Tag: AP Language

A Short Essay on Short Essays

A Short Essay on Short Essays

I don’t know why I insist on writing these posts after going to the gym lately, because really it’s just detrimental for my ability to imagine and write coherent posts.

Though perhaps not as much as the insufferable heat wave yesterday.

I’ll count my blessings where I can.

Speaking of that heat killing all of my motivation, it seems I’ve been fluctuating between work-focused and not at all work-focused quite a bit the past few days. After doing next to nothing yesterday, today I actually got my stuff together enough to be productive. Notably with a job application I’ve been working on that is, admittedly, a far-flung idea for me to feel completely justified talking about in-depth.

Doing that job application has gotten me thinking a little bit about one part of this app, and many others for that matter, that feels somewhat strange to me at the moment.

The personal essay.

I don’t typically put a lot of thought into the idea of writing essays. Growing up I put myself through the wringer of the Advanced Placement course pathway in high school, which included AP Language and AP Literature. We had to write a lot of essays in those classes to prepare us for the AP exams, so I was used to the idea.

Essays also continued to be synonymous with college courses. Every undergraduate-level class has some kind of writing requirement and all of my Communications courses are all about writing.

As a result, you would think essay requirements showing up in job applications would just come in stride.

Which, to be fair, they do for the most part. Whenever I’ve applied for the Daily Titan an essay has always been required, for example.

But for some reason the essay that was asked of me in this current job application stuck out as… The worst, most stand-out part of it.

It took me a little while to figure out exactly why. But I think the conclusion I’ve come to says something about me and the way I tend to approach work.

For me essays make a lot more sense in a job application when they ask for some kind of very specific information. Using the Daily Titan application as an example, the essay portion of that involves answering a couple of questions pertaining to the potential job.

What does the paper do well? What does it not do well? What can you bring to the job you’re applying for that would make it better?

Things like that.

Sure it’s arguably formulaic to go down this route, but the sense of direction those questions bring do make for a straight-forward task. Answering the questions, while utilizing them as conduits for inserting stories of one’s experience as a means of showcasing that individual’s abilities.

The application I’ve been working on doesn’t really have any sort of driving questions like this to give potential employees a sense of direction.

As far as premise goes, this application simply asks for an autobiographical essay to tell the hiring staff something that cannot be garnered from the surrounding questions in the application. Given the fact that it already asks for degree-earning information, references and work samples outside of the essay, that leaves a vague opening for what can be written.

That somewhat vague nature exacerbates a potential pitfall in writing the essay. Or at least it does in my head where I’m more than likely over thinking things, but that’s another story.

If you have an essay for a fairly serious job application essentially asking you to write about anything you want outside of your direct work experience, where is the line in terms of being too casual or not casual enough?

Obviously the whole thing can’t just be the tale of how you won X reward or accomplished Y task, but it’s also probably not great form to do something jokey or entirely non-serious since the serious aspects might be in one’s resume off the bat. Looking like you take the job not at all seriously while applying to it seems like a quick way to lose a potential job.

Now all of this is more of a theoretical thought experiment, as the pragmatic side of me has already sorted out the balance of serious-versus-personal qualities to write about. But seeing my personal preference lean so heavily in the direction of a structured, serious or even academic paper versus one that lets me express myself in an open, even goofy way is interesting. Introspective even.

Perhaps all those years of AP classes really did screw me up for the rest of my life, just like I joke about.

This seems like the perfect opportunity to ask an actually interesting question at the end of one of these blog posts. Where do you feel you stand on the spectrum I described here?

Do you prefer if a job (or anything for that matter) asks structured, serious questions of you? Or more open, vague questions?

Let me know somewhere on the internet, I’d love to hear it!

English Papers from the Flip Side

Between going off to meetings in Fullerton and building somewhat mindlessly in Minecraft tonight, I kind of lost track of time and almost forgot to write a thing.

So I’m just going to take the easy way out and riff on something real fast and dirty that I’m finally seeing from a new perspective tonight: High school English essays.

English was probably my favorite subject in high school, which all things being equal makes sense considering the industry I was headed toward by working at the school’s paper for four years.

Don’t listen to young, naive Jason who’s ready to tell you math was my favorite subject in school. Because he’s wrong. Algebra was okay. But the geometry and the trigonometry and the calculus certainly were not.

One out of three classes does not a favorite make, you idiot. Stop lying to yourself.

But hey that’s enough self-reflection and self-flagellation for one night. Obviously that’s not what I’m here to do.

What I’m here to do is talk about English classes, all of which required just a ton of essays every year. Especially AP Language and AP Literature, both boasting the extra requirements of essays specific to the AP tests that were just… A lot of work. Like so much work. Like write three different kinds of essays in the span of an hour after answering 100 multiple choice questions kind of work.

Yet surprisingly enough, I’m not here to relive that nightmare either.

I’m here to talk about the basic weeks-long essays that happened throughout the year in every English class. You know the ones, those essays where one quarter would be focused on persuasive writing, followed by the next quarter focusing on argumentative writing.

I bring up all of this writing because tonight my sister was working on completing final edits for her research paper on how music can effect a person’s perception of restaurants/the meals they eat. Because let’s face it, she’s as one-track-minded about music as I am about video games.

Also just incorporated video games into my post about Aly again. #GotHer

Back in my high school English days, there were many a long night of staying up late with my parents to finish papers. Actual writing, editing for copy, creating work cited pages, and so on.

While I certainly did appreciate their help keeping me from going crazy at the time, I never quite realized how impactful it was to have a couple of good editors around to prevent me from going crazy staring at my own text for too long. My mom has always been the copy editor — now reflected in her career as a book editor (hint hint plug plug) — while my dad has always been the content editor, always good at framing things the right way.

Tonight I got the opportunity to really appreciate the impact of that work when I became both copy and content editor for my sister as my parents were out of the house.

Now you may think my seven years of experience working on newspapers, many of which have been in editorial positions, would have made this a quick-and-easy time.

If so, you too seem to not realize the vast divide that exists between writing short, informational print for newspapers versus writing elegant prose for English essays. Because they are entirely different beasts and switching back to the older style (older in my personal chronology anyway) is kind of a pain.

There were some noticeable benefits to switching back to English prose however, in my opinion.

I got to be more wordy and expand upon thoughts more verbosely, for instance. It has always been a criticism of my work that my papers tend to be too long or wordy, but after many years of focusing on becoming more concise to fit a newspaper format it was a lot easier to take the middle-of-the-road approach.

Not too long, but enough extra space to be able to elaborate on thoughts more readily.

I suppose there really is no good way to end off this short, kind of silly post because Aly has to turn in the essay tomorrow so I can’t resolve the cliffhanger of how well she did on it.

So instead I’ll just say… Thank you mom and dad, for dealing with me when I got so exhausted staring at a paper that you had to do 90 percent of the job by pushing me toward the correct ideas.

Because that’s basically what I had to do tonight, and it was… Interesting seeing things from the other side.



Bonus content:

Enjoy Aly laughing herself into a coma as she seriously loses it trying to edit photos of chef Mario Batali into the powerpoint presentation she needs to accompany her essay.

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