Congratulations! You have just been hired as a member of the admissions board at an extremely popular and affluent college university. As your first assignment, you have just received six applicants’ college essays to review. Because of the high number of applicants, you can only accept two of the students. You have been given no other information about the applicants; therefore, you must accept or deny the applicants purely based on their college essays.
As mandated by the college university, you must review each essay before making your decision. Read through each essay carefully. Be sure to note what you believe is positive and what you believe is negative about the applicant’s writing. Before making your decision official, you must present a statement for each of the candidates you believe should be accepted and why. What about their college essay shows you they are a valuable asset to the college, their future peers, and the community? You will have a chance to conference with other board members before presenting your final decision and statements to the larger committee. Good luck!
*The samples are taken from www.colelgeadmissionsstrategies.com or were submitted by previous students from Herricks High School.
1. As a diligent and self conscious individual I feel that my academic potential is at unique heights and being accepts to college will only increase that prospective. Through my four years of high school, I have worked with my hardest effort, and striven for achievement, success, and difference. But I have had some failures.
Ever since I was young my dream has been to become a doctor, and I believe that your school will help me become a well rounded, educated and social/attentive pediatrician. I have been taking medical classes through my years of high school, including: Biomedical Technology, Medical Science one, and Medical Science two honors. Through these classes I have been exposed to much more information making me want to become a doctor. I wish to take as many medical classes such as biology, genetics, and other subjects pertaining to the field I want to go into in the future. Being a student, I have always striven for greater than what I expected. In my 9th grade class I was recommended not to be in honors English. Despite the doubt that my teacher possessed I continued through my high school career partaking in many honors and AP classes; and did succeed in them. In life I have dedicated myself to being the best I can be. The atmosphere at your school I believe is the perfect environment for the growth of my academic success and my sociality. With my elevated standards, in and out of school I feel that as a student I can excel, and be all that is expected of me, and maybe more.
My goals outside of school not only consist becoming a better athlete and a better person to society. I set goals for myself, which enable me to grow as a genuine person. As a child I started dancing, ranging from traditional from hip-hop. I learned to be thankful for the value of setting good goals for myself. My dance choreographer made me an everlasting impression on me by filling my head with positive morals, perseverance, and confidence. I am proud to say that I have been dancing for 12 years, and still am continuing. I am glad I had dance to help me inspire in me positive values that can stand the test of time. On a daily basis I make use of these morals to better myself as much as I can.
Ever wrong doing, every obstacle, every little mistake I have ever made has only made me a stronger person, because it taught me what is right or wrong. I attribute my devotion to being the best I can be, to Dnance, and the moral instilled in me from dance. I want to be a productive person in society, a person who makes a difference, and furthering my education in college is the next step to making that process successful.
2. “A Rose by Any Other Name”
I am part of the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood of the ambidextrous. Shadowy, ubiquitous, elusive. I am like Winston in Orwell’s 1984: I will never learn much more about the Brotherhood than that it exists and that I belong to it.
While I have only met a handful of ambidextrous souls, I am convinced that the vast majority of them joined the club through years of patient and diligent practice. They harbor grand and ambitious dreams of one day writing simultaneously with both hands. They chose the Brotherhood. Not I. I never chose – nor did my older sister, my dad or my two uncles. We all have my grandmother to thank. You see, according to Korean culture, handedness is not a genetic mandate. There is a distinct morality to handedness. If you are right-handed, you will be upright and make right decisions in your life. If you are left-handed, you must be corrected. With one slap on the wrist, my left hand, my dominant hand, was relegated to the status of passive watcher of the right – an Esau whose birthright was stolen right under his nose. My grandma defied my genetic code, scorned science and made a laughing stock of my poor left hand.
That’s not the end of it. My hands are not the only ones confused by my being a Korean-American. I don’t even know what to call myself half of the time. My official, legal name, the one that appears in my passport, social security number and my imaginary drivers’ license is Hajin Jun. But if you were to ask anyone in my school who Hajin was, he’d probably respond, “Oh, you mean Hannah?”
Hannah is the result of my childish desire to assimilate. The name Hajin was embarrassing and cumbersome to my second-grade self. Who really cared if it took my dad months to come up with it or that it held deep symbolic meaning to him? All I knew was that it sounded funny in my American classroom. My sister and I pleaded with my mom to give us American names. Both named for our August birthdays, my sister, the summer beauty, and I, the aspiring treasure of the summer, betrayed our Korean names and became Rachel and Hannah, respectively, for the heroines of Biblical times. Oh, how foolish I was to ask for another name! How confused was I for so many of my school years?
It is true that I had many opportunities in high school to start anew and introduce myself by my legal name. But saying, “My name is Hajin” sounds like “My name is Sajin” – sajin, the Korean word for photograph. Besides, I have been called Hannah for so long that introducing myself by my Korean name is now as natural to me as trying to write with my left hand.
I am a person of dual handedness, names and nationalities, but I have but one identity. As of July 2001, I am a citizen of the United States of America and no longer of the Republic of Korea, but do not be fooled. Though my passport cover may lead you to call me Hannah, if you only take the time to open it and look inside, the name clearly and distinctly printed is Hajin Jun, intended not only to be the treasure of the summer but of society as well.
3. The Worst Pain Possible
It was a warm, beautiful September day when the bell rang and it was my favorite part of the day. It was recess when all of the children in my class jolted outside, and as soon as we reached the dirt path, on the bumpy field, the game began that we played everyday. I received the ball at my feet and started sprinting as if an angry pit-bull were chasing me. My friend, who was just as fast as I was, or even faster, gave me a nudge from behind, and that’s when it happened. I hit the ground like a sack of bricks right on my left arm. I heard a snap and felt the worst pain I ever felt in my entire life.
All I remember from after that point was waking up after the surgery in my bed at home in the most pain I had ever felt before. I had actual metal pins in my arm to hold the growth plate in place. I was out of school for a week, and I had one of the worst experiences ever. I was lucky this happened when I was only in second grade.
This one incident changed my whole view on soccer. I wanted to quit soccer forever. I wanted to abandon my travel team and give up ever playing it again. I wanted nothing to do with it. When my parents heard about this they had one of those long talks with me. There was no way my dad was going to let me quit soccer. He said that I was way too good to quit. It’s not like I didn’t like this sport; I was just petrified of breaking something again. When I told my dad this, he said that what happened to me would probably never happen again, that it was just a freak accident. He was there to hold and comfort me when the doctor pulled those pins out of my arm with pliers while I sat on his lap screaming in excruciating pain.
With all the pressure on me from my dad and my teammates, there was no way I would be able to quit soccer and live with it. My father was the biggest factor in persuading me to stay with soccer, and it ended up paying off. I still play soccer today. I am on the school’s varsity team and play for a very competitive travel team.
Unfortunately another tragic event occurred in my life when I was thirteen, an experience that was far more painful than breaking my arm and another experience that I didn’t have any control over. My father passed away. He was at my summerhouse on eastern Long Island when he had a random heart attack. My life immediately changed.
I now had to say goodbye to many things that I once enjoyed but couldn’t have anymore. I had to say goodbye to those talks I had with my dad before I went to bed that calmed me down and let me sleep better. I had to say goodbye to the person that was at every game possible to cheer me on no matter what sport or event it was. I had to say goodbye to my summerhouse and many other luxuries that cost way too much money now that I only had one parent. This meant that I had to be way more independent and find a job to help my mom out because she couldn’t do it all by herself. As soon as I was of age, I became a lifeguard and worked all summer to make money to help out my mother. There’s no way she could pay for my twin brother and me to go to college at the same time.
In memory of my father, I felt like I had to do everything I could to receive the best grades possible. In his life, my father once influenced me to stick with soccer, and he was right. He only wanted the best for me. With his death, he influenced me to work hard and stick with school no matter what. I know I’m going to have bad days and perform poorly on some tests, but I can never give up on my father’s dream of seeing me go to a great college, something he never had the chance to do. He didn’t let me give up when I broke my arm, and I won’t give up on him now. He always told me that I could achieve anything if I worked hard at it.
4. Grapefuit Juice
My father slowly extricated a white plastic bag from the entanglement of straps. As he carried it over to the kitchen table, I looked up to see the wrinkled shape of two spheres, sitting in the bag’s corners. He lowered the bag onto the table top and reached into it, like a magician reaching into a hat for his magical rabbit. Out came a giant orange.
“No, not an orange,” he said. “It’s a grapefruit.”
“Why would they call it a grapefruit? It doesn’t look like a grape,” I retorted. It didn’t smell like a grape either. It obviously didn’t feel like a grape. And it definitely, most surely did not taste like a grape.
It didn’t even taste like a fruit. The pucker-inducing bitterness and sourness bordered unbearable. It made my tongue recoil, as if burned drinking hot chocolate…but not quite as pleasant, since hot chocolate actually tastes good.
I didn’t just dislike it – I loathed it with a blaming passion. Why on Earth would God create such a detestable fruit? Why would silly farmers cultivate it? How could merchants possibly profit from its trade? And how could my father even THINK of wasting two dollars on the likes this Quasimodo of Notre Circus?
My father peeled off the translucent skin covering another slice, and using the length of his thumb, he plucked the slice off – pulp exposed, all in fact, radiating its salmon-pink-wannable-organe-or-even-grape hue.
Ha. Funny man. I raised my eyebrows.
“Eat it. The juice is delicious.”
“It’s gross,” I said. “Nothing about it is delicious.” I clamped my jaw shut.
“You just have to get used to it.” And despite my minute of ardent protest, in slid another piece of not-grape barely-fruit.
It still tasted the same.
But my father kept persisting, slice after slice, that I “just had to get used to it,” and didn’t I “love how juicy it is?” and that “this one will definitely taste better.” After half a grapefruit, it sort of did. The bitterness became less dramatic, and gave the taste a sort of identity. The sourness faded into a subtle sweetness I had not noticed in my business of making faces. And the juice. The juice was purer and fresher than any spring water that had ever touched my lips.
Since the moment I learned that subtle goodness often lies beneath bitter overtones, I’ve been acknowledging grapefruits as fruits of noble existence. Even now, when I taste the bitter sourness with unadjusted taste buds, I still feel the urge to retract my tongue. But I always know that two slices later, it’ll be fine. I know I will find the pleasure in that ail-quenching juice that I find nowhere else. Because every grapefruit is sour – the magic only happens when you hold out for the juicy part.
5. “Robert Redford is Cool”
Since the age of four, I have had four, fully-functioning eyes. I have been misjudged and somewhat discriminated against because of this “medical oddity.” My ancillary set of eyes changed color every year, though they were usually black (one particularly wild year they were blue with stripes). My “abnormal condition” was poor eyesight and, in case you hadn’t already guessed, my second pair of eyes was a pair of extremely large glasses (my parents assured me that they were the style). I must inform you that for much of my childhood I was treated as if I truly had four eyes. I was always perceived as “the nerd” because of my glasses. Others always assumed that I enjoyed math, when, in actuality, I hated it. I was never expected to enjoy sports, even though I spent every recess leading a game of football or soccer. And what bothered me the most, above all else, was the fact that my classmates believed that those with glasses should associate only with each other.
I can remember one tear-filled incident in the third grade in which a girl made fun of my eyewear. I was sitting on the school bus, Ghostbusters lunch box in tow, when this monstrous (or so she seemed) fourth-grader stormed up to me.
“Hey, four-eyes, you’re in my seat!” she yelled at me.
I looked up at her, my eyes wide with fear, thinking that I was about to floor my glasses with tears.
I quickly crawled out of “her” seat, instantly traumatized by my encounter. I, of course, ran sobbing to my mother, and she told me to tell the bully that Robert Redford wears glasses, thus making them cool.
While my mother’s cutting comeback only added to my torment (“Who is Robert Redford?” was the bully’s response), the encounter started me thinking about appearances. Though it may seem as though the only thing my glasses brought me were years of heartache and the occasional comparison to Buddy Holly (my mother, again), my spectacles have helped me see the world more clearly in both a literal and figurative sense. I learned at an early age not to worry about my physical appearance, as I needed to accept my glasses as a part of who I was. I made friends based on my personality rather than my looks. And most importantly, I began to value myself because I was a good person and not because I was good looking.
Though I may have traded in my over-sized glasses for a pair of contact lenses, I will always be the self-assured “four eyes” whose eyewear taught him two very important lessons. First, that what counts is on the inside and not the outside; and second, that you should never tell a bully that Robert Redford is cool.
6. When I was little, I dreamed I was flying. Each night I was up in the air, though never over the same landscape. Sometimes, in the confusion of early morning, I would wake up thinking it was true, and I’d leap off my bed, expecting to sour out of the window. Of course, I always hit the ground, but not before remembering that I had been dreaming. I would realize that no real person could fly, and I’d collapse on the floor, crushed by the weight of my own limitations. Eventually, my dreams of flying stopped. I think I stopped dreaming completely.
After that, my earliest memory is of learning to count to one hundred. After baths my mother would perch me on the sink and dry me as I tried to make it to one hundred without a mistake. Whenever I got lost, she’d stop me and make me start all over again from the beginning. I never got bored and I never got frustrated, though I think maybe she did. I’d just keep trying until I got it right or my mother got bored.
I had to be lifted up into the sink. An accident with a runaway track when I was four had mangled my left leg, leaving scars that stood out, puckered white against my skin. Looking at the largest of my scars in the mirror, I imagined that it was an eagle. It wasn’t fair, I thought. I had an eagle on my leg but I couldn’t fly. I could hardly walk, and the crutches hurt my arms.
Years later, in Venice, I had the closest thing to a revelation I can imagine. Sitting on the rooftop of the Cathedral of San Marco, I wasn’t sure what life had in store for me. I was up on a ledge, in between the winged horses that overlooked San Marco square. To the left, the Grand Canal snaked off into the sea, where the sun cast long, crimson, afternoon shadows across the city. Below me, in the square, pigeons swirled away from the children chasing them and swooped down onto a tourist who was scattering dried corn. Somewhere in the square a band was playing Frank Sinatra. It was “Fly Me to the Moon,” I think.
Up on the roof of the Cathedral, it seemed to me the pieces of my life suddenly fell together. I realized that everybody is born with gifts, but we all run into obstacles. IF we recognize our talents and make the best of them, we’ve got a fighting chance to overcome our obstacles and succeed in life. I knew what my gifts were: imagination and perseverance. And I also knew what my first obstacle had been: a runaway truck on a May morning with no compassion for pre-schoolers on a field trip. But I knew that the obstacles weren’t impossible. They could be overcome. I was proof of that, walking.
That night, for the first time in years, I dreamed I was flying. I soared through the fields of Italy, through the narrow winding streets of Venice and on beyond the Grand Canal, chasing the reddening sun across the sea.
I woke up sure that it was true.