Preliminary Conclusions

1) Whether I scientifically prove a narrative-therapeutic link or even a middle school connection to the potential the college essay has to help its 17-18-year-old authors define themselves, my findings provide a long overdue, student empowering alternative to the blood sport college admissions in this country has become.

2) The natural length of an A-B-D-C-E college essay tends to be closer to 750 words, placing many an awe-evoking, brilliant piece of student writing at odds with the Common Application’s arbitrary 650-word constraint. But trimming it a bit more won’t do it any harm.

3) The process is replicable, but only, I believe, by having a teacher who has personally experienced “the invisible zone” guide you to and through it, a conclusion supported by the National Writing Project. Otherwise, here is the fate of your students: endless, meaningless assignments to crank out 5-paragraph “essays” and ersatz “research” papers – easier to grade, easier to plagiarize, the embodiment of mediocrity.

4) These findings mandate a long-awaited rethinking of writing instruction. That blueprint has already admirably been written by the National Commission on Writing in their 2005 report: “The Neglected ‘R’: The Need for a Writing Revolution.” To which I would add this suggestion: fewer classroom writing assignments of a different nature and a higher caliber, with the final outcome that no piece of student work should ever be considered finished until it has been rethought and revised enough to merit the grade of A+.

5) Funding such a time-consuming pursuit of excellence need not compete with STEM. The same deep logic of A-B-D-C-E applies to problem solving of every sort, be it creative writing, creative research, or creative engineering.

6) Finally, we as a country need to take ourselves “back to middle school” to undo the pathetic magical thinking we’ve obviously fallen prey to: “If only I could get into that one unattainably perfect school, I’d be set for life!” Then, once our collective perspective is restored, we can all begin to rewrite our own national script to reflectnthe true meaning of an enlightened, self-defining education.

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