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2013 December 27

Third Common App submission

Around 11 p.m. on Dec 27, my son submitted the third of his Common App college applications (Brown), just 70 hours after his second application—and he did take Dec 25th off. The Brown essays were easier than the earlier ones, in part because he could reuse stuff he’d already written, and in part because they asked simple questions with tight word limits.  He did have to write more than many Brown applicants, because he was applying as a prospective computer science major:

Because you have expressed an interest in Chemistry, Computer Science, Geology, Mathematics, or Physics, we would like to know a bit more about you. Respond to the following questions separately, and please remember to include the number corresponding to each question in your uploaded response! (Limit your total response to 500 words.)

1. Many applicants to college are unsure about eventual majors. What factors led you to your interest? What experiences beyond school work have broadened your interest? (Feel free to elaborate on one of your previous responses.)

2. What concept in your anticipated major were you most proud of mastering?

3. Briefly describe the course(s) you have taken relating to your chosen field.

The first question is just a rehash of a question they already asked:

Why are you drawn to the area(s) of study you indicated in our Member Section, earlier in this application? If you are “undecided” or not sure which Brown concentrations match your interests, consider describing more generally the academic topics or modes of thought that engage you currently. (150 word limit)

The duplicate question was a bit tricky for him to answer without repeating himself, especially as his generic Common App essay also talked about his interest in computer science.  The third question could have just been answered “See course descriptions in transcript”, but he expanded that answer to talk about his progress through different programming languages and managed to work in a project that had been too short to include in the transcript.  The second question was the most interesting, but essentially impossible to answer—once you’ve mastered a computer science concept, it seems pretty trivial, not something to be proud of.  He sidestepped that one a bit by listing concepts that he feels he has a firm grasp of that are important to CS, rather than ones he is particularly proud of.  (He did mention his pride at being good enough at Python to teach it when the instructor he is TA for can’t teach the class.)

He now has three days to do three applications (MIT, CMU, Olin), and two more days for one more application (Caltech has a Jan 3rd deadline). Most of Monday, Thursday, and Friday will be taken up with the 3-day workshop with Ailin Conant of Theatre Temóin that WEST is doing on Dec 30, Jan 2, and Jan 3, so he really has only four full days for the four applications. I doubt that he can get all four applications done in time, but I’ll be satisfied if he gets MIT done—any beyond that are lagniappe.

We did notice one more problem with Common App today—if you use their “I” button to italicize anything, it does a terrible job, changing the font size and family, not just putting the text in italics.


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