tao of the back-door brag

in my most recent writing center conference, i worked with a student on her application for an environmental policy fellowship. no amount of “expertise” can prepare a writer for the gauntlet that is the application essay. when i think of my own experience looking for jobs, fellowships, et. al., i must withhold a list of unsavory expletives. how is one to describe oneself in 1,000 words? expository writing is argument-based; however, in an assignment that demands you sell yourself to a committee, there is no contention or contradiction to flesh out. no text, painting, or lab report provides the juicy evidence with which to make your claim.

my strategy for fellowing application essays is simple: i say unto others as i would want said unto me. the best advice i ever received? BACK-DOOR BRAG! you must make yourself as impressive as you are indispensable to the program. the irony behind shameless self-promotion is that it’s actually a subtle art; your obnoxious braggery must sound like an earnest attempt to convey information: “Renaissance art piqued my interest through my passion in conservation, for which I held an internship at the Met for three years…” blah blah blah whatever.

my relationship with language is one of transparency: i prefer efficient, crisp communication. but every rule has its exception, and the application essay is the caveat par excellance. put your platonic essence, your sublime interior, on the back-burner — be the slick politician, and write whatever sounds good.

together, we can (get jobs).



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