Nearly three centuries ago, Alexander Pope took up a quill pen and wrote, “To err is human, to forgive divine.”
How times have changed. Forgiveness is still divine, but these days we sometimes have to go out of our way to err. At least, when it comes to college resumes.
Quill pens are out. So are ink pens, ballpoints, and even typewriters. College applicants today use advanced computer software to produce beautifully slick resumes, complete with photos, charts, graphs, and text in a variety of fonts and sizes. Each word, every sentence, the entire paper is electronically scrutinized and sanitized of any nasty spelling, grammar, or punctuation error.
The result is that college admissions offices receive stacks and stacks of student applications that are darn near perfect in every way. And therein lies the rub, according to Steven Roy Goodman, an independent college counselor. He says that flawless resumes don’t ring true. Colleges are tiring of the squeaky-clean images presented by so many prospective students. That’s why he tells his clients to make a small mistake somewhere in the application. That’s right: make a mistake on purpose.
“Sometimes it’s a typo,” he says. “I don’t want my students to sound like robots.”
You can’t blame the colleges. They’re just looking for a little truth in advertising. They want a neat application, of course, but who can blame them for hoping to find a little mistake here or there just to prove that there is a real person hiding somewhere in the flowery verbiage.
In reflecting upon my own experience, I now realize that my college application must have been overflowing with authenticity. Of course, I prepared it myself. I certainly did not know anyone who would do it for me. One thing is sure: it wasn’t “slick.” It was the product of my old L. C. Smith typewriter, the one that made the “p” slightly above the line, refused to print a “y” at all, and occasionally skipped two spaces when you hit the space bar once.
I am sure there was no doubt on the part of the folks at Butler University that I, indeed, was the author of my resume. Humility and fallibility oozed from each page and, despite the actual exam scores, my submission most certainly earned an “A” in “authenticity.” I am confident, though, that my application was as good as most of them. All of my friends prepared theirs the same way. It was a pretty level playing field back in the early 1960s. No one had ever heard of a home computer. All we had were typewriters and, more importantly, typing erasers. Somehow we got the job done. And not once did we have to pretend to make mistakes. We made all our errors naturally, the old-fashioned way.
The colleges must have been thrilled. According to Alexander Pope, our applications proved that we were, if nothing else, totally human.
To Urr is Humane....
oops....make that to err is human
According to Goodman, what colleges are going for is “authenticity.” High grades and test scores help a lot, of course, but the people in the ivory towers reading the resumes are looking for a bit of fallibility and, yes, humility, in the ranks of newcomers on campus.
For many students, gaining acceptance to a particular college is a high stakes game. Instead of writing their own resumes, they have the job done by professionals. Other than serving as a source of information, the student may have little to do with the fancy document that bears his or her name and picture. The result is something akin to a Hollywood press kit.