optional personal statement
As the years have passed and my courses have changed, I’ve had to set aside some assignments I was quite fond of in the interest of time. One of them was an old blog assignment – not coincidentally, also once worth 20 points – called Inquiring Minds Want to Know. It went like this:
I’d like you to look over one of the optional personal statement prompts that Tufts University once assigned its applicants for admission. It reads as follows: A high school curriculum does not always afford much intellectual freedom. Describe one of your unsatisfied intellectual passions. How might you apply this interest to serve the common good and make a difference in society?
The first thing to consider with any prompt: Why is this being asked, particularly in this way? Well, Tufts was kind enough to answer! They said that this prompt’s goal is to elicit responses that can show whether the writer possesses wisdom.
Now, the school does not advertise that the prompt pertains to wisdom, nor do they provide their definition of the concept. Tufts defines wisdom somewhat differently than we have in our course. According to them, someone is wise when they “can assess an idea for service to the common good.”
Looking at the prompt again, you can see how tricky this can be. The important phrase (“serve the common good”) is right there, hiding in plain view near the end. Yet the temptation, of course, is to immediately start writing a response to “Describe one of your unsatisfied intellectual passions” – something that may require a good deal of thought and earnest effort on your part, but that ultimately doesn’t help them in their quest to admit the best “fits” for their school.
Fortunately, you now know what the prompt is asking, and what the writers hope you’ll demonstrate. That’s also what I’m asking you to do: to not simply describe a passion of yours that you didn’t get to study closely enough in school, but to explain why you need to study it – what effect your studies would have on your future endeavors.
You probably don’t all have the same unsatisfied interests, and others might be surprised by what qualifies! (My high school, for example, never offered Environmental Science, a class I would’ve loved. And I passed up the chance to study economics, religion, and philosophy in college while focusing on literature instead.) No matter what you choose, I’m interested in why you choose it, and what you would do with the chance to study it.
Your response can follow the format of your usual blogs, rather than the super-sized ones we did in May: a minimum of three seven-sentence paragraphs, or some equivalent structure. And a written response is all you need; you won’t have to perform this in front of your peers.
If you choose to do this assignment as a make-up for the Stand and Deliver piece, please share the Google Doc with me once it’s finished. Let’s make the deadline Tuesday, June 14th at 11:59pm. Your score for it will go in the Stand and Deliver column, thus eliminating that particular pesky zero.
Please understand that this is not required! However, it’s the best means I can devise for you to get a shot at the same make-up opportunities that your classmates get for the other assignments in class.
Whether you choose to complete this assignment or not, thanks for being my student this year, and I’ll see you all on the other side of the weekend! (Or at Baccalaureate.)
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