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It's easy to mount one's high horse and blame the students for this state of affairs. But they didn't create the present culture of consumption. (It was largely my own generation, that of the Sixties, that let the counterculture search for pleasure devolve into a quest for commodities.) And they weren't the ones responsible, when they were six and seven and eight years old, for unplugging the TV set from time to time or for hauling off and kicking a hole through it. It's my generation of parents who sheltered these students, kept them away from the hard knocks of everyday life, making them cautious and overfragile, who demanded that their teachers, from grade school on, flatter them endlessly so that the kids are shocked if their college profs don't reflexively suck up to them.
Drew is a fairly serious and introspective guy, so we don't find much humor in his essay. At the same time, the writing isn't too heavy. The opening description of Drew's closet and the repeated mention of mowing lawns add a little lightness to the writing.
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Amy Jarich, UC Berkeley's Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of Undergraduate Admissions, says students should think of these as "personal statements," rather than essays. "Show us strong numbers, great courses, a good long list of solid extracurricular activities, but tell us how you used these opportunities to achieve what you did in your short 18 years," she says. But don't kill yourself over it. "I've been reading application essays for a long time. Most are in the middle: not great, not awful. Don't try to make this the essay that I remember at the end of year. Just make it the best story you can tell. What we're hoping to find, no matter how well you've done academically, is strength of character, motivation for service to others, and leadership."