I know that sounds like a bad thing but have you ever looked into a cow’s eyes? I’ve looked into a lot a cow eyes because I’m from Wisconsin.”Dialogue is an underutilized tool in the college essay.
So many students don’t even consider adding an outdated adage from a parent or a hilarious crack from a high school coach to break up their prose, set the scene or build the profiles of their stories’ characters.
Among the current year’s releases as of early July, 2018, Dartmouth has multiple quote prompts, as does the University of Chicago.
So knowing something about the background of a quote is useful, especially if you want to cleverly subvert expectations.And yet, dialogue is one of those devices that can give you a lot of bang for your buck, delivering a punch of personality or a wallop of context using just a few carefully culled utterances.Dialogue is also one of those tools that is easy to waste if you don’t know how to wield it for maximum effect.If used intentionally, as a conscious creative choice, submitting an essay overflowing with dialogue can actually work to amazing effect. For example, maybe your essay is a discussion between you and your former self, between you and your best friend, or you and your parent. But not always, and in some cases, using a quote is a requirement of the prompt.So there are exceptions to this rule, and many great essays have used quotes to get started and to develop ideas.That makes the quote opener–and the question intro–overused and prone to cliche.And given the way that most “quote” essays use the quote like you might use the word “squirrel” to divert the attention of a dog–as a kind of noise to get things moving in a particular direction, in other words–quotes are often a poor way to initiate a college application essay.In these cases, you should ask yourself: why is this the best way to share my story? If you can answer that question and still believe you’re making the right choice, by all means, continue with your experiment.