That time my alma mater stole my essay.

That time my alma mater stole my essay.
This was taken a couple weeks from when I would officially hit “rock bottom”, going from being unconscionably anxious to debilitatingly so.

It has always bothered me that my university plagiarized my admissions essay and made it LESS GOOD. So, on the almost 10th anniversary of having submitted it, I’m publishing the original.

When I originally found out they had stolen my essay I was pretty mad. People told me to take it as a compliment, and that they would be honoured if they were in my position. But like, come on. They literally could have made one up. Or you know, given me credit. Or money. Or a free pass for admission! So much for academic integrity. However, at the time I didn’t want to say anything because I still hadn’t gotten into Ivey yet.

Just out of curiosity I was wondering if they had changed up the sample essay in years gone by. Nope. It’s still there. They’ve changed some of it to be less bad, but it’s still not as good as the original. The first version was insulting to what I actually achieved – I feel like it said something about selling chocolate bars as a fundraiser or something stupidly inefficient like that.

My gripes with the AEO status is much the same as it was ten years ago. It’s hard for me to not see it as a big ol’ cash grab for Ivey. A waste of $125 for most people (at least it’s only gone up to $5 in the last ten years, so there’s that). Majority of people I know who went to Western with AEO Status never got into Ivey. However, the people who do make it really are a different caliber of student compared to other business schools. The lack of transparency about how many applicants they get, how many get AEO status, and how many lose that status is what bothers me the most. So many students could have gone to universities and programs that were a much better fit for them, and without all the emotional turmoil. They could have and should have enjoyed their first two years of university.

Is it a good school if and when you get in? Yes, absolutely. But no one talks about what happens if you don’t get in. (I’m glad Simu Liu touched on his experience of squeaking in to Ivey in his memoir).

The third year entry concept is interesting… I don’t think anyone else does it. It was a good fit for me because I wanted to study art history (and also wanted to like, have job prospects) so I got the best of both worlds. Most students who get into Ivey study something business adjacent in their first two years which is a bit of a waste and often a detriment. Your post secondary education should give you a lens with which to see the world. Most people who think they want to go Ivey shouldn’t go into a business adjacent course of study like econ or finance. It’s boring as shit (if you’re most people). And if you find it boring, you’re probably not going to be engaged in the classes, which leads to not great grades. This is how most people fail to get into Ivey. (Plus tuition dollars wasted and years of your life.)

The one thing I did like about Ivey is the effectiveness of learning via case studies. Human brains love a good story, and that’s what the case study method does – convert all these business concepts into narratives. When it’s taught well, it’s immensely effective. And what you get out of Ivey isn’t just the basic business frameworks you can get out of any textbook, it’s the constant practice of making decisions with incomplete information. And, with the emphasis on class participation for a large portion of your grade, you also have to make judgements about whether your contribution is a value add or not, which is a great skill.

I literally don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t make it in. I went to Western purely because of Ivey’s reputation and prestige. It was the best. And I had to have the best. I’m not sure I would have handled not getting in very well. Perhaps it would have triggered my depression instead of anxiety… we will never know!

I have a long, long list of grievances about my experience at Ivey Business School. It’s competitive to get in, and even more competitive while you’re there. For me, it was toxic and awful for my mental health. I wasn’t drinking the kool aid then, and my glasses don’t have a rosy tint now.

So without further ado… the original Ivey AEO submission essay:

The adventure began in 2007* when I joined my school’s FIRST robotics team, SWAT 771, in the seventh grade. I approached each opportunity and each experience as any curious twelve-year old would, with enthusiasm, openness, and naïveté. That year our team made history by becoming the first all-girls team to win the prestigious Regional Chairman’s Award, taking us to the World Championship event for the very first time. 

The following year, the team returned home from competition with no recognizable success. The girls, whom I had so admired from my first year, had graduated, and it seemed like our team’s inspiration to do well had left too. The effect of having experienced some of our team’s greatest moments and then suddenly having to face tremendous setbacks and challenges, sparked a determination within me. I promised myself to bring the team back to the Championship event, so that other team members could share the awe-inspiring experience I had.

To achieve this goal, I set in place a three-year plan. The first year was reestablishing sponsor relations and recruiting new mentors. The second and third years focused on outreach. I wanted to share the opportunities of this amazing program with the world. We set off to inspire other youth around the world about science and technology and reached places like Japan, Australia and Kenya. To extend our outreach far and wide, I led our team as one of the earliest adopters of social media marketing strategies and forged the way for other teams to follow suit. Last year the team double qualified for the world Championships with the Engineering Inspiration and Regional Chairman’s Awards.

Somewhere in those three years, while we were building the team’s resume to qualify for the Championships, it became a journey where I discovered my personal passion. I joined the team to learn how to build a robot, but what I loved was the building of a team. The collaborative culture of the team fostered an environment that was the perfect outlet for my creative and entrepreneurial pursuits. Recently, the town of Oakville recognized my efforts and leadership through their Oakville FIRST Robotics Hero award.

I learned what it means to set goals and to come up with strategies to realize those goals within set time frames and confined resources. For a long time, 2007 was looking as if it would always be regarded as the golden age for our team, but last year I successfully led and coached the team to qualify not once, but twice to the World Championship event. I am proud to have set another team milestone and laid the foundations for SWAT for many more successful years to come.

Karen Lee, Age 17.
*This should actually be 2006.

And as a bonus, my favourite college admissions essay. I used it for the prompt “tell us something people would be surprised to know about you prompt for Ivey”.

My Favorite Classroom

Every day at noon the dining hall comes alive. People bring color to the room, and a symphony of banging pots, crunching apples, hushed conversations and heated discussions gives the space a voice.  As I walk towards the source of the mouth-watering aromas, I am not approaching the school cafeteria, but rather, my favorite classroom. 

I wonder about two things: what’s on the menu and which topics will fuel today’s discussion. I sit around a table with an eclectic group, who are united through a call to explore and understand the world and its people.  Through these lunchtime dialogues I have realized that gaining new perspectives is often just as profound, if not more so, than acquiring new knowledge. 

As the cafeteria gradually recedes into its dormant state, it signals the end of yet another lunch. I am always reluctant to leave, my appetite satiated, but my mind more* hungry for the next day’s food for thought. 

Karen Lee, Age 17.
*I wish I used the word “still” here instead.

The less bad version of the less good essay as of October 14, 2022:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.