Parents of high school seniors are easy to spot in January and February. They have a worried air about them, appear sleep deprived, and will correct your grammar compulsively. If you haven’t personally lived through the period in your high schooler’s life where they spend hours filling out college forms and writing inspiring personal essays, you might not sympathize, but believe me, your time is coming…
The personal essay is one of the most important and challenging aspects of the whole college application process (although that FAFSA ranks up there too), because it must be technically perfect and self reflective. It must be written, edited, and then rewritten. Your student must be careful, too, to completely answer the essay question (which seems self evident, but isn’t always). Sometimes there is an added little phrase in a question, like "… and how did that change your way of thinking?" or "… how did that make you a whole person?" Not only should you answer the question perfectly, but you should also flat-out say, "… and the answer to your question is… " If part of the question includes "… how does that make you whole?" then somewhere in the essay your student should say, "I feel more whole when I’m singing because… "
Lastly, request some feedback from others. It really doesn’t matter whether they’re professional writers or not, just get their reaction. They also might notice errors that you don’t, because their eyes are not glazed over from reading the thing 20 times. Feel free to incorporate other people’s feedback, but make sure to keep the student’s ‘voice’ in the essay throughout, at all costs. This is their essay, and should be their effort throughout the process. Once you’ve sent it off, reward your student for their hard work, and a job well done!
This is chapter twenty-two of my novel "The Just War." I’m 4/5 of the way through the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. Wow! It’s good to set goals! I hope you enjoy it!
Stacey Johnson lived in a two story house in a different part of the small city of Fishers. She lived with her father and a dog. Mom and Dad had divorced years ago, when she was still in the second grade. David Johnson owned a company that recycled wooden palates, the kind that goods get shipped on to retail stores. Stacey had never been to the business, had never wanted to go see it and had not interest in learning anything about it or taking it over when her father got too old to run it anymore. She wanted to go to a good college and get a good degree in English Literature and then teach school.
Actually, she had no idea what she would do after college, but she wanted that degree. She liked Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, she’d read Little Women like twenty times, and had practically memorized Anne of Green Gables.
Mom was living in a different state, it had changed several times. While Dad had built a successful company that made a comfortable living, Mom was a real go-getter and was never happy in one place for very long. Stacey considered herself lucky in that at least her parents didn’t have revolving Significant Others for her to dread, fear, battle or compete with. But she wished she could have a Mom and Dad that stayed together in one place, like Barry had. Or at least like she had thought that Barry had.
She was a year ahead of her peers in English and had been put into an Advanced Lit class with kids a year older than she. She had been nervous about it, but found pretty quickly that she could keep up. Besides, this cute guy with brown eyes kept looking at her, and she liked getting the attention. At fifteen years old, she had never had a boyfriend before. She assumed it was because she was kind of nerdy and not interested in all the same things that the other girls were. But she had been in classes with other nerd girls and they got boys. Finally one of her friends said it was because she was always so serious, which she had never thought about before. Meeting Barry Lawless had helped out a lot with that.
Officer Yoder drove up to the house and waited until the two of them were inside. The lights were on in the living room and her dad’s bedroom. The two teenagers walked up to the front door but before Stacey could fish out her keys her dad opened it up. He waved to Don Yoder as he drove away.
Stacey and her dad hugged each other. David looked down at his daughter and asked, “How are you doing, sweetheart?”
“I’m okay, Daddy,” she answered although she honestly wasn’t all that sure.
“I heard about your father,” David said as he helped Stacey take her coat off. “I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do?”
“Thank you sir,” Barry replied respectfully. “Letting me come over here helps a lot.”
“Did you want to go see your dad?” Mr. Johnson asked.
“Yes and no,” was all Barry would say about it.
“Okay,” David didn’t want to push. “By the way, Stacey, some friends of yours called earlier.”
“Some of your friends from you youth group at church. They wanted to know if they could come over and talk to you and maybe Barry. I said that I’d give you the message when you got home and would tell them yourself.”
“Okay,” Stacey said, pushing her glasses up on her nose. Her long brown hair was dripping a little. “Which kids called?”
“It’s on the pad next to the phone,” her father answered. Then he headed for his bedroom upstairs. “I’ve been talking to your Uncle Steve in Omaha, so I need to get back to him. Call me if you need anything.”
“Okay,” Stacey called to him. “Thanks, Dad!
“Yes, thank you Mr. Johnson!” Barry said. David Johnson grunted and waved as he ascended the stairs.
Stacey went into the kitchen and looked at the note pad. “Bobby Timmons called, and Shelia Jones. Should I call them back or would you rather I didn’t do that?”
“Go ahead and call,” Barry answered. “We need people to pray.”
“Good idea,” Stacey said and picked up the phone. As she called the kids back, Barry went and looked out the window. It was after midnight and as dark as the inside of a tomb outside. Sometimes it almost didn’t feel real, what was going on. It seemed like he should be able to go home and find Jen in her room, sleeping in her bed with the covers off, waiting for her brother to come and pull them back up over her.
“Hold on,” Stacey said into the phone, then set the receiver down and ran upstairs. “Daddy? Is it okay if some of the kids from the youth group come over?”
“Are you sure?” Barry heard Mr. Johnson asked.
“Yeah! They want to come over and pray that Jen will be found quickly!”
Stacey’s dad seemed to think about it for just a second, then said, “All right, honey. Just this once, it’s okay."
“Thanks, Daddy!” Stacey said, then ran back down the stairs and picked up the phone. “Daddy said it’s okay,” she said. “Come on over.” There was a pause, then she said, “Okay, see you guys in a little bit.”
Barry listened as Stacey hung up the phone. Still looking out the window, he asked, “How many people are coming over?”
“Don’t know yet,” she answered. Coming over, she hugged him. He put his hands on hers.
A while later, they saw some headlights come down the street and up the driveway. A few cars pulled into the driveway, a couple of others let kids off at the curb or pulled into the driveway, then deposited their passengers and backed out again. The doorbell rang, and Mr. Johnson came down to see who all had come and to offer refreshments.
“Hey,” Jason Dean said, pushing some blond hair out of his face as he walked up to Barry. “Hey, I’m sorry about what’s happening.”
“Thanks,” Barry said. “It helps to have everybody here.”
Jebeau Thayer walked up and asked, “Do you want to talk about it?”
“No, not really,” Barry answered. “I think it would be better if we prayed.” Everyone agreed, so they adjourned to the Johnson living room. There was a couch as well as two chairs, one with an ottoman. They all matched, all a light pattern that Mrs. Johnson had picked out before she reverted to Ms. Schermerhorn. Even now, Stacey thought about her mom every time she sat on a piece of their furniture.
There was no television or computer in the living room. There was a large oil painting on the wall behind the sofa, an idyllic landscape purchased in Brown County many years ago.
Barry wanted to lead the prayer group, but as soon as he opened his mouth his throat constricted tears started forcing themselves through his closed eyelids.
“It’s okay, Barry,” Jason Todd said. Standing, he went and put his hand on Barry’s shoulders, motioning for others to do the same. There were eleven kids there, not counting Barry and Stacey, and all of them put a hand on Barry, even Mr. Johnson. Closing his eyes, clenching them shut, Jason started, “Dear Lord…”
They all prayed, agreeing with each other in prayer, taking turns leading. They asked for God’s blessing, for the quick return of Jennifer Lawless, for her to be unharmed. They prayed that the kidnapper or kidnappers would be brought to justice, that God would be with the police as they searched for her. They prayed for clues to come to light. They prayed for Detective Smithers that he would be alert and not miss anything.
They prayed for Barry, that he would be all right. They took turns praying for Barry’s Mom and Dad that they would be well. That Barry’s dad would heal quickly. That Barry’s mom would be okay. But most of all they prayed for Jennifer Lawless, that God would protect her and deliver her. No one could imagine what it was like to go through something like this under “better” circumstances, but what could it possibly be like for someone with severe autism? Some got down on their knees, others sat with heads bowed. Some sounded subdued, as if they weren’t sure what to say, others poured their hearts out, loudly asking for God to help them.
Barry sat largely silent, Stacey holding his hand. Sometimes he would not his head in agreement, or mumble a couple of words, but for the most part he kept his silence. Sometimes he would start to cry, but then would choke it back. Stacey would always squeeze his hand a little tighter at that point. Finally he couldn’t stand it any more and once again wailed out for God to please, please bring his sister back home. He apologized for everything he’d ever said or done that was mean to his sister. He begged the Almighty, begged for Jesus to please come down and deliver his sister from her captor. Everybody agreed with him wholeheartedly.
Well north, in a section of the Emergency Room at IU Saxony Hospital in Fishers, Indiana, Janet Lawless awoke from her sleep with a startled grunt. Vic was sedated in his bed, dead to the world. She had been dreaming, and in her dream she and Jen were walking along a beach, talking to each other like any other mother and daughter. Just before she had woken up, Jen had looked at her in her dream and said, “Mommy, I need you.”
It was still raining hard outside the hospital, and outside the Johnson home.
copyright (C) 2012 christopher w neal all rights reserved
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The Dos and Don’ts of Language For the College Application Essay
The language we choose to use says a lot about us, so you can be sure the language you use in your college application essay will tell the admissions officer reading it a lot about you. You want to portray yourself as a talented student who is a good match for the university you are applying to. Here are three ways you can use language to achieve this objective and three common mistakes you should avoid:
DON’T Use Slang: By the very definition of the word, slang is language that not everybody understands. You want the admissions officer to understand you. Using slang cannot help your chances of admission, but it can hurt it.
DON’T Use Violent or Hostile Imagery: Your hatred of the school bully may be justified, but don’t write about how you want to slash his tires. Consistent negative imagery can inaccurately portray you as a bitter, hostile person. That’s not someone who will contribute positively to campus life and probably not someone the admissions committee will admit.
DON’T Overuse the Passive Voice: The passive voice puts people to sleep. Remember, these admissions officers read hundreds of essays per week. Your essay needs to be energetic and colorful if you are going to keep them engaged. Write about how "I saved my friends life when I was seven years old" not about how "my friends life was saved by me when I was seven years old."
DO Choose the Best Verbs: Students commonly mistake excessive use of adjectives and adverbs for good writing. On the contrary, one of the keys to good writing is to maximize the effectiveness of your verbs. Write about how you "hustled past the leader of the race" not about how you "ran quickly and aggressively past the leader of the race." The first phrase is far more compact and it conveys a more vivid image.
DO Show Some Personality: The essay is your opportunity to sell yourself to the admissions committee. What makes you unique? Are you funny? Are you quiet and introspective? Use language in the essay that best expresses your personality.
DO Use the Thesaurus (Carefully): You shouldn’t repeat the same word too often in your essay and particularly not twice in the same sentence. It sounds awkward. Use the thesaurus to avoid this. You have hundreds of thousands of words to choose from. Just be careful not to use a word that doesn’t make sense in the context of your sentence. Simply flipping through the thesaurus and then replacing the word "good" with the word "congenial" might not work. In fact, it might jump out at an admissions officer as an obvious thesaurus substitution. The best way to use the thesaurus is as a memory jog for words you know how to use properly, but might not think of off the top of your head. If you genuinely have to use a word you think is used correctly, but you’re not completely sure, make sure someone checks your work before you submit your essay.
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The college essay is by far one of the best tools available within the application process to allow your student to significantly stand out from the competition. The reason why this is the case is because what admissions officers are looking for in the essay is information about the student’s character that cannot be captured in other parts of application. In other words, how well the student understands themselves and the clarity through which they can communicate that understanding. The essay section is more of a thought test than it is a writing test. The goal of course being one simple thing: to persuade your audience to accept the student into their college. Where most students fail in the essay writing process is focusing too heavily on writing to impress their audience instead of writing to persuade their audience. Got that?
I remember when I first began public speaking I use to believe that the best way to speak to an audience was loading them up on intelligent sounding facts and figures. I would always try to impress my audience with an extensive array of information in order to show them that I was qualified to be a public speaker. This always resulted in audience members passively listening and usually losing interest after being overwhelmed by too much unnecessary information. It wasn’t until I read a book by a man named Jonathan Sprinkles that I finally learned about the importance of emotionally connecting to an audience when I finally learned how to persuade my audience and get them to take action.
• Having a unique theme
• Eliciting powerful emotions
• Being specific in its examples
• Personal to the student
• Well organized and clear
I will warn you however of focusing too much on trying to make the college essay creative. It is far more intelligent to focus on making the essay actually sellable to the admissions office as opposed to being simply creative in nature. A good example of what I mean by this is when the Greek statesmen Aeschines spoke, his country said, "How well he speaks." But when his opponent Demosthenes spoke, they said "Let us march against Philip." The lesson being that it doesn’t matter how creative your student’s essay is if the college doesn’t actually doing anything because of it.
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Criminal Law Case Study – Preventing Future WikiLeak Fiascos – Make Fewer Documents Classified
With the nearly one-million people with some form of security clearance in our government or access to such documents in the private sector, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that whistle blower" websites like WikiLeaks are able to get their hands on 100s of thousands of documents and mutli-media classified, confidential, or even perhaps top secret documents.
The government is obviously doing whatever they can to shore up the classified, confidential, or top secret leaks. In fact, the Obama Administration sent out a memo on this to all the agencies. It was a confidential memo of course, so it immediately ended up on all the websites. But I guess that shows how endemic the problem is, and how tough the future challenge might be.
Still, there is a whole lot in the media, which is widely common knowledge in various industries, or to news junkies. And since these days with the rapid informational flow – classified really means, "oh like one week, two at tops!" So, one the cat is out of the bag, un-classify all this old stuff because that will do three things;
(1) It will get the workforce handling the information more serious about what still is classified.
(2) It will increase speed of communication, thus efficiency.
(3) It will save a ton of money trying to keep things secret which aren’t and everyone knows it.
Indeed, I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.
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