6 Ways to Impress an English Literature Admissions TutorOctober 05, 2021

You couldn't believe that your mother was playing Olivia Newton John's "Sam" one more time" You don't find it addictive, but it disrupted your reading. Your best mate lent you a copy of "The Cabinet of Curiosities", and you were hooked to those short tales about luck. It turned out that the message wasn't so different from a Disney animated film. Must you be careful in what you're wishing for? You wish that an English literature admissions tutor would be impressed at your admissions essay - and your interview. (You rather call it a conversation.) There's no need to wish for your literary muse to pop up out of nowhere, as preparing for this big moment isn't daunting as you think.

An English literature admissions tutor wants to see an applicant's genuine interest in literature, which would show the applicant's ability to manage long hours of reading. Aside from the books you love, you will read books you hate and books you have to plow through. (In other words, the last category implies that you don't like these books too much. You don't dislike it as well.) Don't be surprised that you have to read two novels during a certain week, and it doesn't include additional reading materials. You're not discouraged, as the pandemic gave you the time to prepare for it. You're worried about how to write it, though. You can think about it later. (If you don't know the distinction between analyzing a poem and analyzing prose, then there's no reason to push the panic button. Another applicant might not have read "The Brothers Karamazov", but that's another case.) Academics are literary professionals, but they won't intimidate you. They won't put you to shame as well. But don't expect an encouraging tone in his/her voice.

Tell Us More About Yourself

Don't look at the syllabus. If you have read the syllabus, avoid it for a season or two. The admissions tutor won't be impressed at your analysis of a novel (or poem) that is included in the reading list. It's unlikely that you would share an insight that is not told before, so choose a reading material that is not usually read (or studied in universities. You might find this tricky, so start with your favourite author, if not the genre. Look at the other titles that you haven't read. Yet. Go to the local library (and loan it). You may not finish reading it after a week, but it's OK. If you keep your resolve, then you would notice your progress.

Avoid web stalk. Don't pry into the admissions tutor's profile, and don't check out his/her social media. You're not joining a reality TV contest, but you must not make assumptions. (You enjoyed reading James Patterson's "Treasure Hunters", so you believed that a tutor would like it too.) And don't attempt to create a shortlist that would match the tutor's. You might be uncomfortable with novels that are too ambiguous, so select a book that would reveal your genuine passion for literature. The next item is related to this one, which must be highlighted nonetheless.

Don't quote ( and unquote). You have read some authors' views on the art of fiction, and some of these views pique your curiosity. The need to write comes from the need to make sense of one's life and discover one's usefulness (John Cheever). All good writing is swimming underwater and holding your breath (F. Scott Fitzgerald). A writer is congenitally unable to tell the truth and that is why we call what he writes fiction (William Faulkner). A tutor would be turned off by such quotes. Describe your composing of an e-mail, if not the subject of conversation during family dinner. You could get a few points for authenticity (or sincerity).

You admire a particular author. Can you agree to disagree? Joseph Kessel's "Belle de Jour" is a good example, where the French author argues that the body and soul, a concept taught at Sunday school, is not possible at all. If you're not a religious teenager, then you can analyze "The Cabinet of Curiosities". Is everything a product of hard work? Are there certain things that are beyond one's control? Are some people luckier than others? A tutor would love to hear your response. (And the answers might be related to "Moby Dick".)

A tutor wants evidence of abundant reading. No one likes a dull conversation, if not a monotonous tone in someone's essay, so talk about a lively feature that you read on an online news site. (Your first date is not prohibited.) You can cite comic books (and if Marvel fans are about to reach saturation point). And you can reveal your obsession in scary stories. (Most authors have tried to write one.) Nothing wrong in talking about a particular author (or genre), but you might end up short.

Analytical abilities are hard to fake. You may have read a Yeats poem, but it won't do you good if you can't say an interesting thing about his works. The same thing applies to your encyclopedia knowledge of Agatha Christie. (The tutor may not have heard of Kenneth Branagh.) Tell the tutor where and why it fell short (despite the accolades). Essay writing will test your analytical skills, and challenge you to improve them over time.

You'd Be Surprised

Don't forget that tutors are interested in your knowledge of the wider world. If you have travelled to some parts of the world, then you have the head start. If not, don't be disappointed. Some students returned to school a week earlier than planned. (What are your thoughts on it?) New South Wales will aim to reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2030. (Are you impressed?) Digital COVID-19 vaccine exemptions are available, but almost no one is eligible. (Gutted?) What you read is the tip of the iceberg. As for the rest, do your homework.

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