By Celestina DiMauro
Honesty is significant to me when, instead of worrying about lies or truths, it becomes a question of bullshit. You can be completely honest and full of shit at the very same time. There are often multiple sides to one truth, and I define bullshitting as not giving credence to the whole truth. To tell just one side of your truth is a disservice to those who you are talking to; it makes a mockery of communication and turns otherwise genuine conversational opportunities into time-wasting superficiality. If people—myself obviously included—communicated with whole truths, I believe that the paths towards many aspects of social justice goals would be much more smooth.
When I saw the question for Brown University’s Supplemental Essay Questions on my Transfer Application, I instantly knew they wanted a half-truth response. They wanted the kiss-ass “Brown is so awesome” response. I wrote an honest answer, using the definition of honesty that I think best serves social justice: an all-encompassing one. And then I sold out. I lied. I kissed a bunch of ass and wrote a boring short essay about how awesome Brown is. Here is the honest essay to Brown that I should have but never sent.
“Please tell us more about your interest in transferring: Why does Brown appeal to you as a college option? Who or what has influenced your decision to apply? (2000 characters).”
At risk of sounding blunt, I think this prompt is poorly chosen and borderline insulting. Why does Brown appeal to me as a college option? It’s a world-renowned academic powerhouse and a haven for independent thinkers. Who or what has influenced my decision to apply? My own research into which schools would provide me with the best education possible, in the most supportive and enriching environment. I imagine that response is pretty similar to my fellow applicants.
I could sit here and grovel at Brown’s feet like most of the responses to this prompt may have, but it would only 1) belittle myself and all the other applicants who are already pleading for admission, and 2) place Brown on a pedestal that it’s already on, with or without me. Yes, Brown is an incredible and unique school, without a shadow of a doubt. You have a mission statement and an incredible educational institution that I obviously admire or I wouldn’t be applying – the thing is, I shouldn’t need to worship and regurgitate them.
If you’d like me to attend your school, I would be thrilled to be admitted (that is why I am applying, after all). But if this tough love is off-putting, then I would understand and appreciate if you close this folder, and place it in the pile of rejections, because I don’t want to attend a school that isn’t interested in hearing the whole truth from its students.
A rejection from you is just as valuable to me as an acceptance. A rejection says, “you know what, we don’t think you would do well at our school.” It says, “we don’t share your values and we think you would be better off somewhere else.” And if you truly believe that, without the slightest hesitation, then I would be obliged if you reject me, because you know far better than I what kind of school yours is, and I surely need not try and explain it to you for 2000 characters.