Who Am I? Finding Your Voice College Essay Packet World and Multicultural Lit – Fall 2014 Redding/Sanders Name

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Who Am I?

Finding Your Voice

College Essay Packet

World and Multicultural Lit – Fall 2014


Name: _________________________________________

A Doubting, Questioning Mind”

This essay aired as a This I Believe segment circa 1954. Elizabeth Earle was sixteen years old at the time.
At the age of sixteen, many of my friends have already chosen a religion to follow (usually that of their parents) and are bound to it by many ties. I am still “freelancing” in religion, searching for beliefs to guide me when I am an adult. I fear I shall always be searching, never attaining ultimate satisfaction, for I possess that blessing and curse—a doubting, questioning mind.
At present, my doubting spirit has found comfort in certain ideas, gleaned from books and experience, to form a personal philosophy. I find that this philosophy—a code consisting of a few phrases—supplements, but does not replace, religion.
The one rule that could serve anyone in almost any situation is, “To see what must be done and not to do it, is a crime.” Urged on by this, I volunteer for distasteful tasks or pick up scrap paper from the floor. I am no longer able to ignore duty without feeling guilty. This is “The still, small voice,” to be sure, but sharpened by my own discernment of duty.
“The difficult we do at once, the impossible takes a little longer.” This is the motto of a potential scientist, already struggling to unravel the mysteries of life. It rings with the optimism youth needs in order to stand up against trouble or failure.
Jonathan Edwards, a Puritan minister, resolved never to do anything out of revenge. I am a modern, a member of a church far removed from Puritanism, yet I have accepted this resolution. Since revenge and retaliation seem to have been accepted by nations today, I sometimes have difficulty reconciling my moral convictions with the tangled world being handed down to us by the adults. Apparently what I must do to make life more endurable is to follow my principles, with the hope that enough of this feeling will rub off on my associates to begin a chain reaction.
To a thinking person, such resolutions are very valuable; nevertheless, they often leave a vacuum in the soul. Churches are trying to fill this vacuum, each by its own method. During this year, I have visited churches ranging from orthodoxy to extreme liberalism. In my search for a personal faith, I consider it my duty to expose myself to all forms of religion. Each church has left something within me—either a new concept of God and man, or an understanding and respect for those of other beliefs. I have found such experiences with other religions the best means for freeing myself from prejudices.
Through my visits, the reasoning of fundamentalists has become clearer to me, but I am still unable to accept it. I have a simple faith in the Deity and a hope that my attempts to live a decent life are pleasing to Him. If I were to discover that there is no afterlife, my motive for moral living would not be destroyed. I have enough of the philosopher in me to love righteousness for its own sake.
This is my youthful philosophy, a simple, liberal, and optimistic feeling, though I fear I shall lose some of it as I become more adult. Already, the thought that the traditional thinkers might be right, after all, and I wrong, has made me waver. Still, these are my beliefs at sixteen. If I am mistaken, I am too young to realize my error. Sometimes, in a moment of mental despair, I think of the words, “God loves an honest doubter,” and I am comforted.
From “Be Cool to the Pizza Dude,” “Disrupting My Comfort Zone,” and “A Doubting, Questioning Mind”

What “belief” is each author introducing?

What are the principles of those beliefs?

Does each author’s tone reflect the belief? Why or why not?

Does the essay articulate a personal experience relevant to the belief?

How are the authors’ voices distinctive from one another?

Underline and label all examples of figurative language in the essays.

Briefly respond to the following:

Everyone has challenges or problems to overcome. What obstacle(s) are you proud to have faced and conquered? _______________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

To err is human, to forgive divine. When have you ever felt “divine” because you were able to forgive someone for their mistake? OR When did someone act “divine” by forgiving you when you were wrong? _____________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Below, you will find a list of quotes from minds that state beliefs concerning the human experience.

Using the information provided, or your own knowledge, select a quote that you consider as a reflection of your own beliefs. Craft a two-paragraph response with the following structure:

  • 1st paragraph: Explain what the quote means to you

  • 2nd paragraph: Relate the principles of that quote/belief to your own life experiences.

Construct your response on the next page.

Now it’s your turn…

Brainstorm what your personal philosophy is:

  • Make sure you can tie that philosophy to your life experience(s).

  • Why is this philosophy important to you?

  • How would you tell your story?

  • If you know of another famous quote that belongs to your philosophy, what is it?

This I Believe Writing Assignment

Using your knowledge of “This I Believe” and your brainstorming ideas from the last class, craft a personal essay that highlights a belief and your personal connection to this particular belief. Your essay must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be written in MLA format.

    • 12 pt Times New Roman

    • Double Spaced

  • Can be written in 1st person.

  • Must include an original and engaging title

  • Must be related to your life experiences

  • Must cite any quotes that you incorporate into your essay

  • Must introduce your philosophy within the first paragraph

  • Must use imagery and detail to allow the reader to make a personal connection

  • Must be a minimum of 1 ½ page

Typical traits of a personal essay:

Personal Essay

Communicates the significance of a central idea or insight that has a deep personal meaning to the writer

Purpose is more reflective, although the tone may sound persuasive

Development of the piece is based upon the writer’s personal experiences or anecdotes

Written in first person; more conversational or entertaining in style

Appears in an essay or Op-ed format

More subjective in tone

Rarely requires documentation

More informal in tone, language, and subject matter


Friday, 9/5 – Introduce assignment; begin brainstorming

Monday, 9/8 – Rough Draft

Wednesday, 9/10 – Final Draft (typed in lab and turned in with rubric)

College Admissions: Mining Identity for College Essays, Personal Statements

Langston Hughes begins his poem "Theme for English B" this way:

The instructor said:
Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you-
Then it will be true.
I wonder if it's that simple?

Events in a College Essay

The events of your life - big and small, successes and failures - shape you as an individual. "Tell me about an event" or "describe an experience" means "tell me a story," which is what you will want to do in any personal essay. Storytelling needs to be lively and entertaining. Think about the kinds of details and enthusiasm you provide when you tell your friends a story at the lunch table-you tell what the people in the story say; you dramatize events; you bring colors, sounds and smells to life; you transport your listener to the experience and show what it was like. You will have to conjure up these kinds of details for your essay as well, so pick an event or two and start jotting.

Which experience to pick? Looking at a few colleges' essay questions may knock some ideas loose in your head (emphases added):

  • The Common Application asks you to: "Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, or risk you have taken, or an ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you."

  • Penn's application says, "First experiences can be defining. Cite a first experience that you have had and explain its impact on you."

  • USC instructs: "Tell us a story about yourself that will help us to know you better. Illustrate one or more themes, events, or individuals that have helped shape you. Be clear and forceful."

  • Stanford suggests that the applicant "Attach a small photograph of something important to you and explain its significance."

Your experience does not have to be massively life-altering (not all of us have huge turning points in our lives), but can be one of the many little events in our lives that make us see ourselves and the world a bit differently. The time your classmates offered you a stolen test and you refused it. Seeing the ocean for the first time at age 15. Learning to drive or ski or swim. Notice, too, that all of the essay questions ask you both to tell the story of an experience and also to reflect on the significance or impact of the event.

Photograph Exploration

Stanford's photograph essay question is a great exercise that can force you to focus on small details. After examining the photo, write down in your journal what you look like-what you are wearing, the details of your facial expression, hair, eyes, mouth, arms, legs. Describe who else is in the photo. What is the setting? What is happening around you? Note colors, sounds, and motions that are captured in that still moment. What is the mood and what emotions do you see in yours and others' faces? What was happening in your life, your family's life, the nation and the world at the time of the photo? You can use the same laser beam eye to explore not only this photo but also other significant experiences in your life.

Passions in a College Essay

Your passion for certain causes or issues, as well as your hobbies or interests, show who you are. How do you spend your free time? What excites you? Concerns you? Enrages you? What have you done to translate this passion into action? There was a student whose concern over the Middle East conflict led him to distribute to all of his classmates’ bracelets commemorating those who have died in the conflict. His essay on the topic worked because his passion led him to action, and his writing conveyed his passion. Another student explored how his childhood Lego hobby was a springboard to his building robots in national competitions. One young woman’s frustration over male-female relations in her school led her to start a Gender Issues discussion group. I know people who could write fascinating essays on their obsession with beads, their rock collection, or bike riding. Perhaps you think it's less-than-admirable to say that you spend every Saturday afternoon watching classic movies, but if you can intelligently reflect on why you love old movies and what it shows about you, it could be a worthwhile topic.

People in a College Essay

Begin by listing people in your life who have nurtured your identity. In addition to your family members, you may list instructors, coaches, teachers, or neighbors. After you make a list, decide which person or people you could write about most engagingly. Some applications ask you to write about a person; some just leave the door open for you by telling you to explore a topic of choice. The Common Application, for instance, suggests that you "Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe the influence."

You might begin your exploration by reflecting on your family and how it has affected who you have become. Focus on the details of one or two members of your family-their appearance, their habits, their activities, and their interactions with you. Think of a story that encapsulates a relationship. Consider exploring your family's cultural heritage, traditions, or foods. Bring the people you depict to life-give them color, personality, a voice. Provide anecdotes about these family members or other important people in your life.

Places in a College Essay

Perhaps a place has gotten under your skin because you've spent so much time there. Perhaps you've worked on your grandfather's farm in Wisconsin each summer since you were ten. Perhaps you attend a school unlike most schools in the nation, one in an unusual setting or with an unusual philosophy. Perhaps you spent a semester on sabbatical with your parents in Zimbabwe, and once you came back, everything looked different. Place can be a character, and you can tell a vivid story about how it helped shape you.

Religion in a College Essay

For some people, religion is integral to their lives and identities. Even so, you may consider religion a "touchy" subject. You may fear that the reader won't like your religion. Don't let that stop you if you have honest stories and reflections to relate. Consider writing a personal statement that reveals your thoughts about religion through a vivid story or series of anecdotes.

You care about your essay because it will help you get in to Wonderful U. Fair enough. But you can also gain a bonus along the way (self-realization) as you step across the threshold from childhood to adulthood. A sense of who you are and what made you that way as you go out into the wider world. Happy digging.

Ten Tips for Better Writing

1.  Express yourself in positive language. Say what is, not what is not.

2.  Use transitions between paragraphs. Transitions tie one paragraph to the next.

  • A transition can be a word, like later, furthermore, additionally, or moreover; a phrase like After this incident...; or an entire sentence.

  • If you are writing about Topic A and now want to discuss Topic B, you can begin the new paragraph with a transition such as "Like (or unlike) Topic A, Topic B..."

3.  Vary your sentence structure. It's boring to see subject, verb, object all the time. Mix simple, complex, and compound sentences.

4.  Understand the words you write. You write to communicate, not to impress the admissions staff with your vocabulary. When you choose a word that means something other than what you intend, you neither communicate nor impress. You convey the wrong message and may convince the admissions officer that you are inarticulate.

5.  Look up synonyms in a thesaurus when you use the same word repeatedly. After the DELETE key, the thesaurus is your best friend. As long as you follow Tip 4, using one will make your writing more interesting.

6.  Be succinct. Compare:

  • During tenth and eleventh grades, there was significant development of my maturity and markedly improved self-discipline towards homework.

  • During my sophomore and junior years, I matured and my self-discipline improved tremendously.

The first example takes many more words to give the same information. The admissions officers are swamped; they do not want to spend more time than necessary reading your essay. Say what you have to say in as few words as possible. Tips 7, 8, and 9 will help you to implement this suggestion.

7.  Make every word count. Do not repeat yourself. Each sentence and every word should state something new.

8.  Avoid qualifiers such as rather, quite, somewhat, probably, possibly, etc.

  • You might improve your writing somewhat if you sometimes try to follow this suggestion.

The example contains nonsense. Deleting unnecessary qualifiers will strengthen your writing 1000%. Equivocating reveals a lack of confidence. If you do not believe what you write, why should the admissions officer?

9.  Use the active voice. Compare:

  • The application was sent by the student. (Passive voice)

  • The student sent the application. (Active voice)

They both communicate the same information. The active voice, however, is more concise. The passive voice is wordier and frequently less clear.

10.  Read and reread Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. Containing basic rules of grammar, punctuation, composition, and style, this indispensable classic is available in paperback and is only eighty-five pages long.

Name a minimum of 4 majors that you are considering.
_____________________________________ _____________________________________
_____________________________________ _____________________________________
Name a minimum of 4 colleges that you intend to research. At least 1 must be from out of state.
_____________________________________ _____________________________________
_____________________________________ _____________________________________
Complete the following chart for each school:


Public or Private

2- or 4-year school

Student Population


Urban or Rural

Town Size

Major Offered

Student/Faculty Ratio

School/Major Ranking

Student Groups

Religious Affiliation

Diversity of Student Body

Yearly Cost

Housing req.

‘14 Avg. Admission GPA

‘14 Avg. Admission SAT

College Essay

Other facts:

Record the college essay question for each of the schools that you have researched. If there are multiple options, choose the one that you think you would likely choose if applying.
College: _________________________

Essay Question: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
College: _________________________

Essay Question: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

College: _________________________

Essay Question: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

College: _________________________

Essay Question: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Based on your research, which university most closely meets your interests and needs and why?

Writing the College/Personal Essay Fall 2014

Senior year is an important time for students. It is a time for closure, beginnings, and preparation. You will be working this year on closing the pages of your childhood and beginning a new chapter with your adult responsibilities. Part of this task is to prepare for the next step in your life, whether it is post-secondary education, the work place, or the military. Your job is to provide as much of your knowledge, experience, and effort as possible to make this year memorable, educational, and enjoyable!

When applying to colleges and for jobs, many applications ask you to write about yourself. Many people have trouble deciding what to write when asked this. Do I start from the beginning? What is the right answer? What if I don’t know anything about myself? Indeed, writing about yourself can sometimes be difficult—especially when your future depends upon it! Attached you will find some tips from a great website designed to help people just like you! Accepted.com dedicates itself to helping people write the best essay they can. If you get a chance, visit the website for even more guidance and support!

The Assignment:

Go to the college website of your choice and, if possible, use their admissions essay. If you choose not to use an essay from a college of interest, you may choose one of the topics listed below taken from previous years’ applications or the ones listed on pg. 3, under the heading College Admissions: Mining Identity for College Essays, Personal Statements.

  • Choose an intellectual or creative opportunity that you have enjoyed and highlight how you have grown personally because of this experience.

  • Share an experience through which you gained respect for intellectual, social, or cultural differences.

  • Discuss how you plan to spend your time and energy toward making positive contributions to the college campus of your choice.

  • Describe a recent personal experience in which you have demonstrated integrity and/or personal maturity.

  • From your perspective, please suggest how you might benefit from and/or contribute to a “broadly diverse” learning environment” in the classroom, on campus, and throughout the community as a whole.

  • Describe what you believe a post-secondary education is all about.

  • Describe an experience in your life that changed who you are.

  • Or personal essay of your choice as dictated by our brainstorming activities

Space for Due Dates:
____________In class complete contract for essay

____________Organize ideas and brainstorming

____________Write rough draft in Media Center Computer Lab

____________Turn in completed rough draft at the beginning of class

____________Final Draft Due

Your rubric is attached.

College Essay

Name: ________________________


Date due:

Title of Work: ___________________

W.11-12.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
W.11-12.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
W.11-12.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.




Immediate Admission to the College of your Choice!

You get deferred, but accepted at a later date.

MMM…maybe next year

Dear Sir/Madame: We are sorry to inform you...”


Organization of paper

Paper is well organized.

Paper is organized.

Paper has some pattern of organization, but the disruptions in flow of ideas make it hard to follow.

Paper is lacking any pattern of organization. The ideas do not flow and there seems to be a lack of focus.



I, the reader feel like I am riding right there with you in the drivers seat during your experiences detailed in the paper.

I, the reader am riding in the back seat during your experiences. I am missing something,

I, the reader feel like I am not even in the same vehicle as you, but we are on the same road.

I, the reader wish you would have just run me over because then I would feel something,



Details were well chosen to support your purpose.

Lacking in details or some details seem to stray from the your purpose.

Details are not appropriate nor do they support your purpose.

You have no details.



Outstanding and purposeful.

You have chosen some fantastic and purposeful words.

You chose some words wisely for your purpose.

You let the words chose themselves.



The paper has none or very few errors in punctuation, capitalization, and spelling.

AND you made grammatical choices based on how you wanted your reader to focus and pace himself.

The paper has few punctuation, capitalization, and spelling errors.

But you didn't really choose your syntax based on how you wanted your reader to read the essay.

The paper has a moderate amount of punctuation, capitalization, and spelling errors. No attention to pacing and focus was made.

The paper has an excessive amount of punctuation, capitalization, and spelling errors. you need to know more about syntax and proper grammatical structure, so you can begin to make syntactical choices.









Ten Do's and Don'ts for Your College Admissions Essay

The Do's

  1. Unite your essay and give it direction with a theme or thesis. The thesis is the main point you want to communicate.

  2. Before you begin writing, choose what you want to discuss and the order in which you want to discuss it (Brainstorming/Jot list, rough draft).

  3. Use concrete examples from your life experience to support your thesis and distinguish yourself from other applicants (what makes you unique from the other college hopefuls?).

  4. Consider what interests you, excites you. That's what the admissions staff wants to read.

  5. Start your essay with an attention-grabbing lead--an anecdote, quote, question, or engaging description of a scene.

  6. End your essay with a conclusion that refers back to the lead and restates your thesis.

  7. Revise your essay at least three times.

  8. In addition to your editing, ask someone else to critique your essay for you.

  9. Proofread your essay by reading it out loud or reading it into a tape recorder and playing back the tape.

  10. Write clearly, succinctly.

The Don'ts

  1. Don't include information that doesn't support your thesis.

  2. Don't start your essay with "I was born in...," or "My parents came from..."

  3. Don't write an autobiography, itinerary, or résumé in prose.

  4. Don't try to be a clown (but gentle humor is OK).

  5. Don't be afraid to start over if the essay just isn't working or doesn't answer the essay question.

  6. Don't try to impress your reader with your vocabulary.

  7. Don't rely exclusively on your computer to check your spelling.

  8. Don't provide a collection of generic statements and platitudes.

  9. Don't give mealy-mouthed, weak excuses for your GPA or SAT scores.

  10. Don't make things up.

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