No college application is complete without the personal essay, which can be daunting for many students to write. But a few simple tips, some introspection and insight into what admissions officers are looking for can help ease the pressure. We encourage students to show rather than tell to help the reader get a sense of who they are.
Also, she adds, they have been writing to the instructions of high school teachers up until this point, rather than for themselves. Finding their voice means students must get to know themselves and write authoritatively, sharing a sense of their lives with admissions officers.
On its admissions page, Hamilton lists multiple college essay examples written by students admitted to the school. Though Inzer declined to single out one essay, she says that the examples offer a diverse mix of student voices and backgrounds. I kept a firm grip on the rainbow trout as I removed the lure from its lip. Then, my heart racing with excitement, I lowered the fish to the water and watched it flash away.
I remained hooked. The creek is spectacular as it cascades down the foot drop of Ithaca Falls. Only feet further, however, it runs past a decrepit gun factory and underneath a graffitied bridge before flowing adjacent to my high school and out to Cayuga Lake. Aside from the falls, the creek is largely overlooked. Nearly all of the high school students I know who cross that bridge daily do so with no thought of the creek below.
Unlike my friends, I had noticed people fly fishing in Fall Creek. Mesmerized by their graceful casts, I pestered Gil into teaching me. From that first thrilling encounter with a trout, I knew I needed to catch more. I had a new string of questions. I wanted to understand trout behavior, how to find them, and what they ate.
There was research to do. I devoted myself to fly fishing. I asked questions. I spent days not catching anything. Yet, I persisted. I sought teachers. If you end up telling a story that hundreds of other applicants could also tell, then you haven't fully succeeded in tackling the question of identity that stands at the heart of this prompt. Your "story" most likely isn't a single event. Being voted prom queen and scoring that winning goal may be impressive accomplishments, but by themselves, they are not stories about the formation of your identity.
Your "story" can take a variety of forms. Did you grow up in a difficult domestic situation? Did you live in an unusual place that had a significant impact on your childhood? Did you or someone in your family have significant challenges to overcome? Were you surrounded by people who had a major influence on your development? Did you move frequently?
Did you have to hold a job from a young age? No, it was alive. I had been typing an English essay when I heard my cat's loud meows and the flutter of wings. I had turned slightly at the noise and had found the barely breathing bird in front of me. The shock came first. Mind racing, heart beating faster, blood draining from my face. I instinctively reached out my hand to hold it, like a long-lost keepsake from my youth.
But then I remembered that birds had life, flesh, blood. Dare I say it out loud? Here, in my own home? Within seconds, my reflexes kicked in. Get over the shock. Gloves, napkins, towels. How does one heal a bird? I rummaged through the house, keeping a wary eye on my cat.
Donning yellow rubber gloves, I tentatively picked up the bird. Never mind the cat's hissing and protesting scratches, you need to save the bird. You need to ease its pain. But my mind was blank. I stroked the bird with a paper towel to clear away the blood, see the wound. The wings were crumpled, the feet mangled.
A large gash extended close to its jugular rendering its breathing shallow, unsteady. The rising and falling of its small breast slowed. Was the bird dying? No, please, not yet. Why was this feeling so familiar, so tangible? The long drive, the green hills, the white church, the funeral. The Chinese mass, the resounding amens, the flower arrangements.
Me, crying silently, huddled in the corner. The Hsieh family huddled around the casket. So many apologies. The body. Kari Hsieh. Still familiar, still tangible. Hugging Mrs. Hsieh, I was a ghost, a statue. My brain and my body competed. Emotion wrestled with fact. Kari was dead, I thought. But I could still save the bird. My frantic actions heightened my senses, mobilized my spirit.
Cupping the bird, I ran outside, hoping the cool air outdoors would suture every wound, cause the bird to miraculously fly away. Yet there lay the bird in my hands, still gasping, still dying. Bird, human, human, bird. What was the difference? Both were the same. But couldn't I do something?
Hold the bird longer, de-claw the cat? I wanted to go to my bedroom, confine myself to tears, replay my memories, never come out. The bird's warmth faded away. Its heartbeat slowed along with its breath. For a long time, I stared thoughtlessly at it, so still in my hands. Slowly, I dug a small hole in the black earth. As it disappeared under handfuls of dirt, my own heart grew stronger, my own breath more steady. Kari has passed.
But you are alive. I am alive. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth and whoever finds me will kill me. Luckily, it was a BB gun. But to this day, my older brother Jonathan does not know who shot him. And I have finally promised myself to confess this eleven year old secret to him after I write this essay.
The truth is, I was always jealous of my brother. Our grandparents, with whom we lived as children in Daegu, a rural city in South Korea, showered my brother with endless accolades: he was bright, athletic, and charismatic.
Emotion wrestled with fact. Luckily, it was a BB gun. There was research to do. Searching for a college? Startled, the Captain and his generals abandoned their post.
The more I learned, the more protective I felt of the creek and its inhabitants. If you choose this option, spend some time thinking about what the prompt is really asking. I remember once asking a store owner in Paris where Rue des Pyramides was. And even in cases where students cannot choose the subject, schools can tell when students are writing in a way to make their essay seem more appealing. Wait—this was a literature class, and yet here was Sophocles articulating the same concerns of the Framers of the Constitution hundreds of years before any of them were born. How common is it for colleges and universities in your country to ask applicants for an example of their writing?
I wanted to find a solution so that nobody would have to feel the way I did; nobody deserved to feel that pain, fear, and resentment. Thanks to my mentors, I can identify and create almost every type of Northeastern mayfly, caddisfly, and stonefly. If you don't think you have a story to tell, you are wrong. Rather, remember that you are being assessed on the quality of your personal essay, not the quality of your memory. In the living room were six or seven huge amplifiers and a gigantic chandelier hung from the high ceiling. Donning yellow rubber gloves, I tentatively picked up the bird.
The Martinez family did almost everything together. I remember once asking a store owner in Paris where Rue des Pyramides was. So use the memory as a starting point for the essay, but make sure you end up with a narrative that stands solidly and creatively on its own. In short: He buries a series of essence images in his first paragraphs one per family. It is also better when students stay focused on one subject and not include unrelated details. Suddenly I started scratching my neck, feeling the hives that had started to form.
Walker is with Indiana University, a public university, in Bloomington, Indiana. And it will most likely lead to the applicant not being admitted. To my knowledge, college applicants are the only personal essayists who have to write about themselves because someone else expects them to and because big stakes are riding on it. He does this through specific images and objects. I remember once asking a store owner in Paris where Rue des Pyramides was.
Its heartbeat slowed along with its breath. I am alive. My eyes just gazed at the fleeing object; what should I do?
For example, Walker notes, many students think that telling a sad story makes them easy to remember. You have words to present yourself as an interesting and passionate individual who will be a positive addition to the campus community.
I rummaged through the house, keeping a wary eye on my cat. Walker admits that getting started in the writing process can be difficult. How to Tell Your Story This popular option appeals to a broad spectrum of applicants.