Some students have been asking me if they could get a glimpse of my previous scholarship and application essays. But to be fair to everyone, I’m going to be consistent, and my decision is to not ever post or give out any of my previous essays.
There are two main reasons for this. The first is simply because of possible plagiarism. I’d like to think that most students are not the plagiarizing type, but there are always a few students who get desperate at some point and end up plagiarizing. In addition, people tend to have distorted and different views on what actually constitutes plagiarizing - I have met students who didn’t think copying eight words in a row was plagiarizing. You might not realize it, but if you like something you see, you may subconsciously incorporate similar specific elements in your own essays, and you can imagine the weird trouble this could cause if a lot of students ended up with very similar application or scholarship essays. Overall, I feel it would be much safer for the application process if complete essays weren’t being thrown around the Internet.
However, the main reason why I like to write articles about essay writing as opposed to posting my own is because I believe you learn something much more important this way. I want to teach you my approach to essay writing - that is, how and why I write what I do. The idea here is to get you guys really thinking about the best ways to market yourselves on paper. Posting my essays doesn’t explain why I wrote what I wrote - it just shows you what I wrote. And for students who are still gaining experience in essay writing, it is easy to misinterpret the elements you see in my essay, and I don’t want that happening to you.
If that doesn’t make sense, maybe this example will help. I know the basic rules of chess, but I am not a very good player and know next to nothing about even basic chess strategy. For those who haven’t heard of him, Gary Kasparov is arguably the greatest chess player ever. If I were to watch him play a single chess match and memorize his exact moves, and then tried imitating those moves against a decent opponent, I would probably still lose. This is because Kasparov has specific reasons behind every single move he makes - even something as simple as his opening move might depend on who is opponent is. In order to play as well as Kasparov, I would need to understand why he was making the moves he was, so that I could make the correct moves in my games.
I’m not saying I am the Gary Kasparov of application essay writing, but I’d like to think that I have a pretty good grasp of application essays in general. And in the same way that simply memorizing Kasparov’s moves from a single chess match will not significantly improve my chess game, I don’t believe just giving out copies of my essays will improve your essay writing skills. In addition, in the same way that hearing Kasparov talk or write about chess would be more valuable than watching him play, I’d like to think that reading my articles or watching my videos about the application process is much more valuable than seeing my work.
And to make it clear, I’m not saying that you would not be smart enough to understand the ideas behind my essays or anything like that - it’s a matter of experience. I have been writing application essays for probably 5-6 years now, and have spent quite a lot of time thinking about and discussing them. I have probably spent more time preparing for application essays than most students, and all that preparation has built up a lot of experience. It takes a certain amount of experience to understand applications the way I do, and if you have the experience to understand my essays, then you probably wouldn’t find most of my articles helpful in the first place.
To further that point, recall my article about writing with a purpose, where I talked about a friend who picked up a book with successful medical school admission essays, and tried to imitate some of the elements in those essays. This friend of mine is one of the smartest individuals I know, but he lacked experience in application essays, and at least in my opinion, he wasn’t successfully interpreting the elements he noticed in those published essays.
It is true that posting my essays with commentary explaining the different elements I used would probably be helpful, but then we get back to the whole plagiarism thing, and it just isn’t worth it to me in the end.
So I hope that explains why I don’t post my essays as samples. At the same time, I also hope you understand that you are getting significantly more value from understanding my approach than just seeing it.
The preceding article is cross-posted from MedHopeful.com - a blog with entertainment and advice for budding physicians.
JOSHUA LIU is currently a Biomedical Sciences student at York University. He is the founder of SMARTS: the Youth Science Foundation Canada's national youth science network, which connects over 300 young people and 200 schools today. He also currently sits on Shad International's Board of Directors. Joshua has spoken as a presenter, panelist, and keynote at numerous student conferences. He was named as one of Canada's "Top 20 Under 20" in 2005, and is a recipient of the TD Canada Trust Scholarship for Community Leadership.
For more articles like this one, check out Joshua's blog at MedHopeful.com