Feb 10, 2009, 2:28 PM
Post #244 of 329
Re: [Joe A. I.] Statement of Purpose
Here's a question for people applying to Bennington, or who have applied in the past: How did you approach their application essay? The program asks for "a two- or three-page essay discussing your reading life and your engagement with the literature of other writers." What I find odd is that they don't ask you to address the issues that most schools ask you to address: what you want to get out of grad school, what attracts you to their program, etc. Should I talk about this stuff anyway, or simply focus on what the prompt asks me to address (i.e. "my reading life")?
Wow, that's an interesting application essay prompt! I've worked a lot with high school students applying to undergrad schools, and my advice was always to stick with the prompt, and if it asks "why do you want to come here" don't spend a lot of time telling them how terrific their schoool/program is because they already know that and they've heard all the cliches a million times. Find a really specific and personal reason that this school and no other is the right one (even if you have to think of a dozen different specificities for a dozen different schools). Many of my young people were successful in getting their first choice schools/scholarships, an outcome no doubt having nore to with them than with me.
The Bennington prompt ("Discuss your reading life . . . ") reminds me of a story a friend tells about himself as he approached the last round of examinations/interviews before ordination and the conferring of his DMin. He prepared by thinking through all the plans he had for building new congregations, for forging alliances with community organizations, for working on denominational concerns at the local and statewide synodical level. He was going to change, if not the world, at least central Pennsylvania for Christ!!
The first question, about the only question, his review board asked? "How's your prayer life?" They wanted him to describe it, to say how it helped him stay in touch with the divine, how it helped him understand his place in the work he was about to undertake. It threw him, and he sputtered and stammered a good bit.
He was, of course, successful in achieving ordination and getting the degree, but the experience showed him where he was taking some things for granted and not being intentional enough about them, and how to think about all aspects of his preparation for his work.
I've never applied to an MFA program (dropped that idea for the near term in October, might pick it up again for the next round of application season), but I say, give Bennington what it wants.
Markings: Days of Her Life