I’d like to see some examples of what kind of quality of writing is expected.
It’s important to note that admissions essays do not have a specific “quality of writing” threshold that is expected. Many different types of essays can be effective. In saying that, here is an example of one of my common application essays I used that was successful for Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford.
The apron drooped to my knees. I was emblazoned with the ʻHi, My Name is Jamieʼ sticker, coupled with a scarlet employee-in-training hat. The ʻFresh not Frozen, Grilled not Friedʼ motto resonated in my mind. It was July 2011. I had taken the plunge and secured my very first part time job. I was flipping burgers, and I was excited.
I was accustomed to academia, to the sports field, to the stage, but this was an entirely fresh paradigm. Anuj, the staff trainer and joyously friendly employee tasked with the rather unfortunate challenge of having to teach me hamburgerological cuisine greeted me with a firm handshake. This guy meant business.
The familiar fast-food funk wafted through the tiny store like cologne in an airport duty-free store – overpowering, faintly nauseous and all-encompassing. The filing cabinets in my mind usually reserved for physics formulas, economics jargon and debating cases were tipped out and crammed with permutations and combinations of burgers – Otropo, Chicken Wrappa, Bondi. Exceptions to French conjugations were momentarily replaced with extra topping combos. The till became my new graphical calculator.
With surgeon-like precision Anuj modeled how to wrap a burger in four swift motions – place burger in the dead centre, pull wrap from left to right, then right to left, then roll the corners. He gestured towards his demonstration model and motioned for me to take to the stage. It was show time! Unfortunately, my burger ended up looking like the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina. Anuj patted me on the back, said ʻyouʼll learn fastʼ – and smirked.
Suddenly the barricades were overrun and an influx of jandal-wearing, sun-glass toting beach-goers charged into the store. The orders came flying faster than budget cuts at a Tea Party convention. I heard the petrifying three words ʻchicken tenderloin comboʼ. This was it, the Everest of my culinary career. It involved delving into the bossʼs prized stock of ʻsucculent tenderloinsʼ as he had described, ʻthe highest quality meat we sell, expensive to buy and delicate to cook, we canʼt afford any mistakesʼ. I was handling meaty gold. As the first tenderloin slapped onto the grill with a satisfying sizzle, I could imagine the bossʼs scorching eyes scrutinizing my every action from behind the prying lens of the staff security camera. Sun-glass toter number two, the tenderloin culprit, then muttered ʻExcuse me! Sorry mate, my fault, I meant the chicken nuggets.ʼ
Silently, I screamed. I grimaced, pirouetted and pleaded with the security camera.
Anuj saw my face, contorted in anguish, and took to the rescue with business-like efficiency. He rolled his eyeballs. In one graceful movement he scooped the tenderloins and flicked them into the cooler with one hand, and in perfect synchrony, removed the emergency chicken nuggets with the other. His eyes glistened with intensity. With consummate mastery his arms flicked from grill to cooker to table to bread to wrap. In less than ninety seconds, the order was complete. The bossʼs eyeballs returned to their sockets. The day was saved.
I worship the Anujs of this world. Certain jobs may look simple but that simplicity masks years of expertise. My skills in the rococo art of burger flipping paled into insignificance beside the master. I learnt more than burger flipping that day. I learnt humility, respect and the value of a good chicken tenderloin.