the UCS announced sweeping changes is the first time in nearly 10 years that they’ve revised these essays but to get to know a little bit about Jay Jay’s a former public school teacher from New York City and was most recently a lawyer he’s since returned to the field where he truly belongs education and let me just tell you those of you who are interested in the pre-med is particularly the simmer summer education camp at Stanford University this guy he is the simmer whisperer he knows how to grease the wheels that get the students into that program anyway please join me in welcoming Jake Shaw hello everyone my name is J and if Y I have never approved the similar whisper and clip. I know where that came from. I’m coming to you from the the coveted number three speaker spot where you might be wondering things like how many more hours of the stuff do we have and I hope this guy isn’t boring I also noticed a lot of students in the audience and I really want to express my profound respect because it is a Saturday and I know how the conversation went you know you went to dad and mom you were like hey there’s this awesome education seminar the center and your dad look at you it was like son that’s my day off and you’re like hey this is my future it’s important then after a few back-and-forth wrong here all right. while you’re here let me talk to you about how the University of California personal statement is changing and that’s the University of California specifically Berkeley and before we go into the details of exactly how the prompts are changing I first want to talk to you generally about how think-tank learning consultants view the essay and we think of it as a form of communication and it’s kind of obvious but it’s really communication between the writers and the readers and the consultants we can really help the writers in this case which would which are you know the students you know shape the message you want to send but it’s also really important to pay attention to what the readers are saying and what they’re looking for and the readers of course are the University of California application leaders and last year some of my think tank learning colleagues went to the community of California councilor conference and they came back with a bunch of points that they got directly from the readers and of course the instructions were they you know the two Nitori prompts that’s the old prompt and we’re going to talk about how it’s no longer you know two questions but they start off with a couple of things they say it is not an essay and I think what they mean by that is you know students think oh the first thing they that they think of when they really hear essay is they think back to what they know which is the English essay about Hamlet or the history test essay about World War two and they’re saying this is not what we want right they want something different and they say this is the students interview with the use da that’s really instructive for for counselors and also the students to figure out what exactly or the reader is looking for and it’s never read alone meaning it’s not just one type of reader that’s going to be senior essay it’s going to need multiple readers. this thing a little bit deeper and that first point is the most important thing and we actually tell our students this all the time it’s all about showing over tell me and what I mean by that is this is an example of Talent a student might start their essay if they’re kind of left alone they might say stuff like I’m a hard worker I have a really good work ethic I’m really passionate about what I do and I know I will succeed at your campus alright that’s Stefan telling the reader what they think about themselves or that’s giving themselves a bunch of labels and a thing about that kind of essay is anyone can write it even if it’s not true right now an example of showing is instead of telling that you’re a leader if you actually shared a story about the time where you were the president of the Asian Students Association and you helped organize this big event 500 people showed up and get a bunch of slackers under Club and you convince them and you inspire them to do their part and this is a way of you showing them with actual details and in there and I think that’s what they really want to see and then the next six points for your information in citizen it’s really tempting to look at these points and read them literally for example the second one grammar spelling mistakes will not hurt a student’s admission yes you’re right do it actually yeah they’re showing myself anyways. yeah what they mean here is and it’s really tempting to say hey it’s okay to have grammar in the states right I can sort of rush through these essays and have a few spelling mistakes too but I don’t really think that’s what they’re saying I think all of these six points are kind of code let me tell you exactly how I interpret this code. the grammar spelling mistakes thing I think it’s their way of saying right this is again this is kind of hard getting back to the interview thing when you’re speaking at an interview to someone and you make a few grammar mistakes they’re not going to hold that against you because they really want to know what the story is what kind of personal and they’re saying that content here is important right it’s not really necessarily the form but of course because they know you have all the time in the world that you wish to devote to this thing they’re gonna expect to see really good kind of perfect grammar and spelling as well and that’s the part where consultants can come in and sort of really help you on that end and I’m kind of going you know all jumping all over the place with us for the first point where the responses are not great and I think this is their way of saying we actually had a thousand thousands of essays to read and we don’t really don’t have the time to do a deep dive into your essays and kind of you know come up with a rubric and give you an a b c d or e they really don’t they do have their kind of way of internally you know sort of assessing them but there’s this is kind of mission we don’t have you know the kind of time maybe they have it private schools third South stories do not guarantee admission top stories and I think this one is a little bit you know I want to make a distinction here I think it’s okay to write about emotional content that’s inspiring and that’s touching but I think what they don’t want to hear is this kind of long story about how my life is. tough right that one time when my grade was a C because we moved and it was really tough for me believe me I thought I’ve had that traffic written for me before. what they want to say is yes please don’t do that kind of thing and not because it isn’t true but because there’s only. much space and that’s not really what they want to hear it’s not really what they’re interested in finding out about you if you want to talk about a tough time they want to hear how you bounce back right not how tough that time was for I and my statements are encouraged and this kind of how many of you have heard that you’re not supposed to say I or my in an essay by your English teacher lots of people write and they kind of tell them to you like it’s a rule but it really isn’t and I’m sorry yes that’s what I was about to say. yeah it depends on the type of the essay but they also kind of water you know you know avoid having you write too much too much of the whole I and Mike thing because it can get to be too much but like our students said right there if this is really a story about you. it’s okay to kind of disregard that ironclad rule we heard in English class and you some eyes and mouths right one response is read by all UC campuses to student applies to this I think a lot of you probably know already you know it’s gotten a lot simpler you send it to one place and all nine campuses get to read the essay if you’re applying for that and lastly students don’t have to entertain us and I think what they mean is of course they do want kind of interesting and entertaining essays but they also know that most of you guys are not professional comedy writers. with the jokes and the risk-taking really really think about it right because there’s some people who try to do a little bit too much on the entertainment side and lose the you know the main point of the essay which is to talk about something important about yourself alright now we’d go into the details this is what the prompt used to look like. feel free to take slides but this is no longer the case problem number one was describe the world you come from and number two is tell us about personal quality or talent the common thing about both of these come out these prompts are they’re very general. in fact when I’m first starting off on a personal statement process with my students and we’re doing brainstorming I actually don’t do a whole lot of reading the prompt very carefully word by word because I really don’t think that’s really that important at the brainstorming stage now as long as we come up with that amazing story that story that’s significant to you and it really tells us how you think and what kind of values you have chances are it’s going to fit into one of these two props right and because we are going to try to talk about a lot of different stories that we’re going to take notes while I’m asking these questions we’re going to have six or seven things worth writing about and it’s going to cover not only these prompts but the four that you you’re about to learn that you are going to have to start writing starting for next year before essays now of course they actually have eight questions I couldn’t really even fit them all on one slide. out of the eight questions they want you to pick four of them and write 350 words maximum for each essay. that’s about 14 100 words total and I think that’s actually a good thing we used to have a thousand words total but 1400 words means you have a little bit more space to explain to the reader who you are and I think again that’s more opportunity for us again you’re going to see a common thread with these questions describe the example of your leadership experience every person has a creative side and what would be your greatest talent or skill again very general questions which by the way I asked my students anyway before I even knew about those problems during the brainstorming session please feel free a couple of seconds if you’d like to snapshot all right and then these are be the next four through questions four through eight and again describe how you’ve taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity the most significant challenge your favorite academic subjects what have you done to make your school your community a better place and what is the one thing that sets you apart. you’re gonna just choose four of these things and again not only me but everyone of our TTL knickknack learning consultants we asked our students all of these questions starting in June all right. now I’ve done a little bit of a lecture style thing for the first ten minutes or. it’s think government you know gotta start to follow my own advice and do a little bit more showing that tell me and I would like to tell you about this one specific student and I’m going to call her Jane it’s not her actual name but we feel like it’s really important for privacy reasons to use a pseudonym and Jane was a pre-med student she was interested in doing pre-med she actually came to us as a 12th grader as a senior and about September October and for that reason a lot of her kind of you know the extracurricular criteria that you heard Leo speak about a lot of it was already set in stone we didn’t have a whole lot of time to change it. kind of you know she was a violinist she was an artist she kind of went to an art studio outside of school she was part of the community service club she was also part of the Asian Students Association and not only was she part of that association she was actually the president. she had a leadership role and she also you know built houses in South America which I’m sure some of you might do and she also volunteered in stretch functions there family was very religious family and you know this was kind of an indication of how strong their faithless and this is actually the extent of our extracurricular activity it’s actually not a very fair profile it’s pretty solid but if we’re kind of thinking about you know covering every stone and thinking about citizen significant projects and thinking about internship and thinking about the fact that Jane wants to be a pre-med student but we don’t really have any hospital experiences here there’s some things that I regret and then something I what I mean by regret is that if we had had the opportunity to meet chain as a 9th grader or a 10th grader we would have been able to do that kind of launch our plan but of course Jane came to us for one reason it’s for health of the personal statement. this is my story of how I helped it our philosophy we actually a lot of us are really excited about this whole process you know out of the one year you know work here this is we start the process in June and it’s one of the most fun parts of our job and the reason why is because one is the opportunity to learn about the students really well we do a lot of one-on-one sessions and you know sometimes you take five six seven sessions to figure out exactly what that perfect topic is and in those sessions I have to share a lot about myself too because if I don’t then why would they want to share right. they get to learn about me too I’ve had this comment a couple times say at the end of the meeting they left as they were leaving they said they just felt like you know they had this therapy session with their shrink. in some ways we get to talk about a lot of these stuff and of course I you know we would we make sure we don’t get into too much of the stuff that’s out of my area of expertise but it’s kind of necessary to really know the student inside out for me to be able to choose and help her choose now what is the perfect topic it’s also my opportunity to teach students how to write and I know a lot of you guys are really good writers already but like our student told us the kind of writing that they’re really good at. far is the English essay is the history essay it’s not really the essay about yourself where you get to use a lot of eyes and minds and. this is my opportunity to speak to you about you know like kind of many bitty things about writing that I’ve learned about how how much space you devote on an essay an idea whether you devote a whole paragraph and a half or just two sentences is an indicator of how important you think that idea is to the reader you know how there’s a rhythm to the way right now sometimes you know being concise way more important than using those gaudy SAT words because it’s all about communication as long as it takes as much work as it takes and that’s the part where I said some of you might have thought whoa that’s a lot but sometimes it takes us four or five sessions to figure out what that golden you know it’s treasure company’s ownership and initiative this is really important for all of us that think tank we want to make sure that after you’ve had these sessions with us the next time you have to write an essay like this maybe it’s for an internship in college maybe it’s for grad school we want to make sure that you feel ready to do it on your own and that you’re not going to look around for some of the hold your hand and. what that means you know they’re going to be several times when I stop myself I feel like I’m doing a little too much helping I’m doing a little too much edit I’m gonna say this is on you right and lastly integrity and ethics there’s always gonna be come a time when we feel like this is very kind of hard line or we’re not gonna cross what we feel like this essay has to have to look like it comes from you because a lot of our readers are very sophisticated they can tell if an essay is to adult like. there’s gonna be a point in the editing process where I just don’t go you know I just don’t go as far as maybe some of the students would like but that but I think that’s in the end of support gosh I promise showing and I did a lot more lecture okay here’s the shoulder part. when Jane came into my office the first time I could tell she was very quiet she was very introverted she her weren’t very measured and whenever I asked her questions I got a lot of one-word answers. Jane what’s your favorite subject max what you like about math I think it’s easy what else do you like you like reading and writing that’s not bad what kind of clubs are you at the Asian Students Association what do you do that I’m the president how do you or how many events have you organized for okay. on and on right. this is something that we see a lot and it can feel intimidating sometimes for consultants that’s me that’s what I need to I’ve got saying that you’re introverted shy aggressive it gives a lot of popular answers. I feel like I kind of know how to talk to change and this is where the questions part comes in and because of my legal training I am kind of unknown in some ways unknowingly good at coming up with these rapid-fire questions Socratic method style questions where I keep asking I keep asking and then what happened and then what happened out of all the words you could have used why did you choose that word as an answer to my question why did you say that and what do you think about that before long Jane is finding yourself giving the along for answers and that’s really important because one it’s kind of a microcosm of how I expect this the essay to be which is one real deep dive into one enriching story it’s not going to be a resume style you know step one step two six you know number five five tonight at number six to have it that kind of writing was boring especially in a 350 word essay.
I want her to get used to doing a deep dive into every topic we explore second were building trust right she has to know that I’m not just asking these questions just to do a job or just because I’m compelled to but that I’m really interested in hearing and I think you know because I really am interested in unions it’s hard for me to think that I really really want to hear a little bit more about why that you give me the answers that you get okay and that documenting the answer is as far as important the student never for me personally I know some of the other consultants have their own style and at all it’s all effective in its own way for me personally I make sure the students take any notes that’s my part and I want the students to feel free to just give me answers and I write it down everything and I hope I make sure we don’t miss anything because even if you don’t use it for se number one we might use it for se number two three four or that supplemental essay later on for by the schools and the whole point of this is do all the brainstorming right now and not have to do anymore that later on you know kind of have our you know kind of collection of ideas right now and then picking the topic all right this is sometimes the hardest part for me but it’s also the most fun. Jane and I had a lot of conversations about the first four sessions and we still haven’t chosen we still haven’t heard a single word I could tell Jane is too polite to kind of tell me this but I think she’s kind of thinking hey what are we gonna get this thing started it’s already October I was seen here you know the applications are deadlines are coming up in a month and a half and I kind of make sure to tell her at this point hey you know what it’s actually okay and this is kind of one of the biggest lessons I can teach all my students the essence of writing is not the writing itself it’s not when you’re typing words it’s all the preparation that comes before it it took me into a college to learn and once I learned it I realized if I spent 12 hours and an essay nine of those hours were spent thinking about what I was gonna write and this is kind of us practicing that. on May 6 j-jane suddenly tells me kind of offhanded she said well that was at one time when I almost died and I said what tell me about that what happened there she said I was it happened when I was really young you know I didn’t know food really fit as I thought was right about what happened in high school I said oh just tell me whatever and she said around the first or second grade she went into the hospital for a little pulse of your routine surgery and it was supposed to be really simple she was supposed to be in and out of the hospital that day and then she got into the anesthesia she kind of felt to sleep in later on she woke up because the anesthesia was wearing off and she remember seeing a lot of blood and she remembers looking up at the doctor and the doctor looks worried which is super scary for a kid on the surgery table and then she looked over and she saw her parents and they were crying they looked worried too before long they realized she was awake. they gave her more anesthesia and at this time of second dr. Stetten thank god this time he passed through and he fixed her up and the next time she woke up there wasn’t any blood and the doctor told Jane hey Jane you’re gonna be okay it was a little touch-and-go there for a second but you’re gonna be fine and she looked over at her mom and she was crying but this time she looked relieved and now my the other part of my legal training started to fire up right lawsuits malpractice damages money and I that’s the first question I asked Jane hey I fed your parents had all kinds of lawyer friends circling around giving them advice say pick me pick me she said yeah that’s what happened and I said okay. your parents to die and she said no he did it and I said why not and this is no shying from a Jane first not gotta look me in the eye but as much confidence as I’ve ever seen her she said oh my mom told me that once we had your back we really didn’t care at all about the other stuff and I kind of had chills and that’s what I realized from that story you know I started to rely a little I know a lot about suddenly all of a sudden I know a lot about the type of person her mom was but all he meant you know what she was dropping off Jane just saying hi I realize this has been you know if you know Asian woman had way more strength that I had ever known no and she had the capacity that forgives things that I probably won’t be able to if I had someone who made the kind of mistake that almost took away who was the most important person in my life I don’t think I would have been able to forget that person but she did and forget it and now I’m starting to do my English major thinking I’m connected to balance right. now I’m thinking this is something we can write about because to me this is the ultimate story of forgiveness if I look I by that I mean this is the at a time of extreme duress Jane at a young age watch their parents essentially decide to forgive the person who’s responsible for a huge mistake and even if she didn’t know at the time if it didn’t sink in at the time to me I could see that Jane was a reflection of her parents and she had gotten the greatest lesson about forgiveness she could have ever received not from lectures not her books and of course now I still get Janice and hey by the way this is what I think what do you think dear me and she said you know what I really don’t ever I’ve never really thought of it that way there’s always kind of something I never thought about but I think you’re kind of right and I asked her hey like whenever people do you wrong whatever people make mistakes and you they have negative they do negative things to you what is your reaction usually and she said I usually just kind of let it go and. that was kind of dementia I realized hey and I kind of knew this instinctively you know Jane was a very forgiving person and she was not an angry person and I bet she got it from her parents that day. we had our topic and now we are gonna go into the writing part.
Jane she writes the first draft after we do a lot of brain slowing an outline she writes the second draft and then here this part is important even if I feel like we had that golden to good idea after a couple of drafts I always huddle together with the student and say we have a great idea you tried to execute it in two words is it working because sometimes great ideas don’t always work at execution and she told me you know what I think it’s working kind of agreed. far we had a really interesting man if she had told me no I we would have started all over and I’m okay with it and I would have met with her two three times that we get the answer but she said yes and I agree with her. we kept right and we revised and executed the ideas we decided we talked about how much of the essay do we want to talk about the blood of the scariness and how much of the SE do we want to talk about the parents we made it kind of a strategic you know apportioning of that and then next i say i after four or five drafts I say Jane you’ve done your part that was my turn this is what I do the editing for grammar and usage and if she had about 800 words for a 500 word essay. I cut it down for the word cat because that’s my job and then even after that we keep revising and then at a certain point we decide it’s ready together now we a think-tank learning we’d sincerely believed this part and we think if we do this part of the process correctly we feel like students and parents will feel really good about the time that we spent with them even if the admissions results sometimes are not exactly as you hoped and I kind of get you know versions of this you know I see my colleagues getting this all the time where students go up to them and they thank them a lot even before the results are alined even when the results are on their first choice isn’t there they come by they bring coffees and because of this it’s that’s why it’s. much fun for us and we start early because we want to do this right we start in June we’re about to start again in a month and a half but I really can’t get I really can’t wait to get started again thank you you