An example of one of our student’s essays
My favorite academic subject is philosophy, which reflects my attachment to pure, abstract ideas — the idea of ideas. Perhaps I’m interested in this somewhat intangible subject because of where I’ve grown up; the Sonoran Desert of the Coachella Valley. It is a material place. The impoverished here spend their lives fighting painful physical realities: 120-degree heat, sandstorms, and stoop-labor in watermelon and grape fields. The rich fly in and out —like giant, wealthy birds—seeking pleasanter physicalities: green golf courses, blue swimming pools, a pink cocktail to wash it all down.
The study of philosophy is not ingrained in the culture here; certainly not in my overcrowded public school. Despite this, I wanted to understand the subject, so I spent my evenings reading philosophers like Marx, Hegel, Lacan, Derrida, and Heidegger. It was during those long nights that I came to admire Plato’s theory of Forms. He suggests that somewhere beyond reality, perfect ideas interact and collide in a hyper-reality that this physical world imperfectly reproduces.
In many ways, my devotion to this “idea of ideas” parallels religious conviction: I deeply sense it to be true and feel it underlies every discourse, argument, or conversation. This makes it all the more enigmatic and beautiful in my mind, a gift from philosophy. I wanted to share that gift with others, so I started a philosophy club in my community. We are all types and ages and we do a lot of thinking together.
I’ve come to believe that there are grand truths and ideas out there, waiting to be discovered. In turn, this fills me with a passion for “the life of the mind”— a life devoted to discovering grand truths. This passion, and the accompanying decision to pursue a career in philosophy, isn’t shared by most people. My study of philosophy has changed forever my vision of my life’s path. I want to contribute to the public exchange of ideas. That communal discourse is the heart of what philosophy has taught me: a voyage through the mind of another.
– Trevor B, Johns Hopkins
Stand out to get in
Happily, the thinking and the writing dovetail upon themselves as he reflects and writes his way through a handful of powerful essays that cause readers to click “admit.” We regularly see schools respond with offers to meet whatever financial resources are needed to get him onto campus.
We work efficiently to lead students through the early stage to land quickly on their strongest point of entry, then to delve deeply into that specialty. Our weekly to-do lists help students to dig deep and write deep. By the time students have culled together their main essays, their content is rife with intelligent thinking and personal storytelling at its best.
While we now know that decisions are based on right brain emotional response, we also know that those decisions are almost always backed up by left-brain justification. Being fully aware of this phenomenon, we have developed techniques to help students pepper their stories and statements with statistics, studies and facts. Justification on the part of the reader occurs naturally and students get accepted.
This type of deliberate personal and academic writing serves multiple purposes. We know that schools seek students who enjoy deep thinking; committees want to know they are admitting individuals who are curious and intellectually driven. Our second purpose is to show (not tell) college committees the way in which the student is truly a passionate specialist.