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Cellphones have become an integral part of our world. Not only do they allow us instant connection to the ones we love, but also they allow a plethora of capabilities right at our fingertips – whether it be internet access, email or more.

In a world so connected, it’s hard to think of a time before cellphones. However, generationally, one may be able to tell minor behavioral differences in those who lived in the time before cellphones and vice versa.

My client base ranges from those aged 13 to 70 or older. While the youngest are usually innocently inquisitive and talkative, things begin to change once they hit 16 to 18 years of age. From my experience and observation, in the last 10 years, writing quality has seen a decline as the prominence of the cellphone has risen.

I personally think the difference in writing ability relates directly to cellphones. Originally meant as mobile calling devices, cellphones have evolved into a teenager’s lifeline to texting, email, Googling and the whole world of social media. This occurs right when they most need to communicate well in writing and speaking to the rest of the world. One cannot explain to a college who one is and who one wants to become through a phone.

One example involves a highly accomplished, athletic sophomore who was upgraded to the varsity team late in the season for the state finals. I asked him how it felt to put on that varsity uniform for the first time. In the shorthand of today, he simply said, “Great!” After gentle prodding, he elaborated.

“Well, it was better than a T-shirt with tape on it.”

I inquired how the new uniform was better, and he responded with the brand – Nike.

I pressed further, asking, “How did it make you feel? Was it inspiring?”

As he said yes, he grabbed his phone, offering to show me a picture – a picture that showed everything he didn’t describe in words. It was dry-fit with the team color’s stitching. He was proud it showed his name and new varsity number. Seeing the picture, he started to talk, big-time. He expressed the energy colleges want to hear. However, he hadn’t written anything he expressed in the essay he’d submitted. Enabled, he finally described many feelings, which created an uplifting essay. He was accepted to a competitive college.

It’s commonly said that a picture is worth a thousand words. However, colleges won’t know better if you fail to write about the experience that hypothetical picture represents. Use your cellphone as a communication tool, as a source of information and as inspiration. 

Janis Murray is president of Murray Prep LLC, providing communication training for individuals seeking college admission and career advancement. She works with students and professionals, creating successful strategies, résumés, cover letters, essays, and image and interview/presentation performances. Contact her at

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