The best essays describe one specific situation that was a turning point in the individual’s thinking.
Steps for Writing
Specifics you should include:
Details you remember vividly – smells, sights, sounds, tastes, and feelings
Direct quotes – words you and others actually said at the time (reconstruct if your memory isn’t perfect)
Steps for Writing
Find a maxim
Choose a saying that immediately rings true for you. Choose one that is the logical lesson from the life event you discuss. You can search for an appropriate maxim based on the topic of your life lesson . . . Honesty, faith, charity, etc.
What is a maxim?
A maxim is a wise or “pithy” saying that contains words of truth or lasting meaning.
Certain sayings you’ll read just make great sense to you immediately—and this is the sort of maxim you want.
Ivy Merck, sophomore during the 2003-2004 school year, placed second in the state and won $1000 for her essay on this maxim: “A brook would lose its song if God removed the rocks.”
Excerpts from Ivy’s Essay . . .
“A brook would lose its song if God removed the rocks. . . The ‘rocks’ we face every day prepare us for struggles we may face later in life. They help to form our ‘song,’ or character.
. . . This past year was difficult for my family. With my dad’s salary, my brother and my mother in college, and my mother unable to get a job, we were having some financial problems.
. . . ‘When Mom gets a job’ became a universal motto in our home when something was needed . . . Throughout the year, I grew immensely in character and maturity . . . The ‘rocks we met during the course of the year pulled my family closer to each other and taught us to work together.”
Mark’s essay explains how he learned the truth of the maxim “Discipline is the key to success.”
Upon transferring to a private military academy, Mark had a lot of adjustments:
Mark Seymour writes . . .
“Reluctantly, I said my goodbyes to my family, and I was left alone in this new unfamiliar place. Scared and confused, I was escorted back to my dorm where two senior officers stood waiting for my arrival. Not knowing who they were, I walked in, puffed out my chest, and told them to get out of my room. This was my first lesson in respect. After being what I like to call barked at to the point of embarrassment, I did my pushups.”
Some Excerpts from Winning Essays
Second-place prizewinner, 2003, for Georgia –
Dominique Fears grew up in a home where her parents sold drugs. Read an excerpt from her state second-prize essay:
Excerpt from Second-Place Prizewinning Essay
“As far back as I can remember, growing up was repulsive. Often I watched drug deals being completed right in my own home. I knew that my parents used the money for drug sales to feed and clothe my sister and me. We moved around a lot in order to keep the police off of our trail, but that did not hinder me from making good grades in school. I began reading books to escape the day-to-day frustrations of instability . . .”
Dominique learned that even though she was growing up in a place where “dreams are deferred,” she could still ‘beat the odds.’ ”