1. Beginning in October 2011, I began to contact as many of the 295 students I could trace with whom I’d worked between 1998-2007. They came from all racial backgrounds, from families of every economic and academic level of attainment. Some were the first members of their families to attend college; for some English was their second language. Many had documented learning disabilities. And yes, some were tightly wrapped superachievers.

2. I sent them the following questionnaire:

Think back… do you remember writing your UU college essay about SUBJECT OF ESSAY? I have a clear recollection of the amazing connections that you made – and still even have a copy of your essay(s). It’s attached.

There is growing research in the field of narrative psychology indicating that the process of arriving at one’s unique story may have ongoing impact on your future attainments. Now I’d like to learn to what degree (if any) that may have been the case with you …

• What have you been doing in the years immediately after you wrote the UU essay I’ve attached?
• What are you doing now?
• What do you yet plan to accomplish?
• What, if any, lasting impact do you feel the UU process has had on you?

3. The request went out to 236 Uniquely U. alumni.

4. Though I was on the lookout for the middle school connection, I did not specifically cite that in my instructions. There was, however, a direct middle school connection in more than half of my sample: 155.

5. At this point in time, I have conducted in-depth interviews with a large enough sampling of my former students to ascertain that writing their Uniquely U. college essays has indeed had an ongoing impact on them. To that end, and so as not to overtax your patience, I have included the original essay and excerpts from my interviews with 16 of them.

6. Check back often. Many more former students are waiting to participate. More interviews will be posted soon.

Continue on to Interviews

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