We were thrilled when my daughter got invited to apply to the University of Florida's Honors College. Until I read the college's list of "tips" on how to write the application essays.
To get in, the kids have to list their awards and accomplishments and write two essays (Among the choices: "Are we alone?" and "Who was the better tree-climber: Napoleon or Attila the Hun?")
So we went to the on-line "tips" sheet to see how to approach these super-obscure topics. I found the advice quite off-putting, almost discouraging: "In the past many excellent students were not admitted to the Honors Program simply because they did not take the time to craft good essays. A lot of thought and time goes into choosing the essay prompts, and each applicant's essays are read by two people; we therefore want our effort to be worth it."
Also: "Please do not tell us that you are an AP Scholar with Distinction--at least 2/3 of our applicants can say that."
And "Please keep in mind that we receive approximately 2,000 applications each year for a class of 750, and so we would prefer to consider applicants who are truly interested in the Honors philosophy of engagement."
Sounds like they have gotten lots of applications from kids who qualified because of their test scores but were tired of writing college application essays and just threw something together. Still, a playful invitation might be more effective in getting quality kids than a so-called tips sheet with an uninviting and dispiriting tone.
Photo: Patti Parker Nielsen/Sun Sentinel