Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

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edcat
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Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby edcat » Wed Aug 09, 2017 3:34 pm

This is a draft of my Yale 250 as it stands right now. It's actually a shortened version of an essay, I submitted for undergrad. I'm hoping for feedback in general, but also on any specific punctuation. It is alluding to Jonathon Edwards Sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. I'm curious what people think. I'm definitely looking to take a risk on the 250 though since Yale is obviously going to be a reach.

Draft deleted since I may still use it and my advisor heard about posted PS's being plagiarized from online discussion boards. I'm also no longer soliciting feedback on my essays through TLS for this reason and probably won't use this essay (though I was already leaning against it), for reasons which may be apparent by reading the comments below.
Last edited by edcat on Mon Aug 14, 2017 3:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Aug 09, 2017 3:39 pm

No no no no no.

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mjb447
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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby mjb447 » Wed Aug 09, 2017 3:48 pm

I think I saw this essay in a sovereign citizen complaint once.

TLSDookie
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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby TLSDookie » Wed Aug 09, 2017 5:43 pm

I disagree with Nony, I think you have a fantastic shot at getting in to Yale's Theology/Divinity school Masters program. Best of luck with your application!

cavalier1138
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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby cavalier1138 » Wed Aug 09, 2017 6:15 pm

Well, at least it's only 250 words.

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Pozzo
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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby Pozzo » Wed Aug 09, 2017 6:47 pm

TLSDookie wrote:I disagree with Nony, I think you have a fantastic shot at getting in to Yale's Theology/Divinity school Masters program. Best of luck with your application!


Gonna need to actually read some Edwards first, though: http://edwards.yale.edu/

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Platopus
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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby Platopus » Wed Aug 09, 2017 6:56 pm


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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Aug 09, 2017 9:30 pm

(to be fair: rereading it a couple of times I like it better. But I still don't think it works as an admissions essay.)

sparkytrainer
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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby sparkytrainer » Wed Aug 09, 2017 9:42 pm

I feel like I just read an anxious Kierkegaard. I wouldn't have ever imagined I would write that sentence. That said, this is a hard pass for the 250.

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rpupkin
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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby rpupkin » Wed Aug 09, 2017 10:05 pm

edcat wrote:I'm definitely looking to take a risk on the 250 though since Yale is obviously going to be a reach.

Then why not?

Your essay is different, I'll grant you that. I can't say that I really get it, but maybe someone at YLS admissions will like something about it. If you like it and if you think it says something genuine about you, then submit it.

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slurp
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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby slurp » Wed Aug 09, 2017 10:32 pm

An agnostic leaning towards belief subsequent to His reveal does not bode well with me. There are some grammar errors in here, as well. Not my brand of vodka, but maybe you'll find success given that Yale is a black box.

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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby edcat » Thu Aug 10, 2017 4:13 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:No no no no no.


I was hoping for feedback with a little more direction to it, but I'm posting my essay draft anonymously online so I'll take what I can get. I'll mark 5 no’s in the no column.

mjb447 wrote:I think I saw this essay in a sovereign citizen complaint once.


I thought the sovereign citizen movement was basically just a group of people taking tax dodging to an extreme. That's not really the theme I was exploring, but I guess they could write about other things, too. Is this a comment on the tone.


TLSDookie wrote:I disagree with Nony, I think you have a fantastic shot at getting in to Yale's Theology/Divinity school Masters program. Best of luck with your application!



Sarcasm appreciated, but I really doubt that they would like the whole angsty/agnostic/questioning,can't quote the bible vibe.


cavalier1138 wrote:Well, at least it's only 250 words.



Well, it was a better essay before I cut it down to 250. But even if it's a bad 250, it is one now.


Pozzo wrote:
TLSDookie wrote:I disagree with Nony, I think you have a fantastic shot at getting in to Yale's Theology/Divinity school Masters program. Best of luck with your application!


Gonna need to actually read some Edwards first, though: http://edwards.yale.edu/



I recommend Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. The imagery is beautiful and vivid. https://www.google.com/url?q=http://dig ... d5BZlBYeyw.


Platopus wrote:https://law.yale.edu/admissions/jd-admissions/ask-asha/250-word-albatross

See #3 in things NOT to do



It’s not stream of consciousness. If it remotely had that effect it would be because it has been shortened. But, I really don't think it does.


A. Nony Mouse wrote:(to be fair: rereading it a couple of times I like it better. But I still don't think it works as an admissions essay.)

I'll remove two no’s but keep the majority.


sparkytrainer wrote:I feel like I just read an anxious Kierkegaard. I wouldn't have ever imagined I would write that sentence. That said, this is a hard pass for the 250.



Well that is definitely the effect I was going for. I do intend to do something risky with the 250. This was my first try. There will be more. But at Yale I probably stand a pretty negligible shot on numbers and experience alone. If I write an essay which has a one fifth chance of being loved and a four fifths chance of being hated, then as long as the love is strong enough to get me in, I have improved my chances.


rpupkin wrote:
edcat wrote:I'm definitely looking to take a risk on the 250 though since Yale is obviously going to be a reach.

Then why not?

Your essay is different, I'll grant you that. I can't say that I really get it, but maybe someone at YLS admissions will like something about it. If you like it and if you think it says something genuine about you, then submit it.



That’s my general philosophy with the Yale 250. And I do think it says something about my nature. That said, I'm going to play with several different 250 topics. This one was just easiest to draft since I was really shortening an old essay.


slurp wrote:An agnostic leaning towards belief subsequent to His reveal does not bode well with me. There are some grammar errors in here, as well. Not my brand of vodka, but maybe you'll find success given that Yale is a black box.



That is how I would identify most of the time. There are moments when I lean toward disbelief and moments (say a near car accident) when I find myself temporarily in fervent belief.


I'd definitely edit and revise it more before using it. I just played with it for about 30 or 40 minutes this morning cutting it from 500 words to 250 so I had an idea what it looked like.


I guess what I was hoping the essay would say about me is that I love questioning things, prying at the boundaries of the choices that I am given. I also think that it reflected a certain willingness to rebel against authority figures I believe are acting unjustly regardless of personal cost. Finally, I wanted to be clear that I possess curiosity, that I crave knowledge more than anything else.


I'm working on another 250 along these same sorts of themes which I'll share sometime in the next week or so when a first draft of it is complete and I have access to the internet. If you considered this based on Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Edwards, the next will be based on Pascal’s Wager. I'll probably post it in this same spot.


After that I promise that my other stabs at a 250 will be less tied to religion. It's only a minor part of who I am, but a part which easily surfaces when thinking about the future, where I will wind up, and what ends I will be pursuing.


I'd be happy to read any of your essays and offer feedback as well.

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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby cavalier1138 » Thu Aug 10, 2017 6:04 am

Ah, there's nothing better than a pretentious and mediocre writer who thinks that they're hot shit. Adcomms love that.

edcat
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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby edcat » Thu Aug 10, 2017 6:51 am

cavalier1138 wrote:Ah, there's nothing better than a pretentious and mediocre writer who thinks that they're hot shit. Adcomms love that.


If I thought I was "hot shit" I would write a traditional boring 250 and expect to get in. I'm trying to write a 250 that is different because I think that at least in the Yale applicant pool I'm a very weak applicant. My best shot is to essentially write my way in.

Whatever writing piece I submit should be edited and revised to the point where it is considered good writing by an objective bystander. I don't think some sort of exceptionally high quality of writing is going to carry my application. What I think I can do to make mine stand out is to have a unique perspective. I don't have any experiences that are particularly earth-shattering. Therefore, my essay is going to have to stand out largely on the grounds that I am more willing to take a risk on the subject matter or the style than other applicants.

I can write something that the adcoms have not seen before for some reason. In this case the reason they have not seen it would be because it is a mild taboo to write about religion to a stranger, because agnostics don't talk about religion all that much, because the religious wouldn't normally write something so flagrantly disrespectful to God, and because atheists often don't respect religion enough to agonize over it.

I can see how you could interpret the essay as somewhat arrogant if you read part of it (bringing God to His knees), but then you would read the rest of the sentence (as His silence has brought me to mine) and I think it would become clear that it isn't really arrogance that drives it. If anything it is the insecurity if not knowing whether a higher power exists that is supposed to drive the essay.

I know I asked for critique and that was probably too vague for you. I was hoping for constructive critique.

What do you think is so arrogant and pretentious about my essay?
What direction would you recommend going with a risk taking essay?
Or are you just opposed to the idea of people trying to get into reach schools? After all it is arrogant of us to think we can out perform our numbers.
Did you apply to and get into Yale? If so was it a numerical reach? If it was, what was your essay?

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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby cavalier1138 » Thu Aug 10, 2017 7:08 am

edcat wrote:
cavalier1138 wrote:Ah, there's nothing better than a pretentious and mediocre writer who thinks that they're hot shit. Adcomms love that.


If I thought I was "hot shit" I would write a traditional boring 250 and expect to get in. I'm trying to write a 250 that is different because I think that at least in the Yale applicant pool I'm a very weak applicant. My best shot is to essentially write my way in.

Whatever writing piece I submit should be edited and revised to the point where it is considered good writing by an objective bystander. I don't think some sort of exceptionally high quality of writing is going to carry my application. What I think I can do to make mine stand out is to have a unique perspective. I don't have any experiences that are particularly earth-shattering. Therefore, my essay is going to have to stand out largely on the grounds that I am more willing to take a risk on the subject matter or the style than other applicants.

I can write something that the adcoms have not seen before for some reason. In this case the reason they have not seen it would be because it is a mild taboo to write about religion to a stranger, because agnostics don't talk about religion all that much, because the religious wouldn't normally write something so flagrantly disrespectful to God, and because atheists often don't respect religion enough to agonize over it.

I can see how you could interpret the essay as somewhat arrogant if you read part of it (bringing God to His knees), but then you would read the rest of the sentence (as His silence has brought me to mine) and I think it would become clear that it isn't really arrogance that drives it. If anything it is the insecurity if not knowing whether a higher power exists that is supposed to drive the essay.

I know I asked for critique and that was probably too vague for you. I was hoping for constructive critique.

What do you think is so arrogant and pretentious about my essay?
What direction would you recommend going with a risk taking essay?
Or are you just opposed to the idea of people trying to get into reach schools? After all it is arrogant of us to think we can out perform our numbers.
Did you apply to and get into Yale? If so was it a numerical reach? If it was, what was your essay?


QFP

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Aug 10, 2017 7:09 am

To expand a little: I have problems with both the philosophy behind this and the execution.

Philosophy - this is purely about personal approaches. I'm pretty pragmatic and have been immersed in the utter practicality of legal writing for a long time now. I have a viscerally negative reaction to something that reads like a prayer or personal meditation; the voice in my head was "talking to God = delusional = why send to this to a school??" I would never send what boils down to a statement of faith as an admissions essay. That doesn't mean you shouldn't, but I had a very strong negative reaction to it.

Execution 1 - I didn't come away from this with the messages you hoped to convey. It felt a little too self-consciously artful, like the point was putting together the language this way rather than a heartfelt statement of belief. (This is again as much about my preferences as it is about your writing.) Now, I read this in the middle of a long and busy day, but I firmly believe that you (anyone) need to write in such a manner that the most distracted/inattentive/exhausted reader is going to get the points you want to make. Here, what you want to show is too obliquely buried in the way you're saying it for me to appreciate it. I fully concede that I'm not a Yale adcomm and they may be more generous/flexible readers than I am (so this again goes back to philosophy).

Execution 2 - I did go back and reread Edwards (it had been a while), and I don't think condensing the original essay helps you. To me, one of the things that's striking about Edwards is that he is carefully constructing an argument about God/sinners, point by point. The structure is important. You lose that entirely when you get down to 250 words. This comes across as much more mystical, contemplative, and personal than Edwards, and I was unable to see enough of a connection to Edwards to add to my understanding of the essay - I couldn't see any real allusions that brought the two essays together. Now, that may not be the case if someone sits down and reads Edwards really closely (which I didn't), but I don't know that adcomms will be familiar enough with Edwards of the top of their heard/willing to put the time in to look Edwards to get that connection. It may be that there isn't that close a connection, and that you really are writing what came into your head on reading Edwards, but I feel like if you're making the allusion as central as you do here, it should be stronger.

To be fair, I'm not a huge fan of doing something particularly extreme/dramatic for a reach - I get the arguments behind it, it's just not my way of doing thing and tends to look, to me, kind of artificial and self-conscious. So that colors my reaction as well.

(Apologies if any of this is unclear, I wrote it once and then my computer ate it and I had to rewrite it.)

Edited in light of your last post: I sure as hell didn't get into Yale, so do with these comments whatever you want. However, to your point about how the religious wouldn't write something so flagrantly disrespectful to God - actually, plenty of religious people throughout time have written all kinds of things excoriating God for being unknowable, unknown, distant, cruel, allowing evil to occur, etc etc. So this kind of gets at something that bugs me a little - I don't think this is quite as unique as you're suggesting it is, which may be behind the slight self-conscious artfulness that bothers me about this a little.

Last edit: my approach for getting into a reach school would be to make sure that my entire application worked together seamlessly to tell a clear, compelling, focused narrative about me and my trajectory to law school.

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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby edcat » Thu Aug 10, 2017 8:29 am

@Nony Mouse
Sorry, this is a bit choppy.

The "have you got into Yale" part of my last post was mostly just frustration with cavalier coming out and was regrettable. I want advice from everyone willing not just Yale admits, though they are welcome to grace us with their presence. It just seemed a little harsh to reject my essay as that of an arrogant mediocre writer or whatever he said when I explicitly described the essay as attenpt to take a risk to aid my chances at a school I don't believe a conventional approached app will get me into.

The talking to God is delusional reaction and opposite mocking God is disrespectful are the two that I am willing to risk here to have a unique essay. That said, my next 250 essay attempt will not have the particular characteristic of revealing that I occasionally have prayed. And the subsequent ones will not discuss religion.

Clarification of my intended meaning: I didn't mean to claim the religious or athiests never write disrespectful things about God. I'm trying to say that few do in general, I often enjoy reading what they say when they do, and it has to be a rarity that anyone does in Law School Application Essays.

The clear, seamless, and compelling narrative approach you are talking about is exactly what I view as the normal approach to applications. L It makes sense most of the time and is my attempted approach for most of my applications, but I think that Yale is a place that is enough of a reach for me to merit using a risky essay to draw attention. Obviously, I will write my personal statement, edit my resume, and edit my 250 so they all work together.

I think we do have a little bit of a stylistic difference here. I do intend to try to write my 250 with a little flair and even write my personal statements somewhat creatively. I've had all of undergrad to write in concise clear prose and will have all of law school for that. But there are the occasional times that call for a different approach and I think the application is one. Just as people often write stories because they stand out and are easier to remember, trying to write in a creative style in my 250 might make someone remember my application instead of losing it in the sea of its peers. I don't want to listen to the letter of the advice "craft a narrative of yourself" and forget to do everything I can to follow the intent "making my application memorable."

If it weren't Yale, I wouldn't apply since I am aware neither the high risk approach nor the conventional approach gives me a decent shot. I have a 3.78 and 172 right now. I'm retaking the 172, but whatever my result I'm not going to have good odds at Yale. That's not a complaint. It's a problem almost all applicants have.

Thanks for the advice.
I think I'll probably even take some of it depending on how my other attempts turn out.

It does seem to me that the greatest indictment of this essay is that it is the second best copy of itself that I have read. It explains itself and me better with the full 500 words.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Aug 10, 2017 8:48 am

Sure, I get your arguments for why you want to do this. I'm not going to agree with them, but I understand what they are. I just wanted to explain where my negative reaction came from. I also think there are better ways to achieve your goals than with this essay, but good luck with your application regardless.

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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby MrAdultman » Thu Aug 10, 2017 10:16 am

OP,

This one get's a "no" from me as well. First, I don't think the idea or thought is very profound or unique at all. Every college freshman theist has gone through these thoughts. They've been recorded much more articulately and profoundly for thousands of years. In the end, it sounds a bit intellectually immature: you can't make up your mind, so you've flopped down in a luke-warm midpoint and your frustrated about it. I expect the reader to think, "You're applying to law school, and you really haven't figured this out yet?"

Second, the language comes across as pretentious. First, your diction suggests that you're making an extremely deep, significant point, which (I just argued, at least), you're not. And, even if it *were* a profound point, the attempts at highbrow language come off poorly. It sounds like you binge-read Charles Dickens, grabbed a thesaurus, and tried to write fancy and with the biggest words possible. The few grammatical errors augment that feeling as well. The overall effect really is rather pretentious. Not trying to be a jerk, but it looks like you can take tough criticism.

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mjb447
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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby mjb447 » Thu Aug 10, 2017 10:38 am

To the extent that my comment was at all constructive and not pure snark, I was primarily trying to get at things that have already been covered. Something that's not written or formatted in the usual style catches my attention - most sovereign citizen filings aren't, and sometimes they include metaphysical musings in the style of this 250. For me, your draft accomplishes that much.

However, that doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to spend a lot of time with it; dense writing just makes my job (reading and understanding) harder, and it certainly doesn't make me want to cut you any breaks. (I don't think I ever read Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God - I probably should for my own edification, but I don't think you should write a 250 that presupposes strong familiarity if that's what you've done here.) I have to imagine most adcomms are similarly busy or distracted much of the time, never mind that it's their job to eliminate people from contention and you're serving them up some pretty dense writing and are already fairly borderline for other reasons. You're definitely taking a risk, but some risks are better than others and, since the smart, busy people in this thread are (almost?) uniformly failing to "get it," it might be better to try something else.

But, like I said, you guys have mostly covered that already, so good luck.

I also did not get into Yale.

ETA To be clear, I agree with the people who are saying that a religious/spiritual essay isn't in itself problematic.
Last edited by mjb447 on Thu Aug 10, 2017 11:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby TLSDookie » Thu Aug 10, 2017 10:49 am

You've put a lot of thought in to your responses, so I'll give you a legitimate response. I don't think the problem is the religious topic--certainly plenty of very smart people have gotten in to law school for whom religion is a/the central part of their identity. If that's you by all means write about it. As the posters above me point out, the problem is how you have written it. Express who you are in genuine, coherent statements. What you've written comes off as somewhere between mimicry and plagiarism of long dead philosophical prose. A lot of people seem to think that writing like that turns otherwise bland ideas into erudite pieces of wisdom, but it really does not obfuscate the simplistic and well trodden subject matter, and in fact makes it harder for adcomms to read (particularly when their eyes have rolled so far up they've become stuck that way). You've proven you have a mastery of the English language on the LSAT, no need to prove you've mastered bygone eras of it on the PS.

Re-write it using only words you would actually use to explain your identity to someone on the street. If nothing profound comes out of what you've written, and it sounds like you're an elementary schooler explaining "I like god", dig deeper as to why those ideas are important to you personally, and re-write again. AdComms aren't looking to see how well you can emulate a particular style/era of writing even if it is your favorite philosopher, any more than they would be impressed if you wrote an extra scene of Shakespeare perfectly in his style on a topic that was supposed to be about you. If it's written in a way no one actually speaks, it comes off as disingenuous and not your own ideas. Remember, above all, the PS is the best way to introduce yourself to the admissions committee, and coming off as disingenuous wastes that opportunity in favor of an attempt to replicate some other person's musings about a particular subject.
Last edited by TLSDookie on Thu Aug 10, 2017 10:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby nothingtosee » Thu Aug 10, 2017 10:52 am

FYI I think Sinners in the Hand and Pascal's Wager (tho not Pensees) are more likely to be part of an elite high school education than an elite college education (which is what Yale wants). Those two texts strike me as rather early texts an undergrad student would get.

I mean, it's a theological essay, but it's not deep in theology.

So then (as others have said) it reads more like a prose poem.

But it's not a very good prose poem because the language isn't very good. The sentences are hard to get through and there aren't memorable images/turns of phrase.

If you want a Hail Mary 250 I think something focused on a scholarly interest or a true insight from navel-gazing would be better than something in between. Something where you can display good writing. And this isn't that.

[And you're getting a pretty consistent response to this. So if you want to keep battling your reviewers, you probably aren't really interested in feedback, but rather affirmation]

eta: gendering God as male from a New Age/theist/agnostic perspective is a weird move, yeah? That could turn some people off

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Pozzo
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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby Pozzo » Thu Aug 10, 2017 11:20 am

Hey OP, I’ll try to be a bit more constructive here, and not try to just pile on what has been said. My comment re: reading Edwards was because I felt that this 250 did very little to engage/reflect the source of your inspiration. Apart from a cheeky title and the imagery of you dangling by a web, there is nothing here that substantively connects to Edwards. If you want to “wow” the adcom by writing something inspired by Edwards, then you need to a better job at making that connection. The second aspect to my comment there relates to what Nony said a couple posts back. Edwards is incredibly rigorous in the way he writes and argues, both in his sermons like Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, and even more so in his written works like Freedom of the Will and Religious Affections. I spent some time studying Edwards as a grad student, and this 250 is about as far from Edwards as you can imaging—both in style and substance. This reads less like a serious reflection on his ideas or something seriously inspired by him, and more like the self-important musings of an agnostic undergrad religious studies major who read “Sinners” in their History of American Religion class and decided to write a naval-gazing spin-off. I know that sounds harsh. I’m not that saying you've never given Edwards serious thought, but this is the person I see in this essay, and if that’s not who you are, then you need to do a better job communicating that to the reader. It also bears mentioning that Yale is the epicenter of modern study on Edwards, so I would be particularly wary of this topic in light of that.

All that said, I don’t think there is anything wrong with a more unconventional 250 or writing about religion per se. I did not get into Yale, and I think my largely impersonal, conventional 250 had something to do with that. (I condensed a portion of a research paper I had done a while back.) While Yale is a reach for everyone, my numbers gave be about a 50/50 shot. If I could redo it, I would have done a better job connecting it to the rest of my application and painting a compelling picture of myself as an applicant. (Again, Nony made this point above as well.)

The reason people tend to go conventional is that successfully executing a more unconventional topic is really, really, really difficult. On top of that, the religious struggles of an agnostic is a bit cliché, so this topic may not be quite as unconventional as you imagine. You may be able to execute it, but not with this attempt. I look forward to reading future drafts and providing whatever constructive feedback I can.

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Pneumonia
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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby Pneumonia » Thu Aug 10, 2017 11:49 am

I agree with the other posters that you should not use this 250. I also agree that your piece reads like you tried to emulate Edwards's style without paying proper attention to his structure. It feels pretentious.

The thing about the conventional 250 is that "conventional" doesn't mean "common." It's really hard to write a great, conventional 250.

In my view, your application would be far better with a really good conventional 250 than it would be with a really good "envelope pushing" 250. The adcoms/Asha are fairly clear about what they're looking for in a 250. It's a high standard, but your application will shine if you meet it. Much better to be the person who does really well within the guidelines than the person who does something weird (albeit, interesting) outside of them.

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Re: Envelope Pushing 250 For Critique

Postby cavalier1138 » Thu Aug 10, 2017 7:25 pm

MrAdultman wrote:Every college freshman theist has gone through these thoughts.


This.

Don't struggle to be "edgy" or "provocative". Just write something worth reading. And while you're at it, accept that maybe the fact that literally everyone who reads this doesn't think you're a creative genius is a sign of something.




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