“Bridget” is 17 and a know-it-all. I immediately adore her. She sits down across from me in the coffee shop where she suggested we meet (“They give you unlimited refills,” she says. “And they have a nice bathroom.”). Her mother had originally contacted me to help “Bridget” with her common app college essay and short answers. Her mom was worried that “Bridget” was worried; she wanted her daughter to feel supported by a skillful tutor and essay coach during that intense time known as Senior Fall.
It wasn’t that “Bridget” couldn’t write nor was she at a loss for things to say nor was she disorganized. ”Bridget” was frighteningly “on it” for a high schooler who is the ringleader of her school’s Model UN, a Varsity soccer player who’s been “tapped” by Division 1 schools to come play for them and, as she says, “I sort of like to act.” She was the star of the last play. She’s one of those people whom you immediately say, “She’s going places,” and it doesn’t really matter where the destination is.
”Bridget” is about process, about the journey. “So, read this,” she tells me. I scan her common app and realize that, while the point she eventually makes, is an interesting one — that the world is a diverse place — it isn’t terribly original nor does it have much to do with her…yet. She is resistant to reveal anything truly personal, to talk about her parents’ very long and strung out divorce that has her shuttling from the Upper West Side to Brooklyn, to mention her brother who lives with her father and won’t speak to their mother. In short, “Bridget’s” got some powerful material that she wants to stay away from, yet, it is this material that her common app is missing. She, in her way, is as diverse as anyone else and yet, she stays away from, what she refers to as her, “my boring domestic situation.”
After a few refills of mediocre coffee, after “Bridget” stops texting and checking her email, I ask her to “bear with me” while I ask some “stupid” questions. The answers to those questions became fodder not only for a common app re-write, but for her early decision choice short answers. Her first choice school was not one that had tapped her for sports, but rather one that she wanted to go to for its “good humanities” program. ”Bridget” wants to be a college professor.
In December, after the early decisions were mailed, she texted me, “Brown wants me!”
By Elizabeth England, Writing Coach