Big Fat Plagiarist

ninja_deskMy November 1 experience (QB Finalists know what I’m talking about here) involves me lying across a row of comfy chairs in the George Bush Airport in Houston, waiting for a connecting flight to Colorado Springs. I’d love to tell you more about that, and I will, next week.

Things are too good to be true, and free is never free, so it follows that the QuestBridge application isn’t enough for many of the partner colleges. A few of my friends got lucky, picking only one or two schools that required supplements beyond the QB App. as you can imagine, I wasn’t so lucky.

I’ve been using the word lucky like doing extra supplements was just another “hoop” to jump through, but, as it turns out, I’m glad that I wasn’t lucky. In fact, the supplements that I had to complete, in my opinion, allowed me to offer new developments in my life and new sides of my personality to the colleges to which I applied. I can’t stress enough how important this is—showing off as many sides of yourself as possible on your application. You and I both know, though, that there are only so many words on the Common Application and the QB application, and while in the moment 800 words seem impossible to find, soon after submitting your application you’ll wish that you had just 100 more.

These extra words, however, make the supplements worth your time. For example, I was able to write several supplements on what I’m doing right now—blogging! I didn’t know that I’d be doing this before I submitted my QB app, and I unfortunately couldn’t amend anything, but I’m not worried, because the Common Application gave me the opportunity to highlight these things.

Okay, so you might be thinking that you don’t have anything to add or any new developments to gush about. I would argue that you are so much more than 800 words. The way that you think, act, and respond to your education and to your community cannot be summed up in 800 words. I’m especially partial to the following supplement topic: “take a risk.” You take risks every day in your daily life, so it’s not like you can’t write on this topic. What is interesting, though, to the colleges is how, exactly, you take risks. Many supplements are cool, and many supplements are extremely boring, but you don’t have to be boring.

Consider that your application is one of thousands for a moment. Also, consider how many different ways you can, say, write about why you want to go to a specific school, which is a common supplement. There are only so many aspects of school X that an applicant can talk about, so don’t for a second think that simply describing school X’s excellent art program is going to be original. Sure, you can put your “spin” on it, but it’s not going to stand out in a reader’s head.

It’s time to be smart about your supplements. For example, I would write the why school X supplement with a focus on a specific trait or accomplishment of mine and then how that trait or accomplishment would be useful to or otherwise enhance school X’s program or community. If you’re really funny, then demonstrate that you can, while still being a serious student, be hitting the punch line every time. School X might be looking for a brilliant student who will lighten the mood there.

I guess this brings me to my real point (maybe this is why my essays don’t score well in school…) that it’s not easy to show all of your colors on the application, even when there is space to do so. Jasmin, the other lovely QB College Match 2014 applicant blogger, and I had a conversation a week ago that went something along the lines of this:

Me: I feel like I’m plagiarizing all of my college applications.

Jasmin: What? Why?!?

Me: I keep saying the same thing for every college ;(

Jasmin: Ugh, me too.

I could also tell you about similar conversations that I’ve had with my friends, but I’m getting tired, and they all are about the same as the one I had with Jasmin. As we go through high school, we sort of get trained to avoid repeating things. This helps us to avoid plagiarism, but it also is a natural response to something that is hard. For you to redo the entire set of math problems that you did tonight would be silly, but even if it would help you master the concept, you wouldn’t do it anyway because you remember that the first round was bad enough.

College applications are the same way. The biggest mental roadblock in this whole transferring from QB to the Common Application is realizing that once you tell a college who you really are via the supplement, you’re going to have to repeat yourself on every other supplement you complete, depending on the question, because it’s the truth. You’re not a big plagiarist; in fact, you’re being as original as you possibly can.

I’d like to leave you with one final word of advice: Take my advice. That’s not a joke! I’m not a funny person… What I have to say isn’t applicable to only the college application. You should practice repeating yourself on interviews, too. I’ve had two college interviews, and I said practically the same thing at both of them. Initially, I felt like I was reciting some rehearsed kind of spiel, but honestly, in how many days can you tell someone how you spend your free time or what excites you about the future? So go ahead, reuse your content. You owe it to yourself.

Collin Bentley, 2014 College Match applicant