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Common Application essay on Air miles/ flight bookings!

Common Application essay on Air miles/ flight bookings!

Old Jul 31, 18, 1:05 pm
  #1  
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Common Application essay on Air miles/ flight bookings!

Hi all,

Probably aimed more at the US members of the FT forum. Was wondering what everyone's opinion was on writing a common app essay (to apply for top US schools: some Ivy's, some smaller liberal arts colleges) on my love of air-miles, flight bookings, booking deliberately complex itineraries, planned tier point runs for my dad on his business trips etc.

I know it may sound stupid/ irrelevant, but I from what I've heard, and those that I've talked to, admissions officers look for extravagant and memorable essays rather than those on cliched topics which most fall suspect to.

The difficulty I'm having is finding a particular relevance of my enjoyment in flights, air-miles etc to how I have 'grown' or changed as a person, and how this change has reflcted in my everyday life, and how it will help me going forward.

Any help, insights, and opinions are much appreciated!

Regards,
xjk1
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Old Aug 1, 18, 5:14 pm
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Originally Posted by xjk1 View Post
The difficulty I'm having is finding a particular relevance of my enjoyment in flights, air-miles etc to how I have 'grown' or changed as a person, and how this change has reflcted in my everyday life, and how it will help me going forward.
I think you have your answer right here - it hasn't helped you develop as a person.

For a young adult, I feel like you also run the risk of sounding a tad elitist. While that may be all-too-appropriate for certain institutions, it would not be for the vast majority of them. I would choose a different topic.
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Old Aug 1, 18, 5:16 pm
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You would be better off posting this in the forums at College Confidential.

IMO FF miles, mileage runs, etc might do better in a Favorite Extracurricular short answer if that still exists.


edited to add: It might work if it is a small part of an essay about how you like to dive deeply into a subject and research things. So.. Dad was trying to get a handle on his FF miles for business, you had some time and .....
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Old Aug 2, 18, 12:28 am
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Do you foresee an Ivy admissions officer reading about a person who like to book airline flights and earn miles saying "oooh, those sounds just like the traits of future leaders that we need to have in our school"?

I've recently been through the college admissions process with my daughter and have read way to many books/articles on successful essays. Essays can be "memorable" for various reasons. Some of those reasons can be helpful in the admissions process. Some are definitely not. Being memorable for having no "particular relevance " is in the not category.
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Old Aug 2, 18, 2:38 am
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Originally Posted by CPRich View Post
Do you foresee an Ivy admissions officer reading about a person who like to book airline flights and earn miles saying "oooh, those sounds just like the traits of future leaders that we need to have in our school"?

I've recently been through the college admissions process with my daughter and have read way to many books/articles on successful essays. Essays can be "memorable" for various reasons. Some of those reasons can be helpful in the admissions process. Some are definitely not. Being memorable for having no "particular relevance " is in the not category.
Haha, yes that is what I was thinking as well, just wanted to hear if people thought it was a good idea. Thank you and I hope the admissions process went well for your daughter!


Originally Posted by mules View Post
You would be better off posting this in the forums at College Confidential.

IMO FF miles, mileage runs, etc might do better in a Favorite Extracurricular short answer if that still exists.


edited to add: It might work if it is a small part of an essay about how you like to dive deeply into a subject and research things. So.. Dad was trying to get a handle on his FF miles for business, you had some time and .....
I may take your advice and put this on College Confidential, but then like you mentioned, ask what people's opinions are on it being in an Extracurriculars section, or a small part of an essay. Just to ask though, aren't essays supposed to be focused on one small event or thing, and then related to a deeper theme/ what this event or thing taught you?

Thanks for your insights though, very useful!


Originally Posted by eastindywalrus View Post
I think you have your answer right here - it hasn't helped you develop as a person.

For a young adult, I feel like you also run the risk of sounding a tad elitist. While that may be all-too-appropriate for certain institutions, it would not be for the vast majority of them. I would choose a different topic.
Yes, both of these were things I was worried about. I have since posting found a fewer deeper themes I could relate this too, but am questioning the relevance of them. As to your second point, I am applying to some of these 'elitist' or at least commonly titled so institutions, but am aware that these are tags/ types of students they are trying to remove from their student body, not take in! In truth, the reason I became involved with aviation, flights, air miles, was because our family has always been quite international and travelled a lot rather than having a typical "grow up in a family home, dad works 9 to 5" etc etc, not being 'elite' or anything.

But really useful, thank you a lot.
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Old Aug 2, 18, 2:55 am
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Having an international background and perspective should be viewed positively by college admission committees.
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Old Aug 2, 18, 5:26 am
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
Having an international background and perspective should be viewed positively by college admission committees.
Except that some international backgrounds are encountering pretty severe discrimination at some elite institutions.
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Old Aug 2, 18, 5:55 am
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Originally Posted by xjk1 View Post
Hi all,

Probably aimed more at the US members of the FT forum. Was wondering what everyone's opinion was on writing a common app essay (to apply for top US schools: some Ivy's, some smaller liberal arts colleges) on my love of air-miles, flight bookings, booking deliberately complex itineraries, planned tier point runs for my dad on his business trips etc.

I know it may sound stupid/ irrelevant, but I from what I've heard, and those that I've talked to, admissions officers look for extravagant and memorable essays rather than those on cliched topics which most fall suspect to.

The difficulty I'm having is finding a particular relevance of my enjoyment in flights, air-miles etc to how I have 'grown' or changed as a person, and how this change has reflcted in my everyday life, and how it will help me going forward.

Any help, insights, and opinions are much appreciated!

Regards,
xjk1
It's not about what interesting thing you do, its about how you frame it to prove to the school that you are a good candidate for admission. So, if this is who you are, and you feel that this emphasis on travel makes you a better candidate, do it. But, the key is to not focus on the details, but on how those activities have honed your critical thinking, collaboration, and diligence skills necessary for college.

Its not about entertaining the reader. Its about convincing the reader that these activities have helped you develop the skills that you will use in college. As you know, the meat of a college application is your ACT/SAT scores. Then your level of intensity in High School. Did you work? Did you participate in sports or leadership in school activities? If you spent your spare time doing miles and travel, the key is then to convince the reader that your miles/travel hobby was as important as a job/sports/leadership in school activity. So, again, its not about where you went, or how you got there, but what skills you used to do that and how that will impart on their organization.

Good luck with your applications. But remember, its not about entertaining the reader. Its about telling a story about yourself that convinces the reader that you are a correct fit for the school.

Finally, I tell my students to not focus on one geographic area for applications. If you live in New York, then apply to 'ivy league type' schools in other geographic areas like the Midwest, South, or West. A lot of schools want a national presence, so they will try to accept applicants from diverse geographic areas (like a southern ivy accepting more applicants from NY or Chicago, etc).

And, you should easily be able to show how travel has developed you as a person. How miles and bookings have shown problem solving skills and independence and self reliance.

Its all in the details, good luck!
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Old Aug 2, 18, 8:40 am
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To be honest, writing a essay how to maximize on benefits would be kind of a turn down for me if I had to read it. I probably would think: If I on-board this guy, how long will it take before he exploits the loopholes in my system or at least maximizes every single benefit we offer?

Since we are known to bw a travel heavily company, I often have people trying impress me in the interview how well traveled they are and how they maximize on points/miles. I like the people which just accept corporate travel as part of the job and keep quiet about the added benefits, I hate those who brag about status, international F award redemptions and "we once stayed for free in a Waldfor Astoria". Cheap and cheesy. If you do that with friends and family, ok. But on a professional level? Don't. And I count a "ivy league" school application to the "professional level".
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Old Aug 2, 18, 9:40 am
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
Having an international background and perspective should be viewed positively by college admission committees.
Thanks @MSPeconomist, I hope so!!

Originally Posted by EricH View Post
Except that some international backgrounds are encountering pretty severe discrimination at some elite institutions.
I hope I don't fall suspect, @EricH !

Originally Posted by bitterproffit View Post
It's not about what interesting thing you do, its about how you frame it to prove to the school that you are a good candidate for admission. So, if this is who you are, and you feel that this emphasis on travel makes you a better candidate, do it. But, the key is to not focus on the details, but on how those activities have honed your critical thinking, collaboration, and diligence skills necessary for college.

Its not about entertaining the reader. Its about convincing the reader that these activities have helped you develop the skills that you will use in college. As you know, the meat of a college application is your ACT/SAT scores. Then your level of intensity in High School. Did you work? Did you participate in sports or leadership in school activities? If you spent your spare time doing miles and travel, the key is then to convince the reader that your miles/travel hobby was as important as a job/sports/leadership in school activity. So, again, its not about where you went, or how you got there, but what skills you used to do that and how that will impart on their organization.

Good luck with your applications. But remember, its not about entertaining the reader. Its about telling a story about yourself that convinces the reader that you are a correct fit for the school.

Finally, I tell my students to not focus on one geographic area for applications. If you live in New York, then apply to 'ivy league type' schools in other geographic areas like the Midwest, South, or West. A lot of schools want a national presence, so they will try to accept applicants from diverse geographic areas (like a southern ivy accepting more applicants from NY or Chicago, etc).

And, you should easily be able to show how travel has developed you as a person. How miles and bookings have shown problem solving skills and independence and self reliance.

Its all in the details, good luck!
Thank you, @bitterprofit. I have the grades, the ACTs, some sport, some leadership positions, some supra-curricular involvement. My enjoyment of aviation, bookings, air miles etc is not trying to substitute but rather to complement, and the reason I want to share it is that I felt it was unique and different to what other applicants may write about/ have interests in. If I do choose to write this essay, I will definitely follow your guidance and not make this a fun-to-read, tell-someone-about-my-miles story, and focus on the relevance of it, and how it helps me fit into the school. Thanks a lot.


Originally Posted by fassy View Post
To be honest, writing a essay how to maximize on benefits would be kind of a turn down for me if I had to read it. I probably would think: If I on-board this guy, how long will it take before he exploits the loopholes in my system or at least maximizes every single benefit we offer?

Since we are known to bw a travel heavily company, I often have people trying impress me in the interview how well traveled they are and how they maximize on points/miles. I like the people which just accept corporate travel as part of the job and keep quiet about the added benefits, I hate those who brag about status, international F award redemptions and "we once stayed for free in a Waldfor Astoria". Cheap and cheesy. If you do that with friends and family, ok. But on a professional level? Don't. And I count a "ivy league" school application to the "professional level".
Well, I hope that certain schools would perceive it as analytic thinking, ability to take advantage of what is on offer, and a intresting and quirky passion/ hobby/ intrest as opposed to what you mentioned! But yes, I do see your point. Thank you.
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Old Aug 2, 18, 10:19 am
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bitterproffit had lots of good advice, especially about having geographic diversity in your search.

The only other comment I would offer is to demonstrate intellectual curiosity.
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Old Aug 2, 18, 11:31 am
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If you used the miles to do volunteer work, explore new cultures, etc. that could be a viable angle. Using the miles is not important - what happened because of them may well be.

Also, consider applying outside of the US. There are some fantastic school in Canada, Netherlands, UK, etc. that compare well with the top schools in the US and are often a fraction of the cost. It will also create an easier pathway to an MA program at an Ivy.
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Old Aug 2, 18, 11:37 am
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I used to work closely with an admissions office. I can outline their policy so you can see how they used the application essay in case that's helpful.

Of course, different admissions offices probably have different workflows, policies, and procedures. But this is how our admissions officers did it - and in most cases, a student's essay didn't even get read.

They would forecast their desired freshman class size. This was based on classroom & faculty capacity, housing capacity, and budgetary concerns with an aim to get the student body to the desired size based on estimates on how many students would take a leave, come back from leave, graduate or just drift away. Once they had a target number they would set GPA targets with one level being an auto-admit, one an auto-decline, one being a decline-but-hold, one being a wait list, and the middle range between wait list and auto-admit being the ones they would look at closely. The GPA targets were estimates based on past applications.

Auto-decline meant that the student's academic profile indicated a low chance of success at the institution. They were immediately rejected. Decline and hold was probably a low chance of success, but hold on and don't send the rejection letter until later in the season, in case they needed to tweak their admissions policies to get the desired incoming class size. If they did, they'd move the better of these to the wait list group and if not they'd reject them. Wait list was there to have a pool to draw from in case the incoming class size would otherwise be too small. The student got immediate feedback instead of the school waiting a few weeks to see what was happening with application numbers; they'd get a latter saying you're on the wait list and if you decide to go elsewhere, please let us know so we can withdraw your app. Otherwise we'll be in touch later. If they needed people to get their class size, they would admit from the wait list . Auto-admits were a high enough GPA that there was a very strong likelihood the student would be successful based on their academic profile.

The remaining group is the one who's essays got read. Well, them and the wait list if they needed more people. The main thing the essay was used for was to look for a reason to immediately admit or reject you. There's a lot of applications to go through each semester, so counselors would try and get through them quickly if at all possible. So for this school at least, the essay was only read for some students, and then not really closely. So for example if you had a bad semester that dragged down your GPA and there were some hardships that were responsible the essay would be a great place to write about that, to explain whatever went wrong. That would give the admissions officer a reason to say "Ok, that semester was out of character, there was a reason, we can let them in". If you did something stupid it's probably best to own up to it and write about how it was a learning experience. There was one where the student explained that he had failed the second half of his junior year because he kept getting suspended for beating people up. His essay was all about how the school had been too harsh on him, and how it was necessary for him to beat people up because of how they spoke to his little brother. So failing and having to re-take a few classes wasn't his fault. He was not accepted. Going around assaulting people is never good, but it would have been much better if he had, instead, focused on how he had grown since then and regretted his actions.

That was a medium sized (8500 undergrad student body) school. I have a friend in admissions at a large division I university. I can see if I can get some info for him as to how the two different places are run, in case that offers some insight.

I know I didn't directly answer your question, but I hope that was at least helpful in some way. I guess, basically, if the school is a safety school, don't worry about it. If it's a reach school, let them know why they should pick you over the other guy, or why you're admissible even though your GPA might say otherwise. I know that's tough, since the Common App asks for one essay that goes to all schools and it's difficult to write one essay that's all things to all schools.
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Old Aug 3, 18, 11:36 am
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Originally Posted by mules View Post
bitterproffit had lots of good advice, especially about having geographic diversity in your search.

The only other comment I would offer is to demonstrate intellectual curiosity.
Yes, thank you, the grades, intellectual curiosity, going beyond syllabus is all there with me. Extracurriculars are okay, and I'm really just looking for a standout or different thing about myself to outline. Thanks,


Originally Posted by erik123 View Post
If you used the miles to do volunteer work, explore new cultures, etc. that could be a viable angle. Using the miles is not important - what happened because of them may well be.

Also, consider applying outside of the US. There are some fantastic school in Canada, Netherlands, UK, etc. that compare well with the top schools in the US and are often a fraction of the cost. It will also create an easier pathway to an MA program at an Ivy.
Unfortunately, I did not. The voulenteer work I have done has been local. And also, apologies, probably should have outlined this before: I am myself an international applicant to the US (I reside in the UK), and I am indeed looking there, and potentaily Canada too, although the US does have a certain lure and appeal... Thank you.

Originally Posted by smc333 View Post
I used to work closely with an admissions office. I can outline their policy so you can see how they used the application essay in case that's helpful.

Of course, different admissions offices probably have different workflows, policies, and procedures. But this is how our admissions officers did it - and in most cases, a student's essay didn't even get read.

They would forecast their desired freshman class size. This was based on classroom & faculty capacity, housing capacity, and budgetary concerns with an aim to get the student body to the desired size based on estimates on how many students would take a leave, come back from leave, graduate or just drift away. Once they had a target number they would set GPA targets with one level being an auto-admit, one an auto-decline, one being a decline-but-hold, one being a wait list, and the middle range between wait list and auto-admit being the ones they would look at closely. The GPA targets were estimates based on past applications.

Auto-decline meant that the student's academic profile indicated a low chance of success at the institution. They were immediately rejected. Decline and hold was probably a low chance of success, but hold on and don't send the rejection letter until later in the season, in case they needed to tweak their admissions policies to get the desired incoming class size. If they did, they'd move the better of these to the wait list group and if not they'd reject them. Wait list was there to have a pool to draw from in case the incoming class size would otherwise be too small. The student got immediate feedback instead of the school waiting a few weeks to see what was happening with application numbers; they'd get a latter saying you're on the wait list and if you decide to go elsewhere, please let us know so we can withdraw your app. Otherwise we'll be in touch later. If they needed people to get their class size, they would admit from the wait list . Auto-admits were a high enough GPA that there was a very strong likelihood the student would be successful based on their academic profile.

The remaining group is the one who's essays got read. Well, them and the wait list if they needed more people. The main thing the essay was used for was to look for a reason to immediately admit or reject you. There's a lot of applications to go through each semester, so counselors would try and get through them quickly if at all possible. So for this school at least, the essay was only read for some students, and then not really closely. So for example if you had a bad semester that dragged down your GPA and there were some hardships that were responsible the essay would be a great place to write about that, to explain whatever went wrong. That would give the admissions officer a reason to say "Ok, that semester was out of character, there was a reason, we can let them in". If you did something stupid it's probably best to own up to it and write about how it was a learning experience. There was one where the student explained that he had failed the second half of his junior year because he kept getting suspended for beating people up. His essay was all about how the school had been too harsh on him, and how it was necessary for him to beat people up because of how they spoke to his little brother. So failing and having to re-take a few classes wasn't his fault. He was not accepted. Going around assaulting people is never good, but it would have been much better if he had, instead, focused on how he had grown since then and regretted his actions.

That was a medium sized (8500 undergrad student body) school. I have a friend in admissions at a large division I university. I can see if I can get some info for him as to how the two different places are run, in case that offers some insight.

I know I didn't directly answer your question, but I hope that was at least helpful in some way. I guess, basically, if the school is a safety school, don't worry about it. If it's a reach school, let them know why they should pick you over the other guy, or why you're admissible even though your GPA might say otherwise. I know that's tough, since the Common App asks for one essay that goes to all schools and it's difficult to write one essay that's all things to all schools.
Well, this certainly outlines a different reality to what they try to make you believe (that each application is read over at least three times preliminarily, one once said)! Thank you a lot for your insights, I really apprecaiet them. With me the grades etc are all okay, the Common App essay is just the kind of weird standout thing that doesn't seem to be 'my thing' as such! I will certainely take upon your advice and try and show why they should pick me- and ultimately, if they don't like my essay, I guess I wouldn't fit in at the school anyway! Many thanks
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Old Aug 3, 18, 11:38 am
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And just generally, thank you to all of you for the insights, they are much appreciated. If I do choose to write this essay on aviation, flights, miles, or put it somehow in a different context I will for sure share it with you, and let you know how the admissions decisions went.

Maybe in a few years time, another young FT reader might have some inspiration, or guidance if he or she thinks of the same or a similar idea!

Thanks again
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