Modifying College Applications — Where’d the Fun and Creativity Go?

I didn’t want to go to Wake Forest University, but I must admit they had the most fun college application to write, and quite frankly it forced me to be as authentic and creative as possible. Most college applications follow a structure. Something like “Why do you want to attend the University of Michigan?” is pretty standard, or perhaps something like “Discuss an organization or community that you’re a part of and how you’ve improved it since becoming involved.” I think essays like these are important, but without any supplementary essays that really challenge the student to think and be creative, you really don’t know what you’re going to get out of the student.


Wake Forest asked some awesome questions:

“Give us your top ten list. Provide a theme.”

I’m sorry — what? Talk about open-ended. It was a trial and error process for me, but I ended up listing my top ten favorite quotes. Hopefully it was creative.


Another one that stood out was, “What outrages you and why?”


This one was tough, but really made me think.


And my favorite: “Given the rise in the power of social media in the last decade, describe your as fully and accurately as possible within the 140-character limit of a Tweet.”


I think more and more selective colleges should start asking for these kinds of questions, developing their own unique questions, too. It makes writing these applications fun, and the truly brightest students will show in their responses, differentiating themselves from all of the other students with top numbers. Furthermore, these kinds of questions reduce ability to rely on a tutor, leveling the playing field for lower SES students who can’t afford expensive college application counselors and tutors.

My career goals include finance (venture capital), non-profit and social enterprise, and then education. I hope to be a teacher or headmaster of a school one day, and I will always remember the importance of a creative application process like that of Wake Forest, UChicago and Tufts. It helps fills the role of interviewing students, which is difficult and takes a lot of time. I would love to see more applications for selective schools take this form down the road, schools such as the University of Michigan.


I didn’t apply to the University of Chicago, but my best friend did, and I found a pretty cool article about some of their crazy questions! Check it out:


“”Have you ever walked through the aisles of a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club and wondered who would buy a jar of mustard a foot and a half tall? We’ve bought it, but it didn’t stop us from wondering about other things, like absurd eating contests, impulse buys, excess, unimagined uses for mustard, storage, preservatives, notions of bigness…and dozens of other ideas both silly and serious. Write an essay somehow inspired by super-huge mustard.”

How would you answer that?!

Who Can You Trust? Probably Me

What if things were different?

I can’t help but think how different my portfolio would have been had I chosen to focus it on water sustainability instead of mental health, thoughts and emotions. We would have seen major differences in portfolio voice/tone and display/composition. Currently, my portfolio has a simplistic, adventurous and elegant composition. I also have presented a couple additional works about California, water and drought. But what if water was instead the primary theme or essence of my portfolio?

Initially I had planned to repurpose my commentary about the California Water Crisis (Presented at the very bottom of my portfolio). I wanted to extend it, add more of a story to it, and give it life beyond a 500-600 word count limit. First of all, I don’t think it would have been as fun or compelling to write (or read, for that matter). I think I would have just sounded like another sustainability hippie, blogging concerns online. In that sense, it would have been inauthentic — although I enjoyed researching and writing about water and drought as a topic, it’s not something I’m super passionate or concerned about like mental health, for example. But also, the portfolio would be a little brighter — different colors, photos and a focus on water. Personally, not as interesting. I’m glad things played out the way they did, and I was still able to incorporate some of the water pieces on my portfolio at the end.

You can trust me.

I trust my why I write assessment, but a huge part of that was thanks to the feedback I received from Casey, Ethan and Ray. I started out with a specific structure in my first draft, but I didn’t dig into it because I wanted feedback first. Then I got some direction and recommendation to include deep and specific anecdotes, so that’s exactly what I did. I’d say initially I wouldn’t have trusted my assessment of my why I write from the beginning, but now I’ve got my head on straight. I trusted myself more in the writing the second draft, and I’m ready to add just a little bit more and finish my final draft up. My trust in my assessment is a major testament to the collaborative aspect of this class. Couldn’t have gotten here without some insight.

Portfolio Analysis: Hudson Ling

Ranking (Strongest –> Weakest)

  1. Voice
  2. Composition / Environment
  3. Prose
  4. Idea/Concept 

After looking through some previous Gateway Portfolios, I’ve learned the importance of having an easily-navigable site with a composition that does not deter or confuse the reader. I’m really trying to hone in on making a simple website in order to achieve this. My portfolio’s all about my voice. It’s important for me to maintain a consistent/thematic relationship between all three major works, implementing the theme from these pieces into my introduction and process notes. Following this pattern results in a portfolio that blends works together, operating in a complementary way. I believe the prose is strong, but I’m constantly looking to see if my idea/concept of my site is intriguing. It’s a work in process, but I’m really starting to pick up the intensity for these past few weeks. As far as anxieties go (which is funny because my repurposing is entirely about a journey of anxiety lol) — I just want to make sure the portfolio flows well. I’m taking a different approach by having a sliding website rather than a “click to teleport” more typical type of portfolio. It’s a risk I’m willing to take because it will likely encourage the reader to look at each piece in order, which is essential to the relationship between my Repurposing / Remediation.

Would love to hear any and all thoughts on how I can keep a steady flow / theme, but I think the exercise in Tuesday’s class really opened my eyes to its importance.

Hudson Ling: Reflection on Clare Croft Writer-to-Writer Event

Last Tuesday, I attended the Sweetland Writer-t0-Writer live podcast at Literati Bookstore. It was really cool to see former classmates and friends Clare Croft and Sweetland professor Shelley Manis talk about the writing process. Although I don’t have any previous knowledge or experience about American dance, I really enjoyed the way her work ties into cultural policy, feminist and queer theory and critical race theory because I am currently studying language, art and discrimination in my linguistics class, LING 370. I enjoyed seeing what I’ve learned in that class come to life in Croft’s work.

While I enjoyed listening to excerpts from Croft’s recently published work, I most enjoyed the question & answer segment of the event: Everything from hearing that least favorite words were “Problematize,” to getting some advice on how to be a better writer.

It’s great to hear these things from someone who is not only an esteemed writer but also a teacher at the University of Michigan. But what inspired me most is that she combined the two things she loved the most growing up: Dance and Writing. In light of this, I look to find the connection between writing and another activity that excites me most, hoping to combine the two at one point.

I love getting new perspectives on the writing process. Everyone’s process is unique, and specifically with Clare’s process, I took away the importance of meshing two passions together to bring out our strongest writing.

Mixed Feelings & Exploring my Behavior as a Writer (Combined Post)

I have mixed feelings about a reading a story that ends too soon. Sometimes it makes sense to leave the reader questioning (such as the end of Great Gatsby — in these situations it works). However, sometimes I just want to see more. The example that comes to mind is Jeffery Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides. It’s a crazy, eventful, emotional whirlwind of a book, but after the unfortunate and mysterious events in the end, I would have liked to see how the city reacted further on. (Appropriately, the city is Grosse Point, MI approximately 30 minutes away from here).


What do my observations and mixed feelings tell me about myself as a writer?

When I read, I look for completeness. In the case of The Virgin Suicides, I think it just leaves me feeling sad rather than curious.


So therefore when I write, I emphasize the cumulative, complete process. An inspiring and intriguing beginning and middle don’t matter if the end doesn’t leave an everlasting effect on my reader. In other words, I want to leave my reader perfectly balanced between curious and ready for an ending. It’s tough to balance, and it seems like a small and meticulous detail — but it’s important! After all, the end chance I have to have my reader remember me! My behavior as a writer implies emphasis on the value of leaving an everlasting effect.

Why I Write Analysis

After reading a few “Why I Write” essays, I stumbled upon a short yet emotional Voices of Youth blog post written by an Indonesian student named Niken Afifah.

I particularly enjoyed this piece for its simplicity and vigorous injection of pathos: “I write because it is the cheapest and safest way to express myself: my sadness, my anger, my hatred, as well as my secret wishes, my dreams.” Afifah’s alluding to the importance of writing to express mental health connects with me most personally. It really makes me think about why I write. Specifically, it makes me think about what brings my voice out the most in my writing.

Niken also brings up an interesting point about growth and development: “I write because I can reread those words a few hours later, nine days later, nine weeks later, nine months later, or nine years later, and feel differently each time.” He can see the progress not only in his writing but also in his mental health, mindset, and quality of life. What he has written about in the past reminds him of struggle and perseverance so that he can cherish and value where he is now even more.

After reading Niken’s post, I looked through the Minor in Writing Blog for previous Gateway students’ portfolios. I came across my friend Emily Kuchman’s portfolio and really enjoyed her Why I Write essay. Specifically, I loved its structure, which I think could have strengthened Niken’s post even more. Emily’s piece is fun to read. You can hear a sincere and passionate voice. It’s funny, authentic and detailed — I strive for an approach just like this.

Emily shares that it all began with being an avid reader. It makes me think about what it was that really made me want to write at a young age. Reading? Constant thoughts running across my mind? I look forward to exploring this in an essay of my own.

While I enjoyed reading Didion’s and Orwell’s insights, I picked up and connected with key thoughts from international students like Niken and MiW students like Emily.


Ross School of Boilerplate

Ew. When I read a few sentences of my “Why Ross” BBA application essay, I find it surprising that they accepted me! Let’s take a look:

“Ross’ innovative environment will provide a foundation to enhance my interest in finance and marketing…”

Excuse me, what? That is probably the vaguest sentence I have ever written. Honestly shows how little I know about finance, marketing, and business as a whole. Yikes.


” The Ross BBA will professionalize my passion for positive business and social entrepreneurship.”

Honestly I think any sentence with the word “passion” in it is BS. A better alternative would have been to name a program or class that would complement something specific that I’ve done in the past. For example, I could have specified by saying, “I look forward to taking ES 212: Entrepreneurial Basics, which will teach me entrepreneurship technicals such as viral coefficients so that I can enhance my experience working at JONEZIE this summer.”

Boiler plate isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but too much of it certainly may be. Especially when you’re trying to get your point across in 500 words, it’s difficult to limit. However, now that we’ve spent class time talking about it, I feel naturally more cautious and able to present specific, more focused writing.




Remediation: Hudson

My repurposed paper explores a “boyhood” story of facing anxiety, religious moral code, and virginity from a third-person, transitioning into a first person narrative. As I still look for ways to improve my Repurposed assignment, it’s difficult to pick for certain a new medium for my assignment.

The concept that first strikes me is “Adaptation.” I feel like this could be translated into the medium form of a poem or haiku, emphasizing visual imagery to capture emotion.

Another idea that came to mind would be “Inspiration.” Specifically, I’d want to translate my paper into a cartoon, illustrating emotion and the storyline.

Nothing’s set in stone until I really have a good feeling of the Repurposed final draft, but I like either of these ideas for now, especially the poem because it demands pensive thought for the reader. It also forces me to cut any unnecessary context to make the reader put pieces together.

Let me know what you guys think! Love seeing all of your ideas, too.




Repurposing: Hudson Ling

What’s up everyone!

I’m currently wavering between two papers that I’d like to repurpose. The first paper is a Political Science 101 Commentary Assignment, about 650 words that also includes a political cartoon that I drew as a supplement to the paper. I wrote this commentary about an important environmental issue that affects my family and friends at home: the California Water Crisis. I write specifically about the variance in awareness and action for the water crisis across California. Some areas clearly suffer and show awareness to the cause, while other communities (including mine) flaunt water as if there were no issue at all! It’s a paper about irony but I just think I could make it better! Better language, stronger imagery to show what I see on a daily basis at home, and more powerful evidence to want to make Californians wake up and make a change! I’d even consider enhancing the cartoon drawing, and formatting the entire thing to look like a professional, appealing commentary for a major news network or paper. There is also so much updated information (one year later) that I could use to strengthen the paper, or I could add onto it as if I gave it a break and came back to it one year later to compare/contrast (A similar approach that the the movie “Boyhood” used to tell a story over time).


The other paper I’m considering repurposing is a little more personal — it’s a story about how I have moved away from strict religious codes in order to grow as an individual, develop my own views, and define my faith. It’s specifically about losing my virginity (without racy details or anything like that, don’t worry!) and what impact or prior worries that virginity brings up in terms of my faith and devotion to moral “laws” that my Christian elementary school tried to ingrain into my head. I wrote this “Enriched Narrative” for my LHSP 125 class with Ray last year, coincidentally. While I think it was a good paper that scored well, after a full year of college since completing the class, I think I am ready to delve deeply into the essay to make it feel more like a novel, drawing the reader in and making the reader worry about my changes in faith, beliefs, etc. This paper needs to be less cheesy/corny — straight up. It offers some pretty cool biblical analogies too, but needs expansion in some areas and cuts in others.


Let me know what you guys think! Both papers are special to me personally, but they offer two very different types of writing.

Happy Wednesday,