What is Unique?

While I’m giving my eyes a brief moment to uncross after reading the first 600 or so Governor’s Scholars applications, I would like to point out trends I’m seeing so far. I’ve already addressed these in earlier posts, but for those of you who just tuned in, here are a few general comments, concerns, and complaints about the applications thus far, addressed to the next potential lot of Scholars:

–If you want to be included in a program that rewards the best and the brightest in the state, you may want to proofread your writing samples. Had one such person done so, I wouldn’t have busted up laughing today as she described her retired “1100 ton” racehorse. I’m sure she meant “pound”, but that’s not nearly as funny. At least I know why he’s retired.

–Applicants should first be required to look up the word “unique” and write the definition in their “Unique Activity” sample. If you are part of a church group of 100 people and everyone else is doing the same thing as you, that does not make you unique. It makes you tedious. If you want to talk about that, there is another section of the application where you can do so. Quit boring me with it. I do think all the wonderful things these students are doing are admirable, don’t get me wrong, but they should quit trying to impress me. Answer the prompt and I’ll be impressed.

–If I have to look up an acronym on the internet, I’m not only going to be less impressed by your achievement, I’m also going to be annoyed at having wasted my time when you didn’t read the instructions. Don’t assume that I know what the activities at your school are–I’m 32, living in Tennessee, and we didn’t have so many things to do back in the Dark Ages when I was a Scholar. Moreover, if you want me to be impressed by an honor or award, tell me something about it–how prestigious it is, how many people win per year, how hard you had to work to achieve it, anything. You might have come in 5th in your Regional Underwater Basketweaving Tournament, but I’m a skeptic and I’m going to assume that there were only 5 people competing unless you tell me otherwise.

–Focus on one thing in your Unique sample. I think it’s great that you can play the piano and you teach Sunday school and you volunteer at the retirement home. Really, I do. Then again, there are other places on your application to put that. I would rather read about your fascination with model trains or your embarrassing habit of getting the hiccups when you’re nervous or something similar, something that you alone, of everyone you know–everyone you’ve ever met–has experienced. Come on. Thrill me.

To show that I’m not just Mr. Negativity, I’ll throw out some possible things about myself that I might write about myself if asked to do the same task. The prompt asks for a “unique and personal activity (sic experience) that sets you apart from your peers”. So, here you are:

–I was at my wife’s first wedding, but I wasn’t the groom.
–I once slammed an armed robber face-first into a tile floor to prevent him from robbing my store or shooting anyone.
–I love the gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows” while most people my age or younger have never even heard of it.
–I’m in the planning stages of writing a musical about the life of Sir Elton John.
–I have listened to Stephen King’s On Writing at least 100 times.
–I proposed to my wife in the flower gardens at the Biltmore.
–I once tore my rotator cuff during a doubles tennis match and continued to play two more sets with no feeling whatsoever in my arm.
–I once drove from Indianapolis to Louisville without sitting down.

That’s a few just off the top of my head. I can honestly say that I don’t know of anyone else who has ever done any of these things. They may not be as impressive as playing the piano or leading worship at a church or coaching youth soccer, but I challenge anyone reading this to find someone who has done any of the things on this brief list. If you do, please email me at leesmiley@gmail.com.

And I’m really not expecting anyone to email me. Good luck, though.

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