ERIC Number: ED367982
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1994-Mar-18
Reference Count: N/A
The College Application Essay: A Rhetorical Paradox.
Paley, Karen Surman
An informal study explored the dynamics of the task of writing college application essays, which urge self-revelation but are judged by omnipotent admissions committees. Four students in the top 17% of their class of 194 in a predominantly white suburban school completed think-aloud protocols as they drafted a response to an application question from a school of their choice. A copy of each essay was sent anonymously to four participating admissions officers--three representing private schools in the east, the midwest, and the west, and one representing a state school in the northeast. Admissions officers were tape recorded as they responded to the essays. Essays were not sent to admissions officers at schools where the students intended to apply for admission. In student protocols the percentage of reflections on any aspect of the rhetorical problem--audience, presentation of self, or purpose--ranged from 23% to 50%. Three of the four students did not acknowledge any concern regarding how open to be. They worried instead about their ability to differentiate themselves from the applicant pool. Analysis of admissions officers' responses indicated that oversensitivity to spelling, punctuation, penmanship, and length may be a sign of class bias. Findings suggest that successful essayists are able to compromise with a kind of rhetorical counterparadox that precludes a surrender of power and that balances the forces who call for self-exposure and those that "devour" the results. (Six notes are included. Contains 13 references.) (RS)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Rhetorical Strategies; Writing Contexts
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (45th, Nashville, TN, March 16-19, 1994).