Peabody is the building, Jack is the dog, and I'm Dean J (she/her, btw).

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Friday, January 26, 2007

On taking risks

I love risk takers. I'm impressed by a kid who's willing to go against the grain in their application. During information sessions, I talk about taking risks, especially when it comes to essays. My thinking is that there are three essays on the UVa application and if a student wants to do something wacky or funny with one of them, there are two others to balance that out.

There are, of course, risks that shouldn't be taken. Be thoughtful and clever and you'll probably find the right topic. Some conversations I've had in the last week with my colleagues have prompted me to address the less-than-thoughtful responses. Ones that for some, are offensive. I'm not talking about political or religious essays, as those often give us insight into the student's perspective on major issues. I'm talking about using swears in college essays, something I'm sad to say is gaining in popularity.

I'm sure students think they're taking a risk when they say their favorite word is a swear. Years ago, when I was a rookie, I remember being shocked by one of these essays. They've become more common and illicit only mild annoyance these days. On average, I read one or two "swear" essays a year and the chosen swear is always the same one (no, I'm not going to write it, but I'm sure you can figure out what one). This kind of essay is rarely thoughtful and almost never clever. Risks are good, but use your judgement and stay away from being offensive.

Remember that admission officers aren't all as hip as yours truly (yes, I'm aware hip is no longer in circulation, that was a joke).

I'm curious as to whether there's a generation gap here. What do you think?