Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What I've done to prepare myself to get into school - 15 years later

Tools of the marking trade: a pencil and a Larry David mug.

Evaluator, mark thyself!

One of my duties here at Red River College - other than teaching and drinking my volume in Tim Hortons coffee - is to mark the essays potential students must write to get into Creative Communications.

(They do this in addition to writing a test, assembling a portfolio, and showing up in person for an interview.)

The essays are usually some combination of "your autobiography" and "what have I done to prepare myself to get into the Creative Communications program?"

It's a challenging essay to write, as anyone who has applied to get into the program knows, mostly because the candidate has to focus all of his or her experience into one coherent essay, and because the word "nothing" only takes up eight spaces on the page and isn't a very impressive answer.

I enjoy reading and marking these essays because they say a lot about the candidate: generally speaking, an essay that starts with "I was torn from my mother's womb at birth..." or contains the line, "I met my soul mate at age 12" is going to make for some interesting reading.

It's also interesting because I had to write the same essay to get into the Creative Communications program some 15 years ago. I had a little bit of experience - not a ton or even a metric tonne - a BA, and a dream.

I recently came across this essay in a folder, and laughed out loud when I found it. I kind of wish someone else would have found it, submitted it to me for marking, then surprised me by telling me it was mine after I gave it a C+.

No such luck. I probably would've figured out something was up when I saw the namechecks for Bob Newhart, Danny Kaye, and Dick Van Dyke...

The essay:

What have I done to prepare myself to get into Creative Communications?

Over the last two years, since I graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts, I have thought about my skills and interests and tried to determine the field in which I might make the best use of them.

I believe that my experience in education and work, as well as my interests and personal qualities, would lend themselves well to the communications field.

I have been interested in writing since I was a child. At an early age, I was successful in school spelling contests and enjoyed having fun with words; I recall admiring Danny Kaye and the classic Court Jester routine, "the flagon with the dragon has the pellet with the poison, the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true."

When I was six, I published a story about my father in Canadian Lawyer magazine, for which I was paid $5.

My favorite classes in school involved creative thinking and writing. I read a lot and I admired TV shows like the Bob Newhart Show for their clever scripts. My parents remind me that one of my earliest ambitions was to be a comedy writer like the characters in the Dick Van Dyke Show.

In high school I was editor of the school paper, and I worked on layout and printing. I also enrolled in an elective broadcast course, where I wrote news scripts and read them on air.

At university, there were no courses in communications, so I chose courses in which I had an interest and I felt would improve my skills. I majored in English and minored in Philosophy. The English courses helped me to improve my writing skills through the numerous essays that I wrote, while the Philosophy courses taught me to think abstractly and how to debate a topic from different points of view.

I am now working at a bank. It's not the type of work I'd want to do for a lifetime, but the experience has been important in allowing me to develop skills that I think could be an asset in the communications field.

I am in charge of specialized investments, a position that has allowed me to work under high pressure, and in which accuracy and efficiency are essential. My daily use of a computer has given me a technical competence I didn't have before, and helped improve my keyboarding skills. I have also, in my day to day dealings with customers, gained confidence and an ability to deal with people from all walks of life in a professional manner.

***

My love of books and writing perhaps isn't surprising, given my family background. Although my grandparents attained no more than a grade eight education, they are avid readers.

I have always enjoyed great literature, and I continue to read the classics. I just read "Lucky Jim" by Kingsley Amis, and "Winesburg, Ohio" by Sherwood Anderson. I have added them to my ever-growing book collection, which includes movie scripts, plays, reference books, and collections of song lyrics.

I continue to write short stories for personal satisfaction, and keep in touch with pen pals and relatives by letter. I have recently been involved in writing film scripts with a friend I met while taking Film Studies at university.

***

I believe that the personal qualities I possess would be conducive to Creative Communications, and that one of my best qualities is my ability to work hard and achieve my goals. On my last annual job performance, for instance, I was rated as having exceeded the goals and performance expected of me.

I think that this is indicative of the fact that I consistently aim to do more than is required of me, and I have thus far managed to succeed in attaining my major goals.

I believe that I am creative and quick thinking, I have good people skills, and I enjoy learning new things. I wish I had more experience in writing than I have, but what I may lack in experience seems to me to be made up of my lifelong interest in the written word and my general enthusiasm for life.

I feel confident that I have what it takes to pursue a successful career in Creative Communications.

***

- C+. Cheers, Kenton

6 comments:

  1. I just went back and read my own essay/readiness statement. My, how far we've come!

    If there's one thing I learned at Red River, it's punctuation! I could have used a bag full of commas on that piece of writing. You must have taken a red pencil to that one, Kenton!

    That reminds me of one of the things that most disappointed me at RRC. I would have really like to have received some feedback on the work I put into my portfolio. I applied in January or Early Februrary and had to put together a portfolio from scratch, because I had been out of school for ten years and had no communication work to include. I thought I provided a nice, broad portfolio, and obviously RRC agreed, but it still would have been nice to get some feedback...

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  2. Yeah, I'm with Wade. I continue to be amazed that I was accepted at all based on the work I submitted. I wrote everything in two weeks, having no idea of what was expected!

    Obviously it was a good fit, though. I guess you're good at seeing the potential in people.

    P.S. I never got my portfolio back, nor did I receive any feedback. Barb simply told me that my marks were good enough to get me an interview.

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  3. Hmm. They didn't even tell me that much; I just assumed they were good enough because I was there being interviewed. And I remember asking Tracey about it a couple months into the program and her saying that they just destroy everybody's work after a month or so. I remember thinking what a waste it was of all those nice plastic portfolios that people probably used. Unless they "recycled" those by re-selling them in the bookstore. Now that would be smart!

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  4. Wow, I had actually forgotten that I had to write an essay in order to get into CreComm! I wish I still had it, I'm going to have to do a bit of searching to see if I can track down my portfolio. I believe I might have gotten a mark on my portfolio, and I think I was really disappointed with it, but it got me into the program, so it must have been enough.

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  5. Hey, if you're in you're in!

    We mark the entrance stuff pretty tough, so it's rare for anyone to "ace" it.

    The good news is that you don't have to ace it in order to get into RRC. It's "promise" that we're looking for more than "perfection."

    As I believe it should be!

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  6. haha! super cool to read your readiness statement kenton! fortunately, i took digital pics of my portfolio as i was informed i wouldn't ever see it again so i took digital photographs of every page of the completed piece -- that way i know if you guys are selling my stuff on ebay! hehe, jk.

    your post made me re-read mine...

    "...I learned to appreciate the richness of English Literature, its history and its evolution through the different writing styles of authors before the twentieth century." - lol, as tough as that subject was for me, it really opened my eyes to writing. And I kept the super thick textbook we used ("The Norton Anthology of English Literature") - you know, in case the furnace broke down.

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