison Mandela and his colleagues created a school, a makeshift Robben Island University. In wretched conditions, they educated themselves, their fellow prisoners, and even some jailors. I was deeply moved by their faith even under horrific circumstances in education as the path to social change and uplift.
Read his full essay here.

Oden was asked: "Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you." He chose to write about being lost in Cairo.
Here's what I learned. That people are people, that the world around most people are friendly and helpful and come swiftly to the aid of those lost. Something more, something equally important, something which with me has stuck, I learned. I learned that life is an adventure and that that best course through life is to approach all of life as an adventure. Thus placed into context, getting lost is an adventure from which we can learn uncommon and uncommonly important life lessons.
Read his full essay here.

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