Missy + Higher Education = Migraine OR HELP!!!

Well, Missy2U is about to embark on a life changing journey - she’s gonna go to college.

Well, technically, she’s trying to apply. It’s a program at a nearby university geared to adults who are returning to school and are looking for an accelerated program that will get that bachelor’s degree. And I plan to do this “distance learning”.

And I’m almost all set! The financials are taken care of. The application is filled in. The application fee is ready to go. Hell, the envelope is even stamped.

But here’s the hard part - they want ESSAYS!!!

Yes, I am freaking out. I am 36 years old and just now starting college - what could I possibly write in an essay that will make them say “Hmm - now SHE looks like someone we WANT”.

I have checked out about 7,437 websites devoted to “writing that college essay that will get you admitted” - they aren’t any help. I’m not 17, coming out of high school, and embarking on my rosy future.

I’m OLD - and I’m BORING - I’ve got HISTORY for crying out loud - and I’m freaking out. “Tell us about yourself including experiences and influences that have contributed to your personal growth” - they really want to hear about my life experiences over the past 18 years? I don’t even want to rehash my last 18 years.

And what am I supposed to say - “the people who have mattered the most in my life have helped me see that currently, I’m in a nowhere job with no future and if I hope to instill in my son the benefits of higher education, well, then, I better get me some” ?

Can anyone give me any kind of insight or at least a push in the right direction?

Have any of you been through this before?

Should I just forget the whole thing and get one of Sally Struther’s Heating and Air Conditioning degress from TV?

I’m really losing a lot of sleep over this…

And I can’t afford much more Advil…

Color Missy :confused:

First, stop losing sleep over this.

As a returning student, you have quite an advantage in the essay department because things have happened in your life that are actually interesting.

One thing to remember is that a key purpose of an essay is to show the admissions folks that you can write, spell, and have a command of grammar. In addition, that you are a responsible person who can present an essay that is typed, clean, and not written on a paper towel with a pencil. So already, you’re ahead of the game.

There are about a million ways to approach a college essay successfully, so there is no one “right way” to do it. Figure out what approach will best spotlight your writing style and what you are trying to say. Play to your strengths – are you better at writing about large, abstract themes, or using the details of a single event to illustrate a wider concept?

Just based on reading your posts on the SDMB, here’s one example. You might pick something that has happened to you recently – I remember you posted once about a situation about your son and scouting and your boss. You can start with an anecdote to set the scene. Then, you might show how your feelings about scouting were developed, such as “When I was a teenager, I never thought about these issues until XXXX happened …” or “After becoming a parent, I realized XXXX because …” In each statement, you present an experience, observation, or conversation that somehow changed or reinforced how you felt about a particular issue relating back to the original anecdote. You might even include the fact that you shared this with an internet group (why? because you wanted to hear different experiences and viewpoints from a wide range of people, which you can relate to your desire to go to college where you will take in ideas from a variety of professors, researchers, and texts as you pursue your education). You can close the essay by showing how you ultimately resolved the conflict and what that says about you and your values and your personality.

Humor, if you can inject it, is great. However, make sure that the essay works on its own as well.

My main point is really to say that if you can write well on the SDMB, I doubt you’ll have any problem at all with a college essay. Just think of it as “IMHO”!

I have no special knowledge or experience to back this up, but my guess is that this is not something you should worry all that much about. Probably part of what they’re looking for is, can you write? Can you express yourself coherently and not sound like a second-grader, a raving lunatic, or a chimp pounding randomly on a keyboard? And judging from this very OP, you have nothing to worry about. I’d say, just write something about who you are and where you’re coming from, that lies somewhere in between complete meaningless BS and profound personal revelation.

Holy moly, Missy. Talk about the question that answers itself.

You have a HUGE advantage over young students in that you actually have something to write about. A 17-year-old has no experiences or influences worth mentioning (calm down, folks, before you send me nasty E-mail; I’m talking relative terms.) You have actually done something. So you’ve got lots of meterial. High school students really ARE boring; the poor bastards who read these things are going to receive 10,000 essays telling them how McKenzie Jordan Jennifer Duncan Gavin Cole knows all about the university thing because, by God, s/he worked on the Prom Committee and that’s some pretty hefty experience, and once did a book report on Ethniklashistan that told them how we should all work to eradice racism, sexism, lookism, hearism, and the WTO, oh and I was on the debate team and the glee club and I worked part time at the Snacky Mart. What fun that will be.

First of all, don’t worry; they aren’t really very interested in you as a person, they just want to see if you can clearly express an idea in writing, which you obviously can. If you write a properly structured essay you’ll be fine.

In terms of what to write, just answer this question:

  • Why are you going back to school?

That should give you allthe material you need. I’m going back to school because I want to learn something. I am a mature student and I think I have an advantage in that I’ve seen much of the world and I can focus my learning more than I could have when I was 18. I can bring a wiser and more experience perspective to my subjects than most students, allowing me to relate the subject matter to real world experience.

Geez, that actually sounds like a pretty good idea. Why not write an essay that honestly explains why you’re going back? Do you honestly think the people at Admissions don’t realize that almost everyone goes to university to qualify for good jobs? They’re smart people, and they know the score. Tell them the unvarnished truth. Don’t LIE; they know mealy-mouthed bullshit when they see it. When kids write in about how they have no interest in getting a Commerce degree to make money in Daddy’s bank, but rather will use their degrees to sally forth to the Third World, smite the fascist globalization stormtroopers with the awesome power of their bulging intellects, and heal the poor and the sick, the people reading the essays soak their desk blotters in tears of laughter. If you write:

…they’ll be eternally grateful.

You have nothing to lose sleep over. Pick a thesis: “I Would Make a Good Student Because I Am 35.” Pick three supporting arguments: “1. I Am a Disciplined, Mature Adult, Not a Party-Crazed Teen. 2. I Know More Than I Did When I Was In High School. 3. I Understand The Value of A Higher Education Better Than I Did When I Was 18.” Slap them together in a 1500-word essay and you’ve got a slam dunk winner.

First, I’d like to thank you guys for your help - it’s been extremely valuable.

I’m written, I’ve rewritten, I’ve rewritten some more, and then I rewrote again. And frankly, thanks to you guys, I’m pretty proud of what I finally left on paper.

Keep your fingers crossed for me - the application package goes in the mail tomorrow.

And thank you all again. If I get in, I’ll buy youse guys a beer. :slight_smile: