Does the College Essay Suck the Life Out of Boys?

So it’s pouring rain here in Knoxville and I spent the afternoon reading a terrific book called Crazy U: One Dad’s Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College. If you have a teen getting ready to apply to college, this is a great read and it’s hilarious to boot.


The author, Andrew Ferguson, goes through the process of trying to help his son get into college and starts by discussing the lengths parents are going to to try and get their kids into a selective school. Some are even hiring $40,000 college counselors years before their kid applies to college to guide them through the process. Wouldn’t it be easier just to give the kid forty grand and tell them to start their own business? But perhaps that is too simplistic.

One thing that caught my eye was how hard and depressing it was for the son to try and write the college essay. Many of the colleges ask for an essay about the student’s “inner life”–usually a buzz word for some kind of sappy self-absorbed nonsense where the student “took a risk” of some kind and went on to become a better person or some variation of that theme.

In the book, Ferguson’s son finally spits out a couple of paragraphs about his experience at a camp where there was a swimming test and he managed to swim the required distance while the rest were defeated. In the essay, the son wrote that he was “tired but proud; he sympathized with his classmates who hadn’t finished and in his victory, accepted modestly, he learned the timeless value of persistence and determination, expressed with grim earnestness…”


But his father knew the truth: “which was the masculine truth. He didn’t remember the race because it proved the timeless value of persistence. He remembered the victory because it was a victory: he had competed against this classmates, friends and rivals alike, and beaten them soundly and undeniably, and earned the right to a sack dance in the end zone. He knew he couldn’t say this, though, and I knew he was right.”

And that pretty much sums it up for the rest of college. Trying to please a bunch of people who care more about a PC stance than critically thinking with passion. It’s no wonder that boys and men are bypassing college.


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