The College Essay

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The College Essay

The following guide provides helpful instruction and tips for completing a highly effective college essay. As always, it is important to consider the different writing prompts, whether the common App. or those of individual schools, when writing your essay or multiple essays.

Your English teachers are here to help you during any stage of the writing process, so please submit as many drafts as necessary in order to arrive at an essay which you are proud of. If at any point you need to sign up to see your teacher for a conference, even if it is to brainstorm ideas, a meeting time will be scheduled.

Included in this packet is a volume of tips, lists and articles which should help you in the writing process. Please read the ideas and carefully consider using the ones which will help you the most. And remember, ALWAYS make sure that you stick to the appropriate writing prompt which you have selected for your essay.

2018-2019 Common Application Essay Prompts

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? [Revised]

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. 

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? 

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. 

The most popular essay prompt of the 2017-2018 application year (through January 5, 2018) is "Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth..." (23.6%), followed by the topic of your choice option (22.5%), and "Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful..." (21.4%). 


  • The essay is one of the few things that you've got complete control over in the application process, especially by the time you're in your senior year. You've already earned most of your grades; you've already made most of your impressions on teachers; and chances are, you've already found a set of activities you're interested in continuing. So when you write the essay, view it as something more than just a page to fill up with writing. View it as an opportunity to tell the admissions committee about who you are as a person.

  • Be yourself. If you are funny, write a funny essay; if you are serious, write a serious essay. Don't start reinventing yourself with the essay.

  • If you're recounting an amusing and light-hearted anecdote from your childhood, it doesn't have to read like a Congressional Act? Make it fun!

  • Tell us something different from what we'll read on your list of extracurricular activities or transcript.

  • Take the time to go beyond the obvious. Think about what most students might write in response to the question and then try something a little different.

  • Don't try to take on too much. Focus on one "most influential person," one event, or one activity. Tackling too much tends to make your essay too watered down or disjointed.

  • Concentrate on topics of true significance to you. Don't be afraid to reveal yourself in your writing. We want to know who you are and how you think.

  • Write from your heart. It'll be clear who believes in what they are saying versus those who are simply saying what they think we want to hear.

  • Essays should have a thesis that is clear to you and to the reader. Your thesis should indicate where you're going and what you're trying to communicate from the outset.

  • Don't do a history report. Some background knowledge is okay, but do not re-hash what other authors have already said or written.

  • Answer each school's essay individually. Recycled "utility essays" come across as impersonal and sanitized. The one exception is an essay written for and submitted to Common Application member schools.

  • Proofread, proofread, and proofread. Nothing says "last-minute essay" like an "are" instead of "our" or a "their" instead of "they're."

  • Keep it short and to the point.

  • Limit the number of people from whom you request feedback on your essay. Too much input creates an essay that sounds as though it has been written by a committee or results in writing that is absent your own voice.

  • Appearance cannot replace substance, but it can certainly enhance the value of an already well-written essay.

You must now confront the underlying problem of writing your admissions essay. You must now consider topics that will allow you to synthesize your important personal characteristics and experiences into a coherent whole, while simultaneously addressing your desire to attend a specific institution. While most admissions essays allow great latitude in topic selection, you must also be sure to answer the questions that were asked of you. Leaving a lasting impression on someone who reads 50-100 essays a day will not be easy, but here are some guidelines to help you get started. With any luck, one or two topics, with small changes, will allow you to answer application questions for 5-7 different colleges, although admissions officers do appreciate essays that provide convincing evidence of how an applicant will fit into a particular academic environment. You should at least have read the college's webpage, admissions catalog, and have an understanding of the institution's strengths.

Consider the following questions before proceeding:

  • Have you selected a topic that describes something of personal importance in your life, with which you can use vivid personal experiences as supporting details?

  • Is your topic a gimmick? That is, do you plan to write your essay in iambic pentameter or make it funny. You should be very, very careful if you are planning to do this. We recommend strongly that you do not do this. Almost always, this is done poorly and is not appreciated by the admissions committee. Nothing is worse than not laughing or not being amused at something that was written to be funny or amusing.

  • Will your topic only repeat information listed elsewhere on your application? If so, pick a new topic. Don’t mention GPAs or standardized test scores in your essay.

  • Can you offer vivid supporting paragraphs to your essay topic? If you cannot easily think of supporting paragraphs with concrete examples, you should probably choose a different essay topic.

  • Can you fully answer the question asked of you? Can you address and elaborate on all points within the specified word limit, or will you end up writing a poor summary of something that might be interesting as a report or research paper? If you plan on writing something technical for college admissions, make sure you truly can back up your interest in a topic and are not merely throwing around big scientific words. Unless you convince the reader that you actually have the life experiences to back up your interest in neurobiology, the reader will assume you are trying to impress him/her with shallow tactics. Also, be sure you can write to admissions officers and that you are not writing over their heads.

  • Can you keep the reader's interest from the first word. The entire essay must be interesting, considering admissions officers will probably only spends a few minutes reading each essay.

  • Is your topic overdone? To ascertain this, peruse through old essays. The Web can be an excellent resource for finding old essays. Regardless, most topics are overdone, and this is not a bad thing. A unique or convincing answer to a classic topic can pay off big.

  • Will your topic turnoff a large number of people? If you write on how everyone should worship your God, how wrong or right abortion is, or how you think the Republican or Democratic Party is evil, you will not get into the college of your choice. The only thing worse than not writing a memorable essay is writing an essay that will be remembered negatively. Stay away from specific religions, political doctrines, or controversial opinions. You can still write an essay about Nietzsche's influence on your life, but don’t express an understanding that not all intelligent people will agree with Nietzsche's claims. Emphasize instead Nietzsche's influence on your life, and not why you think he was wrong or right in his claims.

  • In this vein, if you are presenting a topic that is controversial, you must acknowledge counter arguments without sounding arrogant.

  • Will an admissions officer remember your topic after a day of reading hundreds of essays? What will the officer remember about your topic? What will the officer remember about you? What will your lasting impression be?

After evaluating your essay topics with the above criteria and asking for the opinions of your teachers and of your friends, you should have at least 1-2 interesting essay topics. Consider the following guidelines below.

1. If you are planning on writing an essay on how you survived poverty in Russia, your mother's suicide, your father's kidnapping, or your immigration to America from Asia, you should be careful that your main goal is to address your own personal qualities. Just because something sad or horrible has happened to you does not mean that you will be a good college student. You don't want to be remembered as the pathetic applicant. You want to be remembered as the applicant who showed impressive qualities under difficult circumstances. It is for this reason that essays relating to this topic are considered among the best. Unless you only use the horrible experience as a lens with which to magnify your own personal characteristics, you will not write a good essay.

2. Essays should fit in well with the rest of a candidate's application, explaining the unexplained and steering clear of that which is already obvious. For example, if you have a 4.0 GPA and a 1500 SAT, no one doubts your ability to do the academic work and addressing this topic would be ridiculous. However, if you have an 850 SAT and a 3.9 GPA or a 1450 SAT and a 2.5 GPA, you would be wise to incorporate in your essay an explanation for the apparent contradiction. For example, perhaps you were hospitalized or family concerns prevented your dedication to academics; you would want to mention this in your essay. However, do not make your essay one giant excuse. Simply give a quick, convincing explanation within the framework of your larger essay.

3. "Diversity" is the biggest buzzword from the 1990's to today. Every college, professional school, or graduate school wants to increase diversity. For this reason, so many applicants are tempted to declare what makes them diverse. However, simply saying you are a black, lesbian female will not impress admissions officers in the least. While an essay incorporating this information would probably be your best topic idea, you must finesse the issue by addressing your own personal qualities and how you overcame stigma, dealt with social ostracism, etc. If you are a rich student from Beverly Hills whose father is an engineer and whose mother is a lawyer, but you happen to be a minority, an essay about how you dealt with adversity would be unwise. You must demonstrate vividly your personal qualities, interests, motivations, etc. Address specifically how your diversity will contribute to the realm of campus opinion, the academic environment, and social life.

4. Don't mention weaknesses unless you absolutely need to explain them away. You want to make a positive first impression, and telling an admissions officer anything about drinking, drugs, partying, etc. undermines your goal. Why admit to weakness when you can instead showcase your strengths?

5. Be honest, but not for honesty's sake. Unless you are a truly excellent writer, your best, most passionate writing will be about events that actually occurred. While you might be tempted to invent hardship, it is completely unnecessary. Write an essay about your life that demonstrates your personality.

Essay Turnoffs

From How to Get into the Right College: Scoring Points with the Essay

  • Careless Mistakes – Do you care about the essay? Then on pain of rejection, correct all your typos, misspelled words and incorrect grammar.

  • Trite Phrases – Most admissions officers are near nausea with applicants “who want to help people.” Think of something that is unique about you.

  • Too Slick – An essay that reads like it was churned out by Dad’s P.R. firm will fall flat. Be genuine. Let the real you shine through.

  • Cynicism – Colleges want bright, active people – not wet blankets. A positive approach to life, and to the essay, will score points.

  • Life Histories – Make sure your essay has a point. An endless stream of phrases like “then I did this, and then I did this...” is sleep-inducing and doesn’t say anything meaningful about you

  • Too Long – More is not better. The colleges want a concise, well reasoned essay – not the sequel to Gone With the Wind. Try not to exceed the amount of space allotted for each essay.

  • The Thesaurus Syndrome – Don’t over utilize ostentatious pretentious language to delineate the subject matter you are attempting to address. Big words aren’t impressive; a clear direct style is.

The Common Application Essay Prompts

Tips and Guidance for the 5 Essay Options on the New Common Application

The current Common Application, CA4, launched on August 1st, 2013, and the essay prompts have remained unchanged for the 2014-15 college application cycle. When CA4 launched, one of the biggest changes from the previous version was the essay section. Gone were the six essay promptsfrom the past decade, and college applicants no longer have the Topic of Your Choice option.
The current prompts are the result of much discussion and debate from the member institutions who use the Common Application. With CA4, the length limit for the essay was increased from 500 words to 650, and students will need to choose from the five options below. The new prompts are designed to encourage reflection and introspection. If your essay doesn't include some self-analysis, you haven't fully succeeded in responding to the prompt.

Below are the five options with some general tips for each:

Option #1: Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

"Identity" is at the heart of this prompt. What is it that makes you you? The prompt gives you a lot of latitude for answering the question since you can write about your "background or story." Your "background" can be a broad environmental factor that contributed to your development such as growing up in a military family, living in an interesting place, or dealing with an unusual family situation. Your "story" could be an event or series of events that had a profound impact on your identity. However you approach the prompt, make sure you are inward looking and explain how and whyyour identity was influenced by your background or story.

Option #2: Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

This prompt may seem to go against everything that you've learned on your path to college. It's far more comfortable in an application to celebrate successes and accomplishments than it is to discuss failure. At the same time, you'll impress the college admissions folks greatly if you can show your ability to learn from your failures and mistakes. Be sure to devote significant space to the second half of the question--what was your response to failure, and how did you learn and grow from the experience? Introspection and honesty is key with this prompt.

Option #3: Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

Keep in mind how open-ended this prompt truly is. The "belief or idea" you explore could be your own, someone else's, or that of a group. The best essays will be honest as they explore the difficulty of working against the status quo or a firmly held belief, and the answer to the final question--would you make the same decision again--need not be "yes." Sometimes in retrospection we discover that the cost of an action was perhaps too great. However you approach this prompt, your essay needs to reveal one of your core personal values. If the belief you challenged doesn't give the admissions folks a window into your personality, then you haven't succeeded with this prompt.

Option #4: Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

Here again the Common Application gives you a lot of options for approaching the question. A "place or environment" could be many things--a house, a classroom, a tree top, a church, a stadium, a stage, a family, a country, an imagined space, a book, an internal place, and so on. Think about where and when you are most content, and then analyze the source of that contentedness. Keep in mind that the "why" at the end of the prompt is essential. This essay prompt, like all of the options, is asking you to be introspective and share with the admissions folks what it is that you value.

Option #5: Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

I'm not a fan of the way this prompt is worded for it suggests that a single event or accomplishment can be so transformative that one becomes an adult overnight. Maturity comes as the result of a long train of events and accomplishments (and failures). That said, this prompt is an excellent choice if you want to explore a single event or achievement that marked a clear milestone in your personal development. Be careful to avoid the "hero" essay -- admissions offices are often overrun with essays about the season-winning touchdown or brilliant performance in the school play. These can certainly be fine topics for an essay, but make sure your essay is analyzing your personal growth process, not bragging about an accomplishment.

Some Final Thoughts: Whichever prompt you chose, make sure you are looking inward. What do you value? What has made you grow as a person? What makes you the unique individual the admissions folks will want to invite to join their campus community? The best essays spend significant time with self-analysis, and they don't spend a disproportionate amount of time merely describing a place or event. Analysis, not description, will reveal the critical thinking skills that are the hallmark of a promising college student.

If you find yourself grumbling about the loss of the "Topic of Your Choice" option for the essay, keep in mind that all five of the new prompts allow for great flexibility and creativity. The folks at The Common Application have cast a wide net with these questions, and nearly anything you want to write about could fit under at least one of the options.

Hugh Gallagher's 'College Essay'



I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.

I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.

Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I'm bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.

I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don't perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat 400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.

I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations for the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.

I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prizewinning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.

But I have not yet gone to college.

The author of this essay, Hugh Gallagher, attended NYU and is the author of the novel, Teeth.
Not the Jolie­Pitts
Being puked on is not fun. In the midst of a sevenhour car ride, Ellie unloaded scattered 

bits of her Subway sandwich on me. Dodging was useless, though I did manage to lift mylegs away from the  projection, years of soccer put to good use.

“It smells like parmesan cheese!” I heard one of my siblings cry. Naturally Ellie had  eaten the meatball sub. Ick.
“Yeah, I’m drenched in it! Dad can we stop?” I used the paper towel roll that sat in the  back seat to clean off some bits. My dad glanced in his rearview mirror.
“We’re late as it is because of traffic. Can’t you wait ’til we get there?” The nine of us  were on our way to the East Coast Ethiopian Culture Camp. We went every year. It was areunion for children that had been adopted from the Wide Horizons orphanage in Ethiopia, like my youngest sister Addie. We still had about two hours to go until we reached 

Rindge, New Hampshire, where the reunion was annually held. 

I groaned, while my brother Eddie, sitting directly in front of me, turned around and  documented my pain with his beat up camcorder. 
“Eddie, get that thing out of my face!” He giggled. This wasn’t the first time my younger  brother had taped me at a bad moment; after I had failed my road test he was there with 

the camera, giddy at my obvious embarrassment. 

Long car rides with my family are commonplace, so perhaps I’m to blame for not 

remembering that sitting in the back seat following a meal was not a good idea. Forty 

minutes go, we had stopped at a gas station, and while the rest of my siblings had 

scrambled out to use the bathroom, I had run across the street to a Subway. In the car I 

had scribbleddown sandwich orders, not far off from my normal duties. At home I was in charge of packing everyone’s lunches, making the chore chart, being the family tutor, 

and occasionally organizing the seven of us into a performance troupe. Last year around 

the holidays we had performed, “So Long, Farewell,” from The Sound of Music for my 

cousins, and we had even ascended up a staircase at the song’s closing. I like being in 

charge, even though I’m the second child, so there was no question that I would 

order the sandwiches. 

The surprise on the faces of the Subway staff when my entire family filed into the  restaurant, pestering me with hunger pleas, was palpable. I had nine sandwiches to order! It took long time. One customer asked me if we were a church group, eyeing the 

different eye shapes and skin tones of my six siblings. Questions like this are frequent 

when we travel. Cramming back into the car, it was not my turn in the back seat yet, but Ihad volunteered, thinking I’d make some notes on my upcoming ACE engineering 

presentation. I had been feeling reasonably good about this car ride; I had finished 

reading Sophie’s Choice (weeping silently at the final pages) and had even made an 

exercise schedule, continuing rehab on the leg I had surgically broken in the spring. 

Things didn’t quite go according to plan though, because in a matter of minutes the 

burden of sitting in the back seat hit me head on. Literally. 

Two and a half hours later, while washing the sandwich chunks out of my hair, I heard  my mom call. Together we had volunteered to work in the toddler and infant room at the  reunion. More puke was potentially coming my way, but now I was ready for it.

I was there but my brain was shut off. I had missed days of school and was still  incredibly sick. We were watching the 1976 BBC version of The Picture of Dorian Gray  and all of Lord Henry’s witticisms were going in one clogged ear and out the other. I wasunable to concentrate with a pounding headache and blocked sinuses. However, when I  heard “There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray,” my aching ears perked up  and my brain turned on again. 

It is impossible to escape the influence of others. Luckily, I have learned to filter  these influences. I have never let anyone influence me to the point where I am reliant  upon him or her, as my independence is something of great value to me. It has brought  me around the world and taught me many things. My entire life I have been learning and  I have fallen in love with it. 
As a first time counselor at a camp for autistic kids, I had a lot to learn. I was up  for the challenge. I had ventured out on my own to discover this passion of mine, rather  than doing the easy thing and hanging around with my friends all summer, and was eager  to dive in. I always had a natural aptitude when it came to special needs children and  worked with them on multiple occasions. However, none of my previous work had  prepared me for the task at hand. 
He hated the clouds. If it was a cloudy day, we had to cover all the windows.  When we brought him out to his mom at the end of the day we forced him to look at the  ground so as to shield him from the mass of terror above. Ethan couldn’t go to the pool  on cloudy days, or else he would make himself throw up. This time he wasn’t throwing  up but he was hitting, pinching, screaming, and performing his famous move of holding a high pitch note for an entire minute. I tried everything to make him feel better and  somehow discovered his “happy” trigger. When I said, “zero clouds” the smile that  spread across his face was so surprising that it melted my heart. For some reason, every  time Ethan was upset all I had to say was “zero” and he would laugh for minutes on end  and when he was done laughing, give me a great big hug.
When I received the affection of these kids I realized that I was the one who had  gotten myself there. I went out on my own and got that job and with that made a  difference in other people’s lives while simultaneously enhancing mine. My independence has allowed me to grow in experience and understanding, and that is  something I will continue to value and explore. 

My best friend was eaten by my dog when I was eight. He was small, plastic,

wore a soccer player’s jersey, and had cool ability of sticking to Lego bricks. You may

ask, was he a Lego guy? Yes and no. He was probably made in China as part of a

soccer player set, but he grew into something more than that. He was “18 Guy”, and

one of the founding figures of the Royals, the group of Legos that came to be the top

of my Lego hierarchal structure. He was one of the leading crusaders against the

Playmobile army, and although the Playmobile race had an unfair size advantage,

with 18 Guy’s stylish leadership (he rocked a red bandana) the battles always tilted

the way of the Legos. Unfortunately, battles against the Playmobile army did not

prepare 18 Guy for my dog’s digestive system.
I searched for my friend for months, never realizing that he was probably in

the backyard somewhere. It was not until years later that I would make the

connection. My dog had been a puppy at the time, and was not supposed to eat

anything for twenty‐four hours before a routine puppy operation. We didn’t give

him anything to eat, but when he arrived at the vet’s it was discovered that he had

swallowed a Lego.

My search for 18 Guy came to an end when I moved houses, but his legend

did not. His grand triplets, the Red triplets (also decked out in bandanas), were

almost as important to my childhood Lego experience. They invented the all

powerful crystal sabers, are responsible for the construction of the original

buildings that would come to constitute Legoland and for the formation of the Lego

world in which Legoland existed.

I could write for pages about the family relations of the Royal family and

their adventures, and although everything that happened in the Lego world I believe

reflected things going on in my life, it’s not necessary to go into them all. The

Legoland city is still around, but it has change locations to my closet. Especially as

I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that the Legos I have in my closet have played a very

significant role in my life, and that they were a part of me that I cannot let go. The

closet might seem like I’m trying to hide them, but in fact this is not the case. The

closet is simply the most practical location available; they’re somewhere I see them

every day, and in the most protected spot I could find. My worry is less now about

Playmobile and more my five year old brother.

My Lego world served a number of important roles in my childhood. First

and foremost, the thing that was most important was the fact that it was my world

and nobody else’s. Legos served as my refuge, my sanctuary from the confusing

social environment of elementary and middle school. If something was going wrong

at school I would recreate the situation in my world. Even if the problem was never

resolved in “reality,” I still had a vague mental satisfaction that I had conquered the

situation. The Legos were very important to me in a time of my life largely

characterized by anxiety and shyness.

I eventually emerged from my “awkward phase,” but this doesn’t mean the

Legos stopped having an impact. The games I began to like gave me a very similar

experience to the one I had when I was playing with Legos. I was never a big fan of

EA Sports or the Nintendo games like all my friends were. I was interested in the

Sims, SimCity, and later on games like Spore and Minecraft. Legos established in me

a joy of escaping to a new world and figuring out my problems there, where they

could be carefully manipulated. And even when there reached a point where these

worlds no longer needed to serve as escapes, I still could not get enough of the

feeling of total inventive and creative power.
I would say that not only were Legos imported in shaping my interests in

games, but also they acted for me as the catalyzed of all my interests. They got me in

love with building and playing the God role. I hold Legos responsible for my new big

hobby over the past few years, which has been training Bonsai. However, it also

explains my interest overlapping interest in math and architecture. And although

some might think that calling Legos fundamentally responsible for my creativity and

inventiveness would be an exaggeration, I wouldn’t think it an overstatement at all.

Just looking at some of the building schemes I came up with when I was only around

ten still makes me smile, like entire rotating and sliding walls, twisting rooftops, and

foot long elevators. In short, if I were to have to pick something as being most

influential as the development of me as a person, it would without a doubt be my

Legos, starting with 18 Guy.

College Essay: Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
Buzzcutsto Birkenstocks. Salsa to soul. Hippies to hipsters. Seven different

performance stages, activists engaged in spirited discussions, and vendors selling their handcrafted works of art. This is the Clearwater Festival: a melting pot of people coming together to support one of New York's prized ecosystems, the Hudson River. Feet tapping. People dancing. I am home.

The music and environmental activism blend seamlessly. Many of the organizations raise awareness about issues that affect every community in the United States and are important to me personally: clean water, fresh air, renewable energy, and recycling. I feel kinship with the renewable energy booths having spent a summer in Texas researching biofuels at a Phytoplankton Dynamics Laboratory myself. And I feel connected to the representatives of the

Appalachian Mountain Club (which maintains the Appalachian trail stretching from Georgia to Maine) because of my work as a volunteer trail crew member. Other booths address nonenvironmental subjects, such as atheism, gun control, and bookburning. Everyone who enters through the festival's rainbow gate brings their own opinions and ideas, which may change by the end of the day.

Music – the universal language of all people – is the glue. Middle Eastern, folk, swing, Cajun, and African music all pulsate from different stages simultaneously. And no one can stand still. I love watching a mom do the twist with her young daughter, an elderly man boogie down by himself, and people getting up from their picnic blankets to sway to the music. Music is extremely important to me. I believe it connects emotions with reality. When I see and hear it come to life in this atmosphere, the experience is transformative and unifying.
At the artisans' tents, a professional banjo sculptor crafts one of a kind instruments from recycled wood and cardboard boxes and, in an adjacent tent, a Japanese origami jeweler excitedly tells me how the imagery of the Hudson River inspires her jewelry and how grateful she is to share it. At the dancers tent, instructors give couples, including my parents, lessons in salsa, the foxtrot,

and squaredance at different times throughout the day. Each tent provides me

with a unique experience and education. I treasure exploring the diversity in the tents every time I attend the jubilee. Everyone has their place in this community: a community that exists once a year, every year, for just two days.
The first few years that I went to the festival I simply watched. But I've learned that to fully appreciate it, I had to jump right in. I had to dance and play handcrafted instruments (I was even rewarded with a respectful nod for doing so). I had to try food I'd never eaten before and talk to activists with a variety of opinions. I have been richly rewarded for my effort. The environmental activism, the openness and diversity, and the music harmonize perfectly in this place. I am content here.

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