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My mom hates when people don’t RSVP. My sister cannot stand when someone else’s feet touch her. A friend of mine literally gets hives when she sees people dressed up and she doesn’t know where they’re going. We all have pet peeves. For some, it’s loud eating or long fingernails; for others, it’s a biker that won’t get out of the middle of the freaking road. Whatever it is, the peeve really gets us going. We all have pet peeves. Want to know mine? No? I’m going to tell you anyway. Let me paint you a little picture…
I’m at the mall. I see J. Crew at the top of the escalator (why, at every shopping center, is J.Crew always right at the top of the escalator like a beautiful shining beacon of overpriced clothing?) Of course, I hop on the escalator with every intention of spending money I don’t have on another shimmery skinny belt and blinding neon cardigan. I’m behind a fellow shopper on the escalator, let’s call him Bill. I politely give Bill two stairs of room so that my face isn’t in his butt, because I understand the shopper’s code of conduct that demands ample escalator butt space. We approach the end of the escalator. Bill steps off. Bill stands there, contemplating. Should he go left to Ann Taylor, or right to Forever 21? (It doesn’t matter, Bill, neither of those stores sell clothes for you.) Does Bill understand that I have to get off this escalator, I wonder? It’s moving, Bill, I have no choice! You pretty much have a four second window before this contraption propels me off of it and I mow you down. Move, Bill, pick a direction! Ann Taylor or Forever 21, Bill, they’re very different stores! Make a decision, Bill, GET OUT OF MY WAY!
I’m getting myself worked up, and here’s why: there is a very easy solution to all of man’s escalator problems. If Bill had thought about his final destination before hopping on the escalator in the first place, we could all avoid some awkward back hugs and “well, excuse me, uh-oh, MOVE”s. Why did Bill go to the second floor if he didn’t know whether to buy a sensible work skirt at Ann Taylor or a far-too-short mini one from Forever 21? Know where you’re going before you get on the escalator, that’s my only request.
Here’s the part where I tie it all back to college Admissions. We are (as much as I want summer to last forever) creeping up on the time when our shelves fill with applications, and it becomes our job to read them, one at a time. Soon I will have many, many files on my desk, one for each student I get to “meet” throughout the winter. Last year’s reading season taught me that, as it turns out, my little pet peeve translates to application essays as well as escalators. Essays are my favorite part of your application, without a doubt. It’s the time when you and I get to spend some time together, and I can learn all about your interests, your personality, your family, your school. And so you can imagine my disappointment when I leave an essay not knowing who you are! Essays without a clear purpose or direction from the beginning tend to leave me feeling like I don’t know you. When your first sentence is “My dog once ate my Giga Pet,” I’m on board. I’m on the escalator behind you, and I’m hoping you know where you’re going. What do you want me to know about you, ultimately? Maybe you are a person of extremes, or you aren’t afraid to challenge your own beliefs when a really good counter-argument comes along, or you will always feel more comfortable with a book in your hand than a hockey stick. Whatever it is, you need to have it in mind before you start. Otherwise, I’m stuck behind you as you stand at the top of the escalator, wondering why you got on in the first place. Ann Taylor or Forever 21, applicant, which will it be?
This isn’t to say that unimportant, whimsical, hilarious details don’t have their place in college applications. They are often my favorite parts! Show me your personality, your wit, and your writing style. Tell me that your dog once ate your Giga Pet. I love some good entertainment on the escalator (have I taken this metaphor too far?) But these little fun facts should work together to give me a clear picture of something… anything. Otherwise, I leave knowing more about your dog and your poor, poor Giga Pet.
Hopefully this roundabout blog post has taught you to enter your essays with an end point in mind. Lists are fine, funny stories are great, but in the end, I don’t know you yet, and I would like to. Tell me something important about you, something exciting or hilarious or defining. And know it before you start, because it makes the whole thing more cohesive, I promise. But most importantly, this post should have taught you to move out of the way at the end of an escalator, because I’m heading to J. Crew and I cannot be stopped.