The failure narrative is a common motif in college essay prompts, and it is one that you need to be mindful of as you go about your high school lives making all types of beautiful mistakes along the way. During admissions season, I always send the New York Times article "What if the secret to success is failure?" to seniors brainstorming their essay topics. It is a must-read for anyone struggling with that part of the admissions application.
In the failure narrative, you are asked to tell about a time that didn't go as planned and tell what you learned about that experience, particularly how it changed your life moving forward. Each and every year we know it is coming, and each and every year students are stumped and frustrated about their response to this particular question. Just in case you're thinking it, this is not the time to write about sports. Yes, we athletes have experienced a great deal of adversity in our respective arenas. Yes, we are passionate about those things that we do, but this is not the time to write about them. (So, start thinking about alternatives early on!)
I get it. No one likes to talk about a time they were bad at something or made a huge mistake, whether or not you experienced growth as a consequence. That is why I love this article. It helps us connect the idea of "failure" to success, as an inextricable first step. Read it, especially if you're in a writer's rut on that particular essay prompt. I promise it will help you understand the "why" behind the question and help you demonstrate how an unplanned event led to your cultivation of a growth mindset, which is exactly what college admissions personnel are looking for.
I love this article from last summer published by the New York Times. So many times I have had to deliver the devastating news about the "hook" in an applicant's admissions essay... the rhetorical question must go. I absolutely hate being the "bad guy." That is precisely why I love an article that backs me up on the idea that, with so few words you are allowed to include, make sure they are your own. This is (of course) not an absolute, but avoid spending precious time looking for great quotes or postulating cliché questions in your first line of your essays. Keep the admissions committee interested in the important thing... YOU!
You will never regret creating time and space for yourself or your child to work productively and uninterrupted.
During my doctoral program, I was told that when it comes to working hard in academia (and in life), "It's not the brain in the head; it's the butt in the chair." It seems crass, I know. And it is not my intention to belittle anyone's work at the doctoral level. However, at some point, it all comes down to actually doing the work. (It makes perfect sense if you think about it!)
During my (aforementioned) doctoral program, I had a LONG home stretch. As a long-time educator, I had given advice to countless parents of homework-laden middle schoolers. The importance of creating routines for time and space to work each and every day was a universal conversation with most of my students. Thinking I might benefit from following the same (sage) advice, I ran off to IKEA during a fit of writer's block and bought myself a tiny desk. Then, I went to Homegoods and bought a cozy chair. (I also stopped by Target and got a new candle, pen, and pack of Post-its, to further prolong the inevitable.) Armed with my new office, I headed home, plopped my butt in that chair, and cleared my schedule for several days.
The rest is history.
While I don't recommend a shopping spree to overcome writer's block, homework angst, and the stress of work deadlines, I do think we all need a little workspace in our lives.