Friday, June 24, 2016

Military Service Men & Women Applying with GI Bill - Help with College Application Essays

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When I taught creative writing at Columbia University several years ago, I met a fascinating group of students who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and were attending Columbia on the GI Bill. 

I recently found this Veterans Administration website urging service members to write about their wartime experiences in their university application essays.

From the website:

"Here are a couple of tips for how best to use your military experience in your application essay—and (perhaps more importantly) some thoughts on what not to do.

"DO mention your leadership ability

"Leadership potential might be the number one character trait that schools are looking for in applicants. Proof that you've taken on serious responsibility and have a high level of maturity is a good indication for those in admissions that you will take your education seriously and will go on to do great work post-graduation (and then make millions and donate back to the school, of course). As a Veteran, it is likely you have led a command of some kind—make sure this is touched on in your essay piece.

"DO NOT tell this boring story: I went to teach them… but it turned out to be they who taught ME

"There's a particular essay that all adjudicators and admissions committees dread. It goes like this… I was employed to teach people/children in a remote village/urban center/small rural area. I went into it thinking I would be educating them, but in the end it was I who learned from them.
"Admissions officers hate this essay. Why? Because it doesn't really say anything about you as a person, and the story is not as original as you might think. Careful of this theme… it's deadly.

"DO talk about challenges you faced

It's very likely you have dealt with questions and situations that most people have not. Illustrate how you used quick thinking and skills to overcome problems, and how you became more mature because of these decisions.

"DO NOT get too dark. Leave out deep personal tragedy

"Of course it's good to talk meaningfully about your experience, but this can go too far. Abuse, depression and death are striking subjects and therefore you might think they are good fodder for an essay. After all, the idea is to provoke a response, to make sure you are memorable. Unfortunately, an essay that focuses on these topics does not serve you well. Similarly, psychological trauma that may have been suffered during military service is not great for your essay, not because it's not important to your character, but because it tends to take the reader out of the narrative and usually doesn't connect very effectively to why you'll be a good candidate for college. So often essays that focus on dark subjects go down a trajectory that leads away from your achievements, which is what these pieces should highlight. Never stray from a path that keeps you talking about why you are an IDEAL candidate.

"DO tell your specific story

It's important to tell your story—not just one of general military life. Your narrative may seem relatively commonplace to you because it was spent in the company of people who were participating in similar activities, but the details of your service are unique and interesting to admissions officers."  READ THE REST

If you're applying U.S. colleges or universities on the GI Bill and you would like help with your application essays, I would be happy to give you a special discount on doing the Common App essay and the supplements. Please shoot me an email and visit my website:   Don't Sweat The Essay


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