David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | david@davidaltshuler.com

Attitude of Gratitude

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Competent, ethical college admissions counselors wear any number of hats including but not limited to the following:

Coach Chapeau: "C'mon, you! Three more essays! You can DO this! Let's go!"

Mortician Millinery: "I'm sorry your dream of attending North Cornstalk State has passed away..."

Balloon Popper Bowler: "No, that your mother's cousin's ex-wife's neighbor's father-in-law is an alum of Highly Selective College does not improve your chances of admission."

Life Saver Sobrero: "You hate math and got a C in algebra as a senior but are only applying to MIT, Cal Tech, and Worchester Polytechnic Institute. Could we talk a little more about your passion for literature and some other schools?"

And of course, Erudite Editor, Proof Reader Extraordinaire.

Chatting recently with Anna about her brilliant, insightful, thoughtful admissions essay, I suggested she consider replacing a coordinating conjunction in the third paragraph with a semicolon.

"A semicolon!" she replied rapturously. "What a great idea!"

Anna's mom, chimed in. "A semicolon fits perfectly! Thank you so much!"

Had I taken a bullet for you in wartime then donated all my organs to your daughter, you could not have been as gracious and grateful as Anna and her mom.

In another office across town, a colleague is trying to untangle the twisted logic and fragment sentences of an applicant's hastily scrawled, hand-written paragraph. "There are some good ideas here," the counselor begins cautiously, "but I wonder if this draft represents your best work."

The child, suffering from a particularly acute bout of affluenza and entitle-isis responds snarkily: "I wanted these applications submitted last week."

His mother jumps on. "We paid you a lot of money. I thought you were going to help us with the essays."

The counselor doesn't know where to begin to respond. "It is unethical to write essays for applicants." "Your son will be taking English composition in college next year; it is important that he have some skills." "It is against every ethical tenet of my profession to write essays rather than edit them." Before he can formulate an appropriate answer, the mom summarily fires him, takes her son, and leaves--presumably to buy admissions essays from a slimy counselor elsewhere.

How do loving parents engender an "attitude of gratitude" rather than the insolence of "Buy me; get me; I want it now"? How do we encourage our kids to exude appreciation over a semi-colon rather than whimper about their wants?

Note that complaints are loudest from those who are farthest from benefitting from good advice.

"Can I buy a house in your neighborhood? I can afford $40,00."

"Unfortunately not," replies the knowledgeable realtor. "Homes there go for an average of $700,000."

"Then you are an incompetent professional, I hate you, and I will devote my life to trashing your reputation," replies the disappointed would-be buyer.

That there are differences between students applying to college is an observation that I am hardly the first to point out. WHY these two children are so spectacularly disparate is worth considering. Yes, their skills are different: the good writer is grateful; the poor applicant is grouchy and unrealistic.

"From an apple tree, you don't get pears." Do grateful parents bring up grateful children? Are skillful children more likely to be appreciative? Or are there other factors at play? Are there examples of children with modest skills who are grateful for help? Are there brilliant, motivated children who are not appreciative?

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Before I go back to trying on more hats and helping students with their admissions essays.



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