Which of These Essay Questions is the Real Thing?

Featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Admissions & Student Aid
From the issue dated April 27, 2007
By Rachel Toor

Please tell us what you do in your free time.
(No more than 500 words.)

When I was 12 years old, I got the international record for my age group for the marathon. After that I moved up to running longer races, and regularly compete in 100-milers. I run eight miles before school (I get up at 3 a.m.) and on some days do 12 to 15 miles after school. I am a member of the Future Farmers of America and a nationally ranked cheese taster. I go to Dairy Products contests and Agriscience Fairs at the local, regional, state, and national levels. In order to fully appreciate the process of making cheeses, I have purchased a cow, a goat, and a sheep.

I work part time as an auto mechanic. Mostly I rebuild engines and program automobile computer equipment. When I saw the photos on the wall at Pete’s (where I work), I began thinking of earning extra money that I need through modeling. Now I do runway shows for Victoria’s Secret and Frederick’s of Hollywood.

At school this year, I am taking eight AP classes, and because I have maxed out the math and science curriculum, I am auditing classes in topology, geophysics, and nonlinear dynamics at our community college. I have written a play that will be produced at the local rep company, and my self-titled debut CD will be released next fall.

I am president of the National Honor Society, the Speech and Debate Club, the Pro-Life Club, the Gay/Straight Alliance, and the Unwed Mothers on Crack Club. I am treasurer of Key Club, Habitat for Humanity, Teens for a Drug-Free America, and the Legalize Cannabis Club. I participate in French Club, Latin Club, Multicultural Club, the Aryan Youth Nation, Kids on Prozac, the Anime Society, Parent Management Group, and the Knitting Bee.

I am captain of the field-hockey, soccer, and bingo teams. I am a cheerleader for boys’ water polo, and occasionally I join the Polar Bear Club for a dip.

I attend meetings of NYLC, AIME, SADD, FBLA, ASB, JROTC, JSA, YCC, FCA, Al-Anon, and BYOB.

I go to Chinese school and Hebrew school, and participate in our church youth group.

I am certified as a PADI scuba diver and am currently licensed to fly a plane, give manicures, and do Reiki massage therapy.

I have more than 30,000 friends on MySpace.

Please forgive me, but I do not understand the question

What is the most important social problem currently facing society?

The most important social problem currently facing society is homelessness. There are more homeless people today than ever before in history! Many people do not have homes and are living on the street, and this is not a good thing. Something must be done about homelessness!

Every day on my way to soccer practice, I see homeless people. They’ve got grocery carts they steal and use to carry their crud around. They use cardboard boxes like blankets. Sometimes they write crazy stuff on the boxes, like “Out of Work Vet.” I mean, if you’re a vet, there are plenty of sick animals that could use your services. Get a job! Other people do.

When I had to do my court-ordered community service, I got sent to work in the homeless shelter. These people smelled bad! It’s like they didn’t know the first thing about personal hygiene. I was wearing a nice pair of Abercrombie khakis and an Izod shirt and they called me “rich boy”! My Beemer is two years old!

In conclusion, homelessness is a big problem.

If you were a vegetable, which vegetable would you be?

If I were a member of the vegetable kingdom, I would be an artichoke. First, I am unique. I am not like the cookie-cutter cucumbers, all long and cylindrical and boring. I am not one of those oddly formed root vegetables—you know the way sweet potatoes can go all twisted and weird, with fat middles and pointy ends? I am unique, but not weird. I have more substance than the leafy greens, more heft than an herb. No anorexic carrot am I. I am neither miniature, like a brussels sprout, nor overgrown, like a squash. I don’t have the flashiness of eggplant, nor the dirtiness of a potato.

It is true, my edges are sharp. (It’s not easy being green.) On the outside I can be incisive to the point of drawing blood, especially if you rub me the wrong way. I’m not shiny and polished, but rather a bit gruff and gritty. But that tough, sturdy, complex protective covering is there for one reason.

My outer shell is a coat of armor. While some people may find me off-putting and different, when you peel away the many layers and get to know me, you realize that at the core, I am all heart, soft and fuzzy.

I am an artichoke. Not your average vegetable, but one that stands out from the crowded produce shelf.

Please tell us why you want to attend Fancy Pants University.

Fancy Pants University is an excellent school, with excellent teachers and excellent students. Fancy Pants University has a beautiful campus, with nice buildings and big trees and very green grass. The food at Fancy Pants is delicious and nutritious. The sports teams always win and the parties are always fun. Everyone I met while visiting was friendly and welcoming. My tour guide was extremely intelligent and hot. I have wanted to go to Fancy Pants since before I could talk. Everyone I know who went there is really, really smart and got really well educated. I like that the classes are smaller than at State U., and that there is an honor code and a club for left-handed origamists as well as a support group for perfectionists. Plus my parents say I need to be able to get a high-paying job after college, and they think the Fancy Pants name will help. Those are some of the many reasons I really want to attend Different Name University.

Rachel Toor, a former admissions officer at Duke University, is an assistant professor of creative writing at Eastern Washington University. Her most recent book is The Pig and I: How I Learned to Love Men Almost as Much as I Love My Pets (Plume, 2006). She alleges that none of these questions is the real thing.