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April 2, 2014 11:13 AM   Subscribe

Long Island teenager Kwasi Enin made headlines this week for having the honor of being accepted at all eight Ivy League colleges, as well as Duke, Stony Brook University, SUNY Geneseo and Binghamton University. This is the essay he credits with a big part of his success.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (149 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good for him. I can't imagine having the energy to apply to 12 schools (or maybe more; maybe there were schools that rejected him, although it seems unlikely)! I applied to 3, and that was stress and money enough.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:18 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


DON'T READ THE COMMENTS
posted by desjardins at 11:18 AM on April 2 [18 favorites]


That's a lot of money in admission fees. $600 or so.
posted by smackfu at 11:19 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


Did his parents hire someone to fill out his college applications for him? Twelve or more is practically a full time job.
posted by Sara C. at 11:20 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I applied to 10, I don't remember it being too much hassle. Then again, I love writing essays, and that's probably the biggest time-suck for the apps.
posted by 3FLryan at 11:22 AM on April 2


Did his parents hire someone to fill out his college applications for him? Twelve or more is practically a full time job.

I think you can use the Common App these days which speeds things up a bit. At least I did that back in 1998.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:22 AM on April 2 [9 favorites]


His essay is titled "Common App Draft #4".
posted by Think_Long at 11:23 AM on April 2 [7 favorites]


Pretty much all those schools are on the Common App so it's really an issue of checking some boxes and maybe writing some supplemental essays. Mad admiration for someone who appears to be smart and driven, but "Wow a smart kid got into the good schools he applied to!" seems like an odd angle to this story. Does he get some sort of prize for collecting all 8?
posted by muddgirl at 11:24 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


As someone who has taught Music Appreciation, I don't know whether I'm more heartened that he did more than just take a "Music in our Lives" class, or more annoyed that he writes off such a class as a dead end, a pitfall he narrowly avoided.
posted by daisystomper at 11:24 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


Dude dropped Max Bruch in his essay, I say we give him a little slack on his dismissiveness.
posted by Think_Long at 11:25 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


C'mon, guy. Tighten up those margins and the line spacing and fit it on one page. Sheesh. If that dangling line on page two is the mark of a Harvard Man these days, I'll pass.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:28 AM on April 2 [21 favorites]


The essay is miserable and most likely did not get him into any particular school on its own merits.
posted by Sara C. at 11:28 AM on April 2 [31 favorites]


Oh come now. There are hundreds of straight-A students who get 98/99th percentiles on their SATs and get into top Ivy League schools. If you can get into HYP, getting into the rest is not particularly surprising. Why does he deserve headlines?
posted by shivohum at 11:29 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


where is the /hamburger?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:30 AM on April 2


DON'T READ THE COMMENTS

Man, some people really don't like viola players.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:30 AM on April 2 [13 favorites]


Also, I'm amused at thinking about how furious Duke is at being lumped in with "as well as Duke and some other safety schools" instead of being in the Ivy Club.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:30 AM on April 2 [36 favorites]


The funny part is the ridiculous numerical illiteracy of news coverage. It's like running with a headline saying that every team in the NHL wanted Wayne Gretzky and then saying what are the odds of that?

A student good enough to get into the very best schools is highly likely to get into every school they apply to.
posted by srboisvert at 11:30 AM on April 2 [8 favorites]


There are hundreds of straight-A students who get 98/99th percentiles on their SATs and get into top Ivy League schools.

ALL EIGHT?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:31 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Or you can RTFA:

Rachel Rubin, the founder of Spark Admissions in Massachusetts, who also previously served on admissions committees at selective universities, said the feat is extremely rare.
"It's quite atypical," Rubin said, adding that most students do not apply to all the Ivy League schools.

posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:33 AM on April 2 [9 favorites]


I actually thought his essay was great.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:33 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


An incredible essay by a 17/18 year old probably means it was written by someone else. Writing well is one of the few skills that even with immense gift, you will usually suck at age 18.
This essay is great for his purpose. It explains who he is, his talent, his gift, his personality, his ambition, and it does so in tight prose.

It's also not wrong to say his race was an important factor. This is the cost of universities basing admissions on race. There are an abundance of Chinese kids who play concert level violin and piano with 99.9 percentile SAT scores. Too many, in fact, according to admissions. If you admit using race as a variable, it isn't wrong to look to that variable when asking questions of who was accepted and where.

But perhaps I digress... I'm sure this comment will be removed. Or maybe not; I can't ever tell.
posted by jjmoney at 11:33 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


I thought that essay was terrible, but I'd have to look back at my own essays to see if I'd done any better - and I cringe just thinking about it.
posted by sweetkid at 11:35 AM on April 2 [9 favorites]


I'm confident that this guy will do well - and it certainly looks like his interests and focus merit Ivy admission - but that essay doesn't strike me as particularly well-written or insightful. Mostly it says to me "here is someone who - outside this essay! - is a smart person with a lot of self-discipline and the ability to develop and pursue independent interests". That is, it's not so much the essay as the person....
posted by Frowner at 11:35 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Do you have any evidence that "his race was an important factor"? [emphasis added]
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:36 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


(I am pretty confident that my admissions essays were better - I have looked back. But I'm no musician and didn't have a teenage art/hobby which required nearly as much focus or skill.)
posted by Frowner at 11:37 AM on April 2


"It's quite atypical," Rubin said, adding that most students do not apply to all the Ivy League schools.

Exactly. It's not rare because it's difficult, it's rare because most people don't bother to try. Getting into college is different than trying to catch all the Pokemon; there's no real point applying to a college that you don't actually want to attend.

Writing well is one of the few skills that even with immense gift, you will usually suck at age 18.

I don't expect 18 year olds to be mini-Prousts but most kids with high GPAs will be able to put together a 5-paragraph essay using complex, grammatical sentences without much trouble.
posted by muddgirl at 11:37 AM on April 2 [5 favorites]


adding that most students do not apply to all the Ivy League schools.

Yeah, they don't get in everywhere because they don't bother applying, not because they couldn't. HYP are the most competitive. If you can get into those -- meaning you have fantastic grades, scores, recs, extraccuriculars -- you are very likely to be desired by the other Ivies too.

If you admit using race as a variable, it isn't wrong to look to that variable when asking questions of who was accepted and where.

Of course race was a variable! Can anyone doubt it? Doesn't mean he wasn't also eminently qualified, but let's be realistic -- of course his URM status didn't hurt.

And can anyone really doubt race is playing a role in the press coverage here? Let's be honest, please.
posted by shivohum at 11:37 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


I recall being very proud of my college application essays; I refuse to go back and look for fear of ruining it (the same way I refuse to re-watch Quantum Leap).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:37 AM on April 2 [13 favorites]


My essays were not great, I don't think, but I got into some of the best writing schools in the country, including an Ivy.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:37 AM on April 2



I recall being very proud of my college application essays; I refuse to go back and look for fear of ruining it (the same way I refuse to re-watch Quantum Leap).


Yea, these are my exact feelings. On both topics. Oh boy.
posted by sweetkid at 11:38 AM on April 2 [7 favorites]


It's not rare because it's difficult

I mean it's not difficult to get into multiple Ivy Leagues if you can get into one Ivy League.
posted by muddgirl at 11:39 AM on April 2


His essay wasn't a fantastic unicorn-farting-rainbows stellar piece of writing, but it wasn't dreck either. It was your basic college application essay.

And getting into 8 Ivy League schools is still kind of awesome.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:39 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


Perhaps it is not as a good as this essay.
posted by user92371 at 11:39 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


His essay has kind of a cover letter-y vibe to it; it reads more like a list of accomplishments in prose form than a personal narrative. The gist is "Music is important to me because I was in this musical and these three groups and also I am a leader among my peers and leadership potential success etc. I want to go into medicine." It's well-written in a technical sense, but I get the sense that he was already a very strong, accomplished candidate and the essay itself didn't sway anyone either way.

The only thing I really remember about my college application essay was that I mentioned my nail polish collection and my appreciation for They Might Be Giants. I should dig that up; it's probably precious as hell and would make present-day me barf. Eh, I got into college.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:41 AM on April 2 [7 favorites]


WaPo: Congratulations to Kwasi Enin. Now can we stop talking about him?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:41 AM on April 2


I mean it's not difficult to get into multiple Ivy Leagues if you can get into one Ivy League.

Eh... there's enough randomness in the process that it is difficult to get into all the Ivy League schools at once.

But that randomness also means that it's not really an achievement more than hitting the Pick 4 Lotto is.
posted by Jahaza at 11:41 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


The first article I saw about him, which was linked on Google News, was illustrated by a stock photo of flashing police lights.

Sure wish I had a screen shot, because I know that it's not really believable. Until you think about it more.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:41 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


but I'd have to look back at my own essays to see if I'd done any better - and I cringe just thinking about it.

I don't have to Quantum Leap to know my own college essays were shit. In fact, I think that's what is informing my scorn, here. This is about what I recall my college essays being like (".... And That's Why I'm An Incredibly Well-Rounded Person With Diverse Interests And The Ability To Follow Through On A Project That Requires Focus."). This is probably what most college essays are like, if you are a bright student who speaks English as your first language and generally does well in humanities type coursework.

My guess is that all the universities he applied to get thousands of essays about like this. Only the two "safety schools" would have looked at them with any real interest, because a lot of people who apply to SUNY don't have basic high school levels of fluency with written language.

He clearly got into all those Ivies because he's a good student, not because he's a great essayist.
posted by Sara C. at 11:44 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


This isn't linked in the post, but I read an article where his guidance counselor is quoted as saying something like "he's not like the other African American kids." Which is technically true, most kids of any color don't get into Ivy League schools, but it came off like "he's not one of ... you know... those kids."

Alas, I can't find the article.
posted by desjardins at 11:44 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


The only thing I really remember about my college application essay was that I mentioned my nail polish collection and my appreciation for They Might Be Giants. I should dig that up; it's probably precious as hell and would make present-day me barf.

I think I chose to write about three times when I failed at something because I figured it'd be different from the "and here is an achievement that taught me something" pattern, and also because it would be funny. They were things like onstage disasters or kitchen accidents, and I spun them into some kind of "this has all taught me quick thinking and grace under pressure" or something.

I still would rather not read it again, though. (Although, I really would like to reread the freshman-year essay I wrote which somehow connected the habits of a tribe in Papau New Guinea to a Star Trek episode, because damn.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:45 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


I hate to pick on a high schooler but that is a pretty embarrassing, content-less assortment of cliches he has there. The only thing that stands out is the bizarre phrase "end of a lifestyle" which sounds like it's from a Drake song or possibly mid-70s Billy Joel.

Of course I remember writing an honors program essay about how I admired Freddie Mercury. I never heard back.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:54 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


NYC represent. Congrats, kid!
posted by ReeMonster at 11:55 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


What's the point of an application essay anyway? I can understand why portfolios or writing samples would be useful to specific programs (any of the humanities, say), or for specific scholarship applications, but why do they matter for kids going into pre-med (or engineering or architecture)? I'm genuinely curious; are these really useful to selection committees*? Canadian Universities, by and large, seem to get by just fine without them.

*Are they say, good predictors of academic success?
posted by bonehead at 11:56 AM on April 2


"It's quite atypical," Rubin said, adding that most students do not apply to all the Ivy League schools.
The Ivies are pretty different from one another. Most people don't apply to all the Ivies because most people who apply to private schools are looking for schools that are a good fit for them, and there aren't too many people who are a good fit for both Dartmouth and Brown. The main reason that someone would be accepted to all the Ivies would be if it the most important criterion for a college was that it was an Ivy. And you could argue that that was a little lame.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:56 AM on April 2 [9 favorites]


TAL did a college show with a segment on college admissions. The admissions officer they spoke to talked about application essays and how bad they typically are. He also touched on parents doing the dirty work for their kids.
posted by photoslob at 11:59 AM on April 2


As a former English teacher, it's a darn good essay for a Senior. You can tell he wrote it because he's really labored that music metaphor and he's working overtme to cram in those little nuggets.

Playing the works of different composers, such as Kol Nidrea by Max Burch and Coriolan Overture by Ludwig Von Beethoven, expands my musical vocabulary...

It's also corny in the way that a kid would think an admissions board would want to see an essay, that whole thing about singing and dancing on stage....yeesh.

That very last sentence: Although I hope my future career is in medicine, I love that I still have much to learn about and from the world of music.

It's so freaking random, and it's a rote wind up.

I'll bet his English teacher helped him, but no one wrote it for him.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:00 PM on April 2 [29 favorites]


A lot of you don't seem to really understand what a typical admissions essay looks like, what the typical 18 year old writes like, and what an admissions essay is supposed to accomplish.
posted by Think_Long at 12:01 PM on April 2 [17 favorites]


What's the point of an application essay anyway? I can understand why portfolios or writing samples would be useful to specific programs (any of the humanities, say), or for specific scholarship applications, but why do they matter for kids going into pre-med (or engineering or architecture)? I'm genuinely curious; are these really useful to selection committees*?

I always assumed that it was because no matter what your major, writing papers is something you're gonna do a lot, so they want to make sure you at least have the basics down when it comes to "Independently Thinking Up Something To Say And Saying It Well Enough So People At Least Sort Of Understand What You're Saying." You don't have to be the world's best writer, but you do have to demonstrate that you can at least communicate a concept.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:01 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


He got into Brown? Poor guy.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:03 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I liked the unfortunate formatting. Page one was all music, music, music is my life and soul. Page Two is but I hope to study medicine.
posted by maggieb at 12:04 PM on April 2 [18 favorites]


A lot of you don't seem to really understand what a typical admissions essay looks like

Au Contraire.

I think most of us are just reacting contrariwise to the student's apparent belief that this essay did him any particular favors. He didn't flub the essay, which obviously helped him get into more elite colleges than he would have if it were riddled with errors. But the idea that this essay singlehandedly got him into any particular school is just silly.
posted by Sara C. at 12:06 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


But the idea that this essay singlehandedly got him into any particular school is just silly.

Perhaps not single handed, but he does write incredibly well and clearly for a 17 year old who plans to go into medicine.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:09 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


This looks written by Don Draper.
posted by huguini at 12:11 PM on April 2


I think the most important part of this essay is that he played Big Jule in Guys and Dolls. I'd admit any former cast members of that show to anything just so we could have fun singalongs.
posted by gladly at 12:13 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]


The essay is fine, but God Almighty I hate the "thinly veiled list of accomplishments" approach that admissions essays and cover letters encourages. I just cringe every time someone has to tell other people how great they are; it's like we're selecting for people who can mimic psychopathy.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:17 PM on April 2 [15 favorites]


No Stanford, MIT, or Caltech? My Asian father would be disappointed.
posted by pignewtons at 12:20 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


I think most of us are just reacting contrariwise

I think most of us are just reacting contrariwise

I think most of us are just reacting contrariwise

I think most of us are just reacting contrariwise

posted by shakespeherian at 12:20 PM on April 2 [5 favorites]



I think most of us are just reacting contrariwise to the student's apparent belief that this essay did him any particular favors. He didn't flub the essay, which obviously helped him get into more elite colleges than he would have if it were riddled with errors.


Yeah, agreed. This kid is clearly talented and will go far in life but the framing of the OP really draws attention to the essay as the thing that got him into all the schools...and no, it's really likely not that and it's really not very good even for a high school senior. Good for him regardless though. He has probably done much better writing in his life and given all that he probably has going on academically, not surprising that he didn't crank out high caliber work for the essay.
posted by sweetkid at 12:21 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


This is a first-generation immigrant from an under-represented group with a compelling personal story, lots of colorful activities and interests, great academics and outstanding SAT scores. Irrespective of his merely serviceable essay, he's basically the unicorn that all admissions officers are searching for. Good for him! But I really don't see why it's news that all the Ivies admitted him.
posted by killdevil at 12:29 PM on April 2 [10 favorites]


Everyone is just overlooking his success with his SUNY applications. So sad.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:30 PM on April 2 [6 favorites]


This is a first-generation immigrant from an under-represented group with a compelling personal story, lots of colorful activities and interests, great academics and outstanding SAT scores.

He's a second generation American and not an immigrant, unless I'm missing something but I think he was born in the US. First generation refers to the generation that first immigrated.

I'm also not sure why it's news that he got into all the Ivies though but good for him!
posted by sweetkid at 12:35 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I teach composition at a university with Ivy-like admissions standards, mostly to folks like Enin who want to focus on sciences. Yes, the essay is awfully tedious to read, but to judge from my experience, I think most of you are really overrating the writing skills even bright and hardworking kids have when they enter college. The majority of my students enter struggling to express themselves as clearly even after a few rounds of revision. Most write much better than Enin does by the end of a semester, but writing education in American high schools - even very good ones - has perverse goals that encourage this kind of dull rambling. If a student came in writing like Enin does, he or she would be above average.
posted by vathek at 12:36 PM on April 2 [6 favorites]


If a student came in writing like Enin does, he or she would be above average.

Yeah, that's exactly what this essay is. Above average. It's not the kind of essay that is going to leave admissions staff thinking, "WE MUST HAVE THIS BRILLIANT GENIUS AT ALL COSTS."
posted by Sara C. at 12:41 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


First generation refers to the generation that first immigrated.

Hmm, weird - Looks like there's a bit of ambiguity about what "first generation" means, even in the U.S.
posted by knownassociate at 12:41 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


please stop fetishizing the Ivies thank you
posted by zscore at 12:41 PM on April 2 [18 favorites]


Fine. Next FPP will be about the kid who got into all Big Ten schools
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:43 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


God I'm just so glad we knocked this kid off his high horse
posted by shakespeherian at 12:44 PM on April 2 [55 favorites]


Hmm, weird - Looks like there's a bit of ambiguity about what "first generation" means, even in the U.S.

Sometimes it's simpler and clearer to just adopt some foreign words (issei, nissei, sansei) than to use native constructions that might be ambiguous.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:46 PM on April 2


I consider myself second generation American. My parents immigrated to the US before I was born and consider themselves first generation American. I see that the wiki definition shows some ambiguity but it also says

In the United States, among demographers and other social scientists, the term "first generation" is used to refer to foreign-born residents (excluding those born abroad of U.S. parents).


If naturalized citizens are not first generation then it's like saying they are never American, which doesn't make sense. Also regardless of first or second generation designation someone born in the US is not an immigrant.
posted by sweetkid at 12:51 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


I'm older and from another country but randomly decided to apply to grad school in the US this winter.

Where I'm from all they would have cared about was your ranking in high school and college but here I was faced with the daunting task of writing an essay on WHY going to grad school was my calling.

After about 2 hours of googling and calling friends who are in academia I understood that a good essay is not a well-exposed, nuanced piece of writing.

It's a HUGE BILLBOARD with garish colors and a simple message that's hammered over and over that fed-up people can remember easily and restate in 4 words max.

In that sense, this kid's essay gets five stars. Out of three.
posted by Riton at 12:54 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


Inspired by this thread, I took the bold step of digging up my own common application essay from nine years ago. It does EXACTLY the same thing Enin does with the long, belabored metaphor. I remember thinking I was so cool and edgy at the time (mine is about a less mainstream topic than Enin's), but nope, just belabored.

Even better: I found that essay in an e-mail attachment sent to someone I'd met on livejournal, who wanted examples of "unconventional" essays. I was really invested in my identity as a weirdo, in a way that makes me cringe now.
posted by ActionPopulated at 12:56 PM on April 2 [13 favorites]


stopped reading after the use of figure dashes in the first sentence to set off a parenthetical aside rather than an em or en dash, i mean even kindergarteners know better, what a total FAIL FACE
posted by invitapriore at 1:05 PM on April 2 [5 favorites]


Next person who makes an unqualified* comment about this kid's essay should be required to link to a pastebin of their own essay and application. Failure to do so will result in being tagged 'Likes to project insecurities about one's own accomplishments of note at 17"


*not actually an college admissions officer.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:07 PM on April 2 [19 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: I wrote that EXACT same essay when I applied to college (well, different accidents, but same principle.)

My friend who works in admissions says that the one essay they hate getting is the "I volunteered somewhere for a week and it changed my life" one. The essay they want is one that says, "Here is a particular skill, activity, or cause that I have devoted myself to, consistently, for a significant period of time, and this is why it matters to me." This perfectly meets those criteria. Ergo, it is a perfect college admissions essay, regardless of whether you'd want to see it republished in the pages of the New Yorker.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 1:10 PM on April 2 [15 favorites]


Yeah, that's exactly what this essay is. Above average. It's not the kind of essay that is going to leave admissions staff thinking, "WE MUST HAVE THIS BRILLIANT GENIUS AT ALL COSTS."

What are you trying to prove? Why do you keep harping on this? The essay is fine, not "miserable" (really?), for his age group. There isn't a lot to say about this post, but trashing a 17 year old for a college essay seems immature and inappropriate.
posted by bittermensch at 1:14 PM on April 2 [24 favorites]


pretentious illiterate: " Ergo, it is a perfect college admissions essay, regardless of whether you'd want to see it republished in the pages of the New Yorker."

Seriously, if anything, the fact that the essay is a straightforward advertisement for his ability and commitment to a pursuit rather than an immaculately-wrought monument to the ages is a good demonstration of the kid's pragmatism and ability to tailor his message to his audience. I really don't think admissions officers are the type to be tickled by an allusion to Milton.
posted by invitapriore at 1:15 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


I think it makes sense to discuss the merits of the essay since it was called out in the OP as something Kwasi credits for his admissions success. It's not a good essay and he no doubt got in for all his other achievements. But since the essay was linked here I don't understand why it's off limits to discuss it.
posted by sweetkid at 1:17 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Based on my recent experience with undergraduate writing at an R1 institution, I think that we are being way too critical of this kid's writing. The skills he has learned that many other kids his age still struggle with:

1) Using the conventions of standard written English

2) Expressing an idea in an organized fashion

3) Understanding the requirements and conventions of the genre

Granted, I don't teach at an Ivy, but these skills take a while to develop (especially #2 and #3). After that, stylistic competence is icing on the cake. He has a solid foundation for developing that competence, and hopefully that is some of what he'll learn in college.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:22 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]


He got in to every school to which he applied. His applications included the essay. The essay, therefore, is excellent at meeting its explicit goal of college admissions.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:23 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


It's not a good essay and he no doubt got in for all his other achievements.

Except that everyone here who works with teenagers says it is a good essay.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:24 PM on April 2


Luckily the college admissions process isn't just about admitting students with perfect grades, perfect extracurriculars or perfect essays. It's quite possible someone on the admissions staff liked what he said even if they didn't like how he said it. Or maybe they did. This sentiment that his essay wasn't good or didn't get him into college is arbitrary and weird.
posted by girlmightlive at 1:25 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


Perhaps Kwasi is kinda dumbfounded by his own success, and when he looks at this whole thingy, he kinda feels like maybe it was the essay that tipped the scales?

Let's imagine you do that dice-rolling experiment, and you keep rolling sevens, again, and again, and again, and you don't want it to be about the numbers. maybe it's YOU. Maybe he feels the essay is the most part of HIM in the equation?

Good for HIM!
posted by valkane at 1:27 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]


At least in ambition, my essay was really freaking something. At the tail end of the 90's I single-handedly predicted and aspired to the indie games revolution and the "games as a form of art via ludic experience" stuff that has begun to enter wider conversation only in recent years. It didn't get me into any good schools though. No points for talking about shit that admissions counselors can't even remotely relate to.
posted by naju at 1:27 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


The essay is part of the package, just like the kid is a package.

He has the grades to get in, he has the scores to get in, his writing doesn't make one want to run for the hills. He may have done really well on a bunch of AP tests, that will boost your GPA and your standing. In some places he may even have had to interview with someone (do they still do that?) He's more than met the criteria and all the ivies think he'd make a fine addition to their Freshman class. Good for him!

He credits his essay as a deciding factor, I think it just was an easy box for the admissions person to check, it wasn't terrible, it was exactly what one would expect from a student of this caliber.

He is well prepared to enter any university in the land, and that's really all that matters.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:30 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


It's not a good essay

Since there's obvious and sincere disagreement over this exact point right here it seems weird to me to be insistent that he no doubt got in for all his other achievements. There's no way to know that.

My application essays were perfectly fine but by no means brilliant or literary, and they were the product of a 17-year-old who had a decent education and who'd grown up reading a lot and widely. I'm really glad they were all written back before the interwebs.
posted by rtha at 1:30 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


DON'T READ THE COMMENTS

pertinent
posted by shakespeherian at 1:33 PM on April 2 [8 favorites]


The saddest part of college essays for me is this unmistakable tone of "this is what boring adults want from me - something safe, manufactured, completely vetted to appeal to a bland unknown." Teenagers are way more interesting than their essays make them out to be. Tell me about how selfie culture is empowering for your generation. Write about how you fell in love with and then grew disaffected with Odd Future. God, anything but this dreck...
posted by naju at 1:36 PM on April 2 [18 favorites]


The saddest part of college essays for me is this unmistakable tone of "this is what boring adults want from me - something safe, manufactured, completely vetted to appeal to a bland unknown." Teenagers are way more interesting than their essays make them out to be.

Sometimes the boring college applications review board does only want this from them, if memory serves.

Going weird may be a little too risky if you get someone that is reacting to content and not to form, or thinks that college applications must be taken seriously. That was advice I gave my cousin when she was working on her own college application essays; I proofread both, one in which she discussed why she wanted to go into social work and one in which she proclaimed 7-11 Slurpees as a heal-all panacea. I reassured her that the Slurpee one would definitely make her application stand out, even though it was a bold choice; she went with the safer one, I think, because there was the risk that she'd get some stuck-up applications person who'd think that "feh, she's writing about Slurpees, she's not taking this seriously enough."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:40 PM on April 2


He doesn't have a way with words, but the essay is well-constructed and clear. In the context of the essay, he sounds like someone who would do well at an elite school (academically and socially), so this essay does its job well, I think.

Admissions essays are also about proving that you're a good fit for the college you're applying to, and his essay makes him seem savvy but clean-cut in a way that I can see the Ivys liking. My college admissions essay was about playing two-hand-touch football in the parking lot up the street, because that was something I liked doing and I was evidently not at all worldly at age 17. His is infinitely better.

When I was applying (about a decade ago), the schools that especially cared about fit had required supplemental essays, too. The one for the school I ultimately went to assigned an essay about trying to have a fun day while only spending $10, which of course my cheap self knocked out of the park. This is just the common application essay, he might have more interesting essays buried in the supplemental materials sections for individual schools.

Anyway, mazel tov!
posted by rue72 at 1:51 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


Did you hear about the viola player who dreamed she was playing Telemann's Viola Concerto in G Major in front of a huge audience?

She woke up and she was!
posted by freecellwizard at 1:51 PM on April 2 [5 favorites]


Sometimes the boring college applications review board does only want this from them, if memory serves.

Oh I agree entirely - my weird ambitious essay didn't do me any favors. It's just really sad, that's all. The college essay process is about seeing whether you can be a soulless boring automaton like everyone else, more or less (or be diverse in certain narrowly approved ways, which is another topic.) Of course it's an unmistakable product of the capitalist marketplace and you better learn that sooner rather than later. Write a college admissions essay about that, someone.
posted by naju at 1:52 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


Admissions essays are also about proving that you're a good fit for the college you're applying to, and his essay makes him seem savvy but clean-cut in a way that I can see the Ivys liking.

It's absolutely true that certain colleges will read different essays differently. It's not the "essay that got him into Hampshire, Reed, and Bard" after all. Honestly, the college application process should probably be about finding the school that wants to read your essay, not finding the essay that fits the school you're applying to.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:57 PM on April 2 [5 favorites]


I think it's interesting (I know nothing about this but what I've read in this post) that everyone seems to talk about how it wasn't a great essay, his teacher wrote it, here's how MY essay sucked and did me no favors....

I just saw the great accomplishment that a first generation American from Ghana has achieved, and he's getting a lot of attention from it. He seems pretty humble. Maybe the essay is not the mind blowing thing people seem to want, but he wrote pretty decently about music and how it's helped him make good choices, etc.

I don't know, I just have nothing negative to say about this person.
posted by waitangi at 2:01 PM on April 2 [15 favorites]


I hear he is a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. And he has been known to remodel train stations on his lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:01 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


waitangi: I don't know, I just have nothing negative to say [...]

Your metafilter membership is hereby revoked
posted by Riton at 2:15 PM on April 2 [5 favorites]


I thought my admissions essay was great, probably the best writing I had ever done, and the acceptance letter proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt. And then on one of my first days on campus someone pointed out that about 75 percent of applicants that year were admitted and that as long as you didn't write it in crayon and you remembered to include the application fee, you were probably going to be admitted.

These days my alma mater receives a ton more applicants and it is way harder to get in -- I'd probably be laughed out of town if I applied again today. My essay, from what I can remember of it, was way less sophisticated than this guy's and was probably terribly written. But then again, I was so clueless as to not even know to ask my parents or a teacher to read it over before I put it in the mail; once I got to college and started hearing about admissions consultants and parents writing essays for their children, I started to realize how out of touch I was with the whole endeavor.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:17 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


That says a lot, Riton, thank you
posted by waitangi at 2:20 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


His essay has kind of a cover letter-y vibe to it; it reads more like a list of accomplishments in prose form than a personal narrative.

But, quite honestly, that's what admissions essays are. Some schools will also have a supplementary essay that is meant to be encourage people to be a little more creative, but in essence, it's about how gracefully you can humblebrag in paragraph form. The fact that his essay is even minimally interesting besides that is quite a feat for an admissions essay. It's kind of weird that people are trying to judge it as something that would be published on its own (yes, I know this is partially because of the framing of the link.)

Also, all of the nudge-nudge-affirmitive-action-amirite comments in this thread are fucking gross.
posted by kagredon at 2:23 PM on April 2 [16 favorites]


Props to him, but man, if that's one of the better college application essays, I want to start some sort of charity for the admissions officers who have to read hundreds of those per year.
posted by threeants at 2:29 PM on April 2 [5 favorites]


Someone on reddit (/u/jolienieweenie) who is supposedly his friend had this to say:

"Kwasi is a good friend of mine. Although race does play a role in college admissions, he is truly brilliant and deserves his success. He got in because everything he does, he does extremely well. He is hardworking, smart, talented, and hilarious. I'll never forget the day it happened...I texted him and asked how Ivy day went, and he said "All 8 to my name." He's a boss."

/u/Asymian didn't think this was enough:

"Can you elaborate on his achievements? There are a lot of doubters on this thread and I would have to agree that he wouldn't even be considered on his class rank and sat alone. Did he do significant charity work or win a major science fair? "

TIL you can only be considered if you win a major science fair (DAE STEM?????) or do significant charity work.

/u/jolienieweenie replied:

"No, he did not. I think the reason he did so well is because he's exactly what colleges are looking for - he's that perfect "well rounded" specimen that colleges are always talking about. He excels not only academically but musically and in sports. He participates in a wide range of clubs and We live in a low income community, our high school is not fantastic (although there are many opportunities if only you take advantage of them), he comes from a racially diverse background and despite all of this has done extraordinarily well. Yes, people will always pull the race card, and I agree that had he not been black he would probably not have gotten into all 8 Ivies. But he would certainly have gotten into a few. Kwasi is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met, and he has a lot of potential, and clearly the Ivies saw this."

/u/Asymian replied again but it's sort of pointless to paste here. /u/jolienieweenie's next response seals the deal:

"He definitely does have a few, he's been recognized primarily for music and also for track. But he hasn't discovered a new amino acid or created an organization or something of the like. He's just a guy with brains and a lot of potential."

So there you go, he's a guy who is really smart and has a lot of potential and the colleges noticed that in him. All 8 of them, in fact.
posted by gucci mane at 2:36 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Then again, producing writing that is generally parseable, basically literate, and checks all the appropriate stylistic boxes is really the most similar to what is usually asked of the 99.99% of us who are not professional novelists or poets.
posted by threeants at 2:37 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


My comment is an aside. If you take the cost of an application to a decent or even elite school, times the number of people that apply, and then note the total number accepted (those big college books give such info), you will see how much money good schools make just for getting an app and tossing it aside. A true money maker for the school.
posted by Postroad at 2:37 PM on April 2


FWIW when I read this article my first thought was "Long Island Guidance Counselor Industrial Complex", and not Affirmative Action.

I used to date a guy who went to an ordinary suburban Long Island public high school, was bright and a good student but not off-the-charts-brilliant (he certainly didn't win any major awards or do significant charity work), and yet inexplicably ended up attending Harvard. My guess is that public schools in Long Island push bright students to apply to Ivies more than, say, the elite magnet school I attended did.
posted by Sara C. at 2:42 PM on April 2


(Plus, it only stands to reason that the essay most likely to get you into nine zillion prestigious schools across the board, as we have here, is a serviceable, stylistically conservative essay, not a visionary, brilliant one with niche appeal.)
posted by threeants at 2:44 PM on April 2


"Long Island Guidance Counselor Industrial Complex"

I never knew I needed this phrase in my life until I read it here just now, but it's definitely a thing.
posted by pemberkins at 2:45 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


(While I'm sure my essay was far from visionary or brilliant, I definitely went the zany route when I was applying to colleges, and I ended up getting into my "reach" school while rejected from a number of less prestigious places. I feel like maybe this datapoint supports the idea that an essay on the creative side can open some significant doors but may lead to less across-the-board success.)
posted by threeants at 2:51 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


This seems as good a place as any to share the fact that my college application essay was about the time in third grade that I went out to catch the bus wearing pants over my shorts and then took off the pants on the bus, since I was embarrassed about the fact that my mom refused to buy me anything but short shorts – when I complained to her about them, she said "this is what real men wear," which I think most third grade boys would recognize as small consolation in light of the fact that there is little overlap between what works for real men and what works for third grade boys who lack bulging muscles, an authoritative basso profondo voice register, or the ability to drive Corvettes – anyway, my thinking was that changing on the bus would save me the initial exposure to all the window-sitters as the bus pulled up (since this is roughly akin to throwing a single steak to a pit full of hungry lions and then being locked in with them), and that it would afford me some privacy to change without drawing attention (since the kids on the bus might not even remember that I was ever wearing pants by the time we arrived), and while these things were true to some extent it nonetheless became clear when I walked onto the schoolyard that I had very badly misjudged which part of the day was going to be the most challenging to navigate in my short shorts.

A week later, after I told my mom about the gauntlet I'd run through, I got some knee-length shorts, an acceptable compromise between my tiny old shorts and the JNCOs that everyone else was wearing. I've been spurning real manhood ever since.
posted by invitapriore at 3:19 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


I'm curious. In Australia, your entry to university is solely determined on your marks (end-of-year examination and coursework). Thankfully for me, no-one cared that I was awful at sport and was too anti-social to join the AV club or newspaper or yearbook committee or whatever. Is it possible to get into a good college in the US just on the basis of your marks? Or do you absolutely have to pad your resume?
posted by dontjumplarry at 3:31 PM on April 2


I am so, so glad I didn't have to write an essay to get into university there are no words.
posted by jeather at 3:32 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


The problem, in the US, is that there is intense competition for the absolute most prestigious schools.

It's definitely possible to get into a good college without "padding the resume", so to speak. My only extracurriculars were theatre and extremely half-assed participation in the school paper, and I got in everywhere I applied. I never did sports at all, and there was not even the hint of anything to do with math or science anywhere on my applications.
posted by Sara C. at 3:36 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I think there's a massive difference in scale between Australia and the US. There's a truism that Harvard could fill it's halls entirely with students who have 4.00 GPAs and 99th percentile on their SATs, if that was their only criteria.
posted by muddgirl at 3:42 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


Is it possible to get into a good college in the US just on the basis of your marks? Or do you absolutely have to pad your resume?
It depends on your definition of a "good college." There are perfectly fine colleges that you could get into just by having very good grades and standardized test scores. However, 3 million students graduate from US high schools every year, and about 2,000 of them are accepted to Harvard. Harvard could fill their class many times over with students who have perfect grades and scores, and they have to choose between those perfect students. In order to get in, you have to have other things going for you.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:43 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]


Or what AAC said.
posted by muddgirl at 3:44 PM on April 2


Every school has an equation that assigns weights to several factors. These aren't publicly quantified, if they're quantified at all, but in generally-recognized order of importance:

SAT or ACT entrance exam scores
Athletic talent
Grades (marks)
Application essay
Extracurricular activities


The list is subject to reordering. All but the last one (barring extreme cases such as you started your own nonprofit animal shelter or something) can outweigh the others as the primary criterion. If you're a (very) good athlete it doesn't matter what your marks or SAT scores were, but if you were a mediocre athlete it doesn't help you a whit. If your ACT scores were good it matters a lot less what your grades/marks were. If you got perfect marks all through high school your entrance exam scores matter less, but not a lot less.

Generally the essay is a boolean to weed out drooling idiots. But if you write a really punchy one it will boost you to the top of the rankings.

What muddgirl and Arbitrary said generally applies to elite schools like Harvard, but Harvard and the Ivy League are not always "the best schools". They certainly hasve some top scholars, but they ride on reputation. Some of the best schools have no name recognition outside of certain circles. If I had my youth to do over again, and my choice of U.S. university, I wouldn't pick any school in Kwasi's list.
posted by clarknova at 3:55 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]


In some places he may even have had to interview with someone (do they still do that?)

As someone who just organized 230 alumni interviews for applicants in my provincial region to my Ivy, yes, for sure, we still do that. Seeing the reports vs. who gets in, sometimes I have no idea how it works (though I also have no idea what their test scores or grades are). I agree that each school has a very different personality and it's a bit odd to apply for all of them, but the result does amaze me because the competition is so fierce at this point. My alma mater has had almost an 100% increase in applicants in only the past 10 years, making me very grateful my college application days are over. The interview process is both great and heartbreaking. You meet some of the nicest, brightest, most hard-working kids (yes, there are some who are overly-ambitious or coached or not as nice, but I've had really positive experiences), and you desperately want them to get in, but only 7% are going to. The main consolation is the feeling they'll be successful, regardless of the decision.

Also, as someone who teaches college-level writing courses, I can agree that it seems like some people really overestimate general college-level writing. I don't read a lot of application essays, but I do read a lot of essays. No, it's not genius, but it's also not complaining about having to read a 3-5 page document, or talking about the country of Africa, or completely incoherent and unable to follow even basic directions.
posted by ilana at 3:55 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]


if that's one of the better college application essays, I want to start some sort of charity for the admissions officers who have to read hundreds of those per year.

Yeah. This essay is...not good. If the other kid's essays are so terrible as to make this essay look good, the problem is that we are training teenagers to write shitty essays. It doesn't make this guy's essay any better.
posted by corb at 4:05 PM on April 2


Teenagers are shitty writers. Hell, they're generally shitty people too. They always have been, always will be, just the nature of their brains.
posted by Think_Long at 4:07 PM on April 2


if that's one of the better college application essays, I want to start some sort of charity for the admissions officers who have to read hundreds of those per year.

I passed this on to my friend that works in admissions, and he says: "If you get a chance, let them know their charity would be a welcome change."
posted by pemberkins at 4:19 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I'm confused about the discussion here and elsewhere. On two points

1. What does it matter if he got in "because he's a POC" or if that was otherwise a factor? Why would that be a bad thing?

2. Why is everyone so obsessed with the essay? He's not an admissions officer, and very few or none of us are. If he thinks it made a difference that's his opinion, but he has no way of really knowing even if they told him they liked it.

And once again, why does it matter so much? Why is it such a point of contention? I really think the race thing comes into play again here.

I feel like everyone is obsessing over the avocado slice on a fancy sandwich. There's a lot more to this whole situation, and a lot more than he or we could know. And the direction of the speculation just comes off as odd and a bit disconcerting to me in a way that's hard for me to articulate. The obsession over that letter is just... Uncomfortable. I don't know.
posted by emptythought at 4:24 PM on April 2 [7 favorites]


Okay, I know for a stone fact that my college essay scored me an admission to the US-News-highly-rated liberal arts college* I went to back when – how do I know this? I got a note from the admissions officer a week after classes started that said "hey, awesome, you're the kid with the essay" is how I know this – and I would not fucking dream of posting it online for forum dwellers to pick at.

*not being snooty, actually I sort of have developed regrets about going this route but who the hell knows in retrospect anyway
posted by furiousthought at 4:39 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


Re the essay, because the FPP linked to it with the implication that it was especially good.

I'm pretty sure that if the link said, "If you're curious what Ivy League admissions essays are like, here's Kwasi's," nobody would care.

That said, I'm also fairly sure that the essay sends home the message that he's a science-oriented student who can write, and he likes types of music that are not popular among teenage boys. Which probably paints a nice picture of a well-rounded dude that would be at home at an Ivy League school.

It also just struck me that he mentions singing in musicals, and we all know what the really important thing about the Ivy League is: their love of A Cappella.

It would be hilarious if every Ivy was clamoring for this guy because he sings baritone and their a cappella group actually really needs a baritone for 2015.
posted by Sara C. at 4:43 PM on April 2 [6 favorites]


Mostly you care, it looks like, from this thread. You seem to be generalizing your response somewhat.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:31 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


College admissions...gets more brutal every single year and shows no sign of ever abating, an arms race where there's no global nuclear war at the end to stop it.

Good for him. I can't imagine having the energy to apply to 12 schools (or maybe more; maybe there were schools that rejected him, although it seems unlikely)!

8-12 is a typical number now, especially at your more competitive high school. Not even for Ivies, kids shooting for the top 2 or 3 state schools where they live have to play the entire lottery too. 5 reaches, 3 matches, 2 safeties...that's 10 already...
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 5:47 PM on April 2


Hopefully he'll learn about em-dashes in whatever school he chooses.
posted by jferg at 5:59 PM on April 2


I'm just going to provide my perspective as a senior who applied this year. I attend a large public high school, and am in the IB program.

I applied to 14 schools, 5 of them Ivies. Most of my friends applied to 7-8 schools, with the people who applied to 3-4 and one of my friends who applied to 20 (because her app fees were waived) being the rare cases. With the Common App so widely used, HUMC's comment seems to be true. However, 6 of my schools were still off the Common App and the application process was still not that bad, although I did spend the first week of winter break writing essays. Many colleges ask similar prompts, making it easy to apply to multiple schools.

Six of us had 1 B or perfect 4.0s, a load of IB and AP classes, 2300+ SAT and 35 ACTs. We all have our own extracurriculars, "leadership experience" and volunteer work we're involved in. And yet, the only person from my school who got into an Ivy had a plethora of Bs, didn't take the SAT, and a 33 ACT. A few of us got waitlisted, but no one else got into any of the Ivies.

Partially it's meeting all the standards of "academically qualified," but part of it is the luck of the draw. As AAC notes, "Harvard could fill their class many times over with students who have perfect grades and scores, and they have to choose between those perfect students." Even at admissions fairs, information meetings and interviews conducted by the colleges, we're told that loads of "academically qualified" applicants apply, but really, only a few will get in. There's thousands of highschools around the nation. That means there's thousands of valedictorians. Most of the Ivies freshman class is around 1-2k. Here's an interesting study - for many elite institutions, "the vast majority of applicants had an appropriate level of academic merit, so that could be weighed later, while other parts of "creating a class" needed to dominate at the point of first cut." Here's another study on how a top-tier (public) institution conducts admissions.

I personally don't think his essay is that great, but who am I to talk since he got in and I didn't. But it probably is everything else combined if he got into all 8. I just want to be clear that it's not so simple to just say "This kid's obviously good, duh he got in." "Good" today no longer means good grades and good test scores. Hell, no one knows what "good" to an admission officer looks like.
posted by Just Another Entity at 6:29 PM on April 2 [11 favorites]


Re the essay, because the FPP linked to it with the implication that it was especially good.

I'm pretty sure that if the link said, "If you're curious what Ivy League admissions essays are like, here's Kwasi's," nobody would care.


Agreed. The essay got attention because the FPP made it sound like it was special. It didn't seem special to me. Perhaps it was special enough to get him into all 8 Ivies though. It's true that I do not know. But yes, if the FPP hadn't focused so much on the essay it likely wouldn't have gotten much comment.
posted by sweetkid at 6:49 PM on April 2


My son refused to consider any school other than his dream school, which was not an Ivy, or anything close to it. But my son had had a rocky high school career and had not taken the SAT. He has ASD and hadn't exactly excelled in the school activities scene. So a lot was riding on the essay. Writing is very very hard for him. He has great ideas, but struggles to make them march onto the page in step. So I held my breath. I didn't look over his shoulder. His guidance counsellor seems to have forgotten that he was applying to college. He just wrote a little essay about who he is and it was so perfectly, sweetly him. I felt like I had learned something about him when I was done reading it, and realized I wanted to know more, more about this young man my son was becoming. It was emphatically not a laundry list of accomplishments, but it also wasn't a LOL-random look how edgy I am anterna-essay.

He got in, and has discovered that he's a better writer than he thought he was. Peer-reviewing is excruciating. Sometimes he sends me his classmates' essays. There is some really bad college writing out there. This kid has basically assured all the Ivies that he can, in fact write in complete sentences, which is more than some of my son's classmates can do. Their moms must have written their essays.
posted by Biblio at 6:51 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


My essays were awesome. I wrote essays more regularly in high school than I have since, so my skills were at their strongest, although I'm sure I was plenty callow. Unlike Mr. Enin, I didn't graduate 11th in my school, score 2250 on the SAT, play three instruments for chamber orchestra, sing in an a cappella group, throw shot put and discus, participate in student government and star in school plays. His essay wasn't top 0.5% material, but the kid's a great all-rounder. Lay off.

^ But perhaps I digress... I'm sure this comment will be removed. Or maybe not; I can't ever tell.
Ah, the "silenced all my life except maybe not" gambit. Really strengthens your credibility in making a controversial point.
posted by gingerest at 7:01 PM on April 2


...would anyone care to join in on a collective appeal to the mods to just delete this entire discussion?

What are you talking about?! We're collectively solving the mystery of how some punk kid managed to get accepted to 8 Ivy League universities when we couldn't get into just one.
Personally I'm leaning towards Powerful Reach of Long Island Guidance Counselors.
posted by Flashman at 7:02 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: DON'T READ THE COMMENTS
posted by jaduncan at 7:06 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]


This "admission essay" was actually published in Harper's Magazine several years ago.
posted by New Frontier at 7:06 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


2. Why is everyone so obsessed with the essay? He's not an admissions officer, and very few or none of us are. If he thinks it made a difference that's his opinion, but he has no way of really knowing even if they told him they liked it.

And once again, why does it matter so much? Why is it such a point of contention?


I dunno, I mean, it's just not a very interesting story in and of itself, and the essay's all there really is to discuss.
posted by threeants at 7:11 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]


For the record, I don't have any problem with this kid. I'm sure he's lovely and that he'll do great wherever he ends up. I don't love this story as a news story, for any number of reasons. I think it contributes to the stupid cult of the Ivies, which is both silly and kind of destructive. The Ivies are not necessarily the best or even the most prestigious schools. They are certainly not the eight best schools for any particular student. And I guess I just don't like the general trend of news stories about individual kids' college admissions successes. I think it increases the general air of competition and stressfulness around what is already an insanely competitive and stressful process, and I don't think it's entirely fair to the kids who end up getting all the publicity. Would you really want to start college with everyone knowing you as the kid who was in the newspaper for getting into all 8 Ivies? It's hard enough to deal with going to a college where, for perhaps the first time in your life, you're not going to be the smartest, most accomplished person in any room you happen to be in. I'm sure it's even harder when people are gunning for you because they're wondering what the hell makes you so special that you deserved all the national news coverage.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:14 PM on April 2 [13 favorites]


I'm sorry, I just came here to say VIOLISTS RULE VIOLINISTS DROOL ;D
posted by gusandrews at 7:16 PM on April 2


I know a few admissions people who have been sharing that view on Facebook, ArbitraryAndCapricious. Seems like a nonstory to me, too, though it's nice that he has a lot of appealing options for where to spend the next four years.
posted by sweetkid at 7:23 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I've seen enough freshman writing - at Ivy League schools, no less - to know that the ability to write complete sentences that contain appropriate punctuation and capitalization, and have only a few words misspelled, are pretty special these days.

Anyway, good for him. I could only scrape together enough money for one application fee, so I had to spend it on the university I was 100% certain of getting into.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:25 PM on April 2


Thinking further re: the race discussion; maybe I'm overly cynical, but this story (discursively speaking, not the events themselves) actually seems kind of racebaity to me. The story is kind of, I don't know, so prosaic and local-11-o-clock-news-glurge that the fact that we're reading about it feels to me like the content producers-- sorry, "journalists"-- themselves are trying to evoke this dogwhistle subdermal discourse about affirmative action or maybe race and education more generally. The story itself is such a non-entity that you kind of have to wonder what else is being traded in, either explicitly or subliminally. I don't think it's necessarily a purposefully racist smear campaign so much as that content producers know that controversy drives buzz, and that to a lot of readers, a black person doing a thing constitutes a controversy.
posted by threeants at 8:00 PM on April 2 [6 favorites]


That essay demonstrates a greater command of language and composition than 95% of my colleagues. Many of them already have degrees and have been writing on a daily basis for about as long as this kid has lived...and they still suck at expressing their ideas in the written word.

MetaFilter is the kind of place --in my opinion-- that attracts the sorts of folks who care greatly about the craft of writing. Our bar is atypically high and I think maybe we forget that the rest world is decidedly not interested in that sort of thing.

In short: he's not channeling Hemingway but he can get from point A to point B with very little distraction; a feat many grown-ass men and women who should be at the peak of their careers still struggle massively to achieve.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:03 PM on April 2


Congratulations, Kwasi! Kid goes to a public high school, his parents, both immigrants from Ghana, both work, he did really well on the SAT (98th %ile), his Dad encouraged him to apply at all 8 Ivies, and he nails all 8. “By applying to all eight, I figured it would better the chances of getting into one,” he told the New York Daily News. Also, the essay is about love of music, not sports prowess or whatever.

If he got a boost from affirmative action, it's well-justified, and I hope it's accompanied by gobs of financial aid. Way better than Dubya getting in to Yale because he's a Bush and a Prescott, or any other rich white privileged male getting an admissions boost as a legacy.

As news stories go, it's kind of refreshing, and it won't last but a minute more, except for another round when he announces his choice.
posted by theora55 at 9:40 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


If naturalized citizens are not first generation then it's like saying they are never American, which doesn't make sense.

We could imitate the computer programming convention and call them zeroth-generation.
posted by Rangi at 10:37 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


This isn't linked in the post, but I read an article where his guidance counselor is quoted as saying something like "he's not like the other African American kids." Which is technically true, most kids of any color don't get into Ivy League schools, but it came off like "he's not one of ... you know... those kids."

It looks like it was in the widely-quoted/linked USA Today article, but was quietly removed at some point (it's still present in other news articles citing USA Today, and some of the comments at the original article reference it.)
Being a first-generation American from Ghana also helps him stand out, Cohen says. "He's not a typical African-American kid."
Now, look. There's multiple ways to parse that sentence. The most "neutral" is that Cohen simply means that colleges find it more...interesting? Desirable?...to admit children of immigrants (which is, itself, bound up in some loaded class-and-race issues.) But, I mean, why express it that way? Why "He's not a typical African-American kid", instead of "He's not a typical American kid"?

I don't know. Maybe it was a particularly graceless attempt at saying something entirely different, but as is, it reads as a tacit acknowledgement that African-American applicants can only succeed if they divorce themselves from being "too black." It is so monumentally fucked up that someone currently making a living in the incestuous and profitable circus that is elite college admissions in this country would think this was an unremarkable sentiment suitable for a news interview.

And yeah. That's why this story matters, IMO.
posted by kagredon at 10:55 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]


All this talk about the Ivies reminds me of winter break of my senior year. It was winter break, I was done with my applications, I felt like I could finally breathe a sigh of relief. But then my friend's dad, who had attended Harvard, spoke with my stepmom at her pre-Christmas birthday party about the schools to which I had applied. Upon learning that Harvard was the only Ivy included, he said that I was making a big mistake and should apply to more because an Ivy League school was the only way to make the most of my potential.

I ended up working Christmas Eve through to Christmas Day on applications to Yale and Princeton. CHRISTMAS.

Nothing can describe the perverse pleasure I got months later, after a few unexpected early acceptances, in telling the Princeton interviewer that I was withdrawing my application and in rejecting Harvard's waitlist offer. Everyone, in both instances, thought I was crazy even though I no longer had any interest in going to either school. The Ivy League obsession is getting out of hand and stories like these are not helping.
posted by that silly white dress at 10:57 PM on April 2 [6 favorites]


Weak essay. Lacks anecdotes. Seems like a great kid, though, so props to him.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:57 PM on April 2


DON'T READ THE COMMENTS

they can't be worse than that essay
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:39 AM on April 3 [2 favorites]


Good for you for not reading the comments, I guess.
posted by rtha at 5:44 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]


I wrote an essay I felt pretty confident about at the time, got into a top school for undergrad, and then was faced with the prospect of writing an essay to apply to law school. I looked back at my old college essay, and it was bad. Of course it was! I wrote it when I was 17. And also, I was trying to summarize my entire life and experiences and perspective--and seem unique, and also include information not elsewhere in my application--in like 500 words in response to a "write whatever you want"-type prompt. (Which was the standard prompt for Ivies at the time, and probably still is.)

And then I tried to write a law school essay, at age 25, after going to a good school and then grant-writing for a few years, and that one sucked too! And that was even after like 4 months of existential agony over what it was that I wanted to convey, and trying to figure out how to say the same things everyone else was probably saying in a way that would stand out and capture me. (And, FWIW, I got into a good law school, too, even though my essay was admittedly shit.)

So, I guess what I am saying is, there is an awful lot of snobbery up in here, and I think his essay was actually pretty great for what it was, given that application essays are always rather fraught.

Oh, and it is baller as fuck for him to have released it. I would never.
posted by likeatoaster at 7:55 AM on April 3 [7 favorites]


I ended up working Christmas Eve through to Christmas Day on applications to Yale and Princeton. CHRISTMAS.


Holy shit, your parents made you do paperwork on Christmas in an effort to get you the best possible advantages in life? Dickensian, I say.

Snark aside, Kwasi Enin's parents must be bursting with pride, as they should be.
posted by MoxieProxy at 11:28 AM on April 3 [2 favorites]


A lot of you don't seem to really understand what a typical admissions essay looks like, what the typical 18 year old writes like, and what an admissions essay is supposed to accomplish.


Yeah, actually, I do. I score written English exams like the ACT Writing. I routinely see high school seniors write better essays in an hour, without any advance preparation or knowledge of what the question will be. That essay is absolutely in the top 10% of scores, but it is nowhere near the top 5%.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:17 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


Update: he picked Yale.
posted by jedicus at 12:39 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


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