Does the college essay suck the life out of boys?

Does the College Essay Suck the Life Out of Boys? asks Dr. Helen on PJ Media’s Lifestyle.

She’s reading Andrew Ferguson’s Crazy U: One Dad’s Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College. Ferguson describes his son’s struggle to write a politically correct admissions essay.

Many of the colleges ask for an essay about the student’s “inner life”–usually a buzz word for some kind of sappy self-absorbed nonsense where the student “took a risk” of some kind and went on to become a better person or some variation of that theme.

The son, who thought his inner life was his own business, finally wrote about passing a swimming test in camp that others could not.

In the essay, the son wrote that he was “tired but proud; he sympathized with his classmates who hadn’t finished and in his victory, accepted modestly, he learned the timeless value of persistence and determination, expressed with grim earnestness…”

But his father knew the truth: “which was the masculine truth. He didn’t remember the race because it proved the timeless value of persistence. He remembered the victory because it was a victory: he had competed against this classmates, friends and rivals alike, and beaten them soundly and undeniably, and earned the right to a sack dance in the end zone. He knew he couldn’t say this, though, and I knew he was right.”

Colleges don’t want critical thinking, concludes Dr. Helen. They don’t want “passion.” They want wimps — or boys pretending to be wimps.

I bet admissions officers are bored out of their skulls by the humble, persistent, lesson-learning, PC applicant. I got a thank you note from Stanford’s admissions director for writing a funny essay. And he let me in. But who wants to risk it?

About Joanne


  1. Dave Schutz says:

    Probably fifty years ago now I was reading Readers Digest at my grandmother’s house, and the story was of a questionnaire sent to all the parents of new Vassar admits, which included the question ‘Is your daughter a leader?’ and one dad said, well, no, but she was a pretty good follower. This got him a letter from a dean, saying, ‘Congratulations, the new class at Vassar has 364 leaders and one follower’.

  2. And it suggests that the ways our students will choose to live their lives after they leave our colleges may depend on how they go about answering for themselves the question Who am I? As much as we speak about the good of a liberal education for the sake of the individual our liberal arts colleges also serve the public good.

  3. I would like to read the funny essay.

  4. I think that we all know the experience of writing what the teacher or professor “wants” to see in an essay or on a test; examinations are about getting the desired results – being accepted and advancing to the next level. This is something that doesn’t only pertain to an admissions essay. In my opinion, it equally pertains to all aspects of life – even if it is, admittedly, discouraging at times.

  5. My son was stumped by the admissions essay, I think for this very reason. I suggested that he simply submit a good paper he had written for a class. The college admitted him.

  6. superdestroyer says:

    Isn’t the real issue the pursuit of an Ivy League (or Ivy-like) degree. The U.S currently operates on the idea that the worst student at Harvard is better than the best student at Northwestern and the worst student at Northwestern is better than the best student at Georgetown (US News ranks 1, 11, 21).

    As long as student believe that being admitted to a good university is more important than actually learning anything while in college, then resume building will become more important every year.

  7. Lightly Seasoned says:

    Ah, the college essay. It does not discriminate against boys. It sucks the life out of everyone. Of course, that’s anecdotal … I’ve worked on hundreds of these puppies with my students. Nobody likes writing them. There are some tricks, however, that seem to work.