(Please read the exchange below before taking this poll)
Ben: The New York Times reports the University of Chicago last week (i.e., right before the deadline for applications) sent out to thousands of high school seniors an essay written by an already accepted student. The essay (whose writer gave the school permission to send it on) answered the question “Why Chicago?” in a mock letter that compared the school to an elusive lover. It began:
Dear University of Chicago, It fills me up with that gooey sap you feel late at night when I think about things that are really special to me about you. Tell me, was I just one in a line of many? Was I just another supple ‘applicant’ to you, looking for a place to live, looking for someone to teach me the ways of the world?
The school told applicants it was sending the essay on in hopes “that it lightens your mood, reduces any end-of-the-year stress and inspires your creative juices in completing your applications.”
But apparently this didn’t do much for the general mood, or juices. (Sap and juices in one post: we are going to have to dial it down a bit.) Quite a few objections have been posted on the College Confidential website, including some suddenly panicked applicants who had also opted for the lovelorn suitor approach in their essays for Chicago. (I had never looked at the site before, and one thing that struck me as weird about the site was that the majority of people posting comments appear to be self-identified “moms.”) At one point over the weekend, the Times piece about the incident was the most e-mailed story on nytimes.com.
I’m not a fan of sending the letter out. It’s not so much that I find it unfunny (though I do), as that this whole process is just too fraught with anxiety and emotion to think that something like this could possibly be a stress-lightener.
What do you lot think?
Maria: I would agree with you, pops. While I appreciate UChicago’s efforts to “lighten the mood,” I can imagine that this essay may cause more stress than snickers. I mean, with less than a week until the deadline, in what way is this helpful? The essay isn’t funny. And I sure hope that students aren’t encouraged to take stupid risks on their essays that will jeopardize their admission elsewhere. I am all for creative college essays–believe me–but I feel that there is a very fine line between gutsy and just plain obnoxious.
Gigi: I had a lot of reactions to the article:
1. Where does an adult get off trying to “lighten the mood” about applying to college, least of all the dean of admissions at a highly selective university. The only way he could truly “lighten the mood” would be to promise to accept everyone!
Sure, as adults we know that most unsuccessful applicants will bounce back from the disappointment of rejection, and that it isn’t really so terribly important for students to end up at the exact college they think they like best. But trying to lighten the mood, from a position of total power over the process, strikes me as being somewhat like a boss trying to lighten the mood about upcoming layoffs, or a doctor trying to lighten the mood about cancer. It’s disrespectful towards the students and what this experience feels like to them, as well as pretty unlikely to work.
2. I actually thought the student essay they sent out was great. And I can very well imagine how the staff at the admissions office were delighted to read it, perhaps sharing it around the office, and how that may have led to their thinking that others would enjoy it too. I can also understand the panic this would cause among applicants who had written similar essays, as well as those who had written something totally different.
3. The New York Times article mentions that this was the dean’s first year in that position. Yikes! As someone who used to be in a high visibility job, Director of Residential Living at Penn, I can only imagine how fiercely this poor guy wishes he could take it back. In your first year, you want to slide under the radar, learning the institution and building up credibility, not be the most emailed article in the New York Times. I feel his pain.
Ben: Let me turn it over to yon readers. Do we at BloggEd need to lighten our moods? Or do you agree that Chicago stepped over the line? Please weigh in at the poll on top of this post.