1 JoJokazahn

Jesuit Education Critical Thinking

Having experienced 16 years of Jesuit education, I have come to better understand how the Jesuit, Catholic mission supports the universal betterment of human kind and transcends the restrictions of man-made religion. In Jesuit graduate, undergraduate and high school environments, I was encouraged and guided through a process of discernment and critical thinking that enhanced my ability to better understand the universal web that connects us all to a greater good. The result has allowed me to model values that promote a shared enlightenment with the lives I touch, with the ultimate goal of the good for all.

As chief of a Jesuit university’s public safety department, I have found the opportunity and support to practice values-based policing. Our officers are encouraged to question department policy that is not consistent with the mission of the University of San Francisco. As a result, officers model social justice principles in working with students, faculty, staff and neighbors regarding law enforcement and safety related issues.

Daniel L. Lawson, Ed. D. is the Senior Director and Chief of Police at the University of San Francisco (USF). Before spending the last 12 years leading USF’s Department of Public Safety, Dan served as a Captain in the San Francisco Police force. He has a MPA from Notre Dame de Namur University, and a doctorate in education from USF. Dan has been an adjunct professor in the fields of Administration of Justice, Public Administration and Management, and Leadership at the City College of San Francisco for 38 years and USF for 14 years. He has been married for 41 years, and has three children and five grandchildren. Dan’s wife and children are all graduates of Jesuit schools as well.

Our offices in California help a lot of kids apply to LMU.  And let me tell you, LMU's essay questions are doozies.  They’re pushing kids to think critically about the questions, which actually gives those with a sincere interest in LMU a huge opportunity. Those applicants are much more likely to take the time required to really think about these questions than are the students who were hoping to just toss an application in. 

Before we give you some tips for the specific prompts, keep two things in mind. 

1)  Remember that the best essay responses shed more light on who you are. 

The LMU prompts are asking you to comment on other peoples' statements, and in the case of prompt #3, to actually describe another person's actions in the essay.  But remember, a college is always looking to learn more about you, your thoughts, your personality, your priorities.  If you write an entire essay about how wonderful your youth group leader is, they'll learn a lot about him, and not much about you.  But if you write about how wonderful your youth group leader is, and how his example has inspired you to make changes in your own life, now we've got something.

2)  Be focused and clear. 

You are allotted up to 1,000 words to answer one of the three prompts.  But there really is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to make your points succinctly enough to get it done in 500-600 words.  Brevity is a mark of good writing.  Be focused.  Be clear.  Make your points forcefully. 

3)  Think (hard) before you write.

A lot of students don’t understand what the LMU prompts are really asking for.  And while we can’t just come out and explain to our Collegewise students what the prompts mean (the whole point is for applicants to think and benefit from the exercise), we can ask leading questions to get them to think about their own lives, which helps them understand what the prompts are asking.  Here are the prompts, and some examples of the questions we ask our students.  Think (hard) about the questions, and compare your answers with the information that’s mentioned in the prompts.  You’re likely to be pleasantly surprised by connections between the two.  


Prompt #1

In his homily at the Class of 2005’s Baccalaureate Mass, LMU’s President Fr. Robert Lawton, S.J., said: ‘‘So what is the answer to this deep insecurity we all feel? The answer, I think, is to embrace the adventure of becoming deeply, and fully, ourselves. This is what God is really calling us to. It seems like the riskiest of all journeys, this journey to be oneself. But it’s ultimately the journey that leads us to happiness, that leads us into God’s dreams for us.’’

Why do you think Fr. Lawton says the ‘‘journey to be oneself’’ seems the riskiest of all journeys? What risks lie ahead in your college career as you embark on the ‘‘adventure’’ of discovering and becoming yourself?

Questions to ask yourself:

1. What does it mean to "embrace that journey of becoming yourself?"  Are you not yourself already?  What if someone didn’t embrace this journey or didn’t take it at all?  What do you think that person’s life would be like?

2. Is there anything, besides a college degree, that you think is important for you to experience or learn during your college career?  What will you have to do to experience them?  Are there risks involved?

3. Do you think God has a plan for you? What do you have to do to identify what that plan is?  Can you think of a time in your life when you did something you weren’t sure would be the right thing for you?  Do you think that situation was part of God’s plan for you?

Prompt #2

Speaking about education, Dr. Martin Luther King once said, ‘‘The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.’’ 

Critical thinking is a central goal of Jesuit education, and at LMU you’ll be asked to think critically and intensively in every class. Dr. King suggests that critical thinking results in our ability to inform intelligence with character, and strengthen character with intelligence. Please talk about a situation that demanded critical thinking from you, and how your choices or decisions integrated intelligence and character.

Questions to ask yourself:

1. A good start is to think about the difference between thinking intensively and thinking critically.  Do you know the difference?  If not, head over to www.dictionary.com and look up the definition of the words “intensive” and “critical."  Seriously, it’ll help.   

2. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you just didn’t know what to do, something where the “right answer” wasn’t so obvious, or where the right path wasn’t such an easy one to take?  What made this situation, or the choice you had to make, so difficult?   Looking back, do you think you made the right choice?  Are you proud of what you did?  Why or why not?

Prompt #3

A motto often associated with Jesuit and Marymount schools is “Educating men and women for others.”  Pedro Arrupe, the former head of the Jesuits, once said that “our prime educational objective must be to form men and women for others, who believe that a love of self or of God which does not issue forth in justice for the least of their neighbors is a farce.”

What do you think Fr. Arrupe meant when he said this? Please give an example of someone you know, other than your teachers and parents, who works for justice for the least of their neighbors.

Here are some questions to consider before you answer that:

1. Who is someone that, if they asked you to donate your kidney to save his or her life, you would consider doing it?  Is there a person or a type of person for whom you would not consider doing do this?  What is the difference between those two people?   I’m not implying that you should necessarily be willing to donate a kidney to anyone who asks.  But this will get you thinking about what the “least of their neighbors” means.

2. What do you think Fr. Arrupe means when he says, men and women should be “for others”?   To whom do you think he is referring when he says “others”?  Do you think he means just good people, or people who go to church, or people who seem to deserve the help? 

3. Have you personally witnessed a person helping the least of his or her neighbors, something that was really memorable to you?  How did this impact you?  Are you any different today as a result of witnessing this?

In college, you're going to pushed to think hard, not just to get your assignments done.  That's why LMU has prompts like this–to see who's ready to embrace the exercise of thinking about difficult questions and answering them thoughtfully.  The key lesson here is to think before you write.

Note:  Before you follow our tips, we recommend you read our "How to" guide here: Download HowToUse30Guides

And if you have other questions about essays, applications, interviews or financial aid, visit our online store.  We’ve got books, videos and downloadable guides to help you.  Or you could speak with one of our online college counselors.

Filed Under: Advice for specific colleges

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