Boilerplate: Emily Fishman

After combing through my Google drive, I regret to say that I couldn’t find my original letter of interest for the Minor. Tragic, I know. I promise it was full of boilerplate that would have made for riveting discussion. I did, however, find an application essay for a college that I (surprisingly) got into but didn’t end up attending. It’s so chock full of boilerplate that I can’t even tell what the prompt was. Some noteworthy examples include:

“Words and stories have changed me in ways that I cannot begin to express and they influence everything I do.”

  • This is one of the first sentences of the application essay, so already we’re off to a boilerplate-y start. This feels like it’s saying something important, but actually says nothing. Also, if I couldn’t even “begin to express” how much reading meant to me, why did I spend the next page and a half expressing what reading meant to me? And as far as influencing everything I do, that’s an overreach for sure, and one that this essay doesn’t even make an attempt at proving. This is filler language.

The books changed me in ways I will never be able to quantify.”

  • This one made me laugh. Again, if this concept is unquantifiable, why did I even bother trying to do so in this essay? This statement was trying, I suppose, to convey to the reader that I was forever changed by reading and that stories I had read as a child taught me important values like friendship and courage, but I’m not sure it actually has that effect. I think it just comes off sounding like I didn’t know what to say about how reading influenced me, so I said this instead.

I read books in order to understand the world around me.”

  • To understand what about it exactly, Emily? This is a statement that I think could be really cool if clarified, but for some reason past-me just left it at that. Possibly because of word count restraints, but more likely because I thought this sentence sounded smart and intellectual without really putting any thought into how I could expand upon this point.

“I believe stories have the power to change us, and they’ve certainly changed me.”

  • Again, this is boilerplate in its utter disregard for specificity. I think I was trying to close my essay with a broader theme and a rallying cry behind why I wanted to be an English major, but I don’t think this accomplishes that at all. Also, it’s cheesy as heck. I want to be able to justify this, but I can’t. I’m wondering why the college that received this actually wanted to let me in.

Not sure why the college I applied to let me in on the basis of this essay. It was fun to look at all the ways in which I used boilerplate back then, but I am 100% sure I still use it now. Keep calm and boilerplate on, I guess?

Emily Fishman

Hi! My name is Emily Fishman and I am a senior from Houston, Texas. I'm an English major, and a brand-new Writing minor. I also work for Sweetland as a peer consultant, so needless to say I love writing

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