The Essays that Determined My Future
There's a lot on these essays that I would change. But, alas, I can't go back in time, and I've gained a lot of insight I didn't have as a senior in high school. And I want to be honest with y'all, showing the raw essays that got me into my dream school in their original form –– no matter how much I'd love to nitpick and fine tune my past writing.
If you're in the college application process, I promise you will find your place. I was terrified of not choosing the perfect fit for me, and my friends kept telling me of getting a "special feeling" when they knew that they found their home. I never had that. I applied to fifteen different schools, mainly ivies and highly esteemed universities on the east coast, without any clue as to what I wanted or where I wanted to be. My teachers were telling me that I could do it, I could get into a top notch university with an obscenely small acceptance r ate. Meanwhile many of my family members pushed the University of South Carolina so I could get a full ride. Everyone had an opinion on where I should go and what I should do with my life. Everyone except for me.
Out of the schools I applied to, I only got into four and was waitlisted a couple –– none of which were ivies. As a Type A, super OCD planner, I was heartbroken. Was I letting everyone down? Was I letting myself down? I eventually narrowed it down to UC Berkeley and Boston University, and after visiting both campuses, I fell in love with Cal. I accepted my offer while visiting campus for the first time, and I've never looked back since then.
No matter how scary college seems, I promise you, it will work out. One thing I wish more people were willing to admit is that college isn't for everyone –– and that's okay. As students, we're constantly pressured into continuing our education until we get a deemed "good job" and then work our way through life. But that's unrealistic. There's so many different types of people with different goals and aspirations; we can't all be conformed to one standard. Follow your gut instinct, and as cliche as it sounds, follow your heart. Everything will work out.
Enjoy these snippets into my identity, but also be aware of how constructed and falsified they are to conform to a specific college ideal. Behind each sentence is tons of revisions and rewordings; almost every intellectual I knew had read over and marked up my general essay prior to submission. Although, ironically enough, I spent the least amount of time and effort on my UC application. Having forgotten about it until the night it was due, I found myself scrambling to form coherent thoughts based on other snippets of my writings at the last possible minute. But I guess that shows the importance of speaking honestly and openly in a college essay.
General College Essay
My life is a Disney movie. There might not be talking animals, genies, or magical fairy godmothers to grant me ballgowns and glass slippers, but there are two dogs who know my secrets, teachers prepared to grant words of wisdom, and a not-so-fairy grandmother available with hugs and kind words. Regardless of my lack of a royal bloodline or Disney animation, I still believe that fairies exist, that mermaids lie hidden in the depths of the oceans, and that we must always wish on stars; I believe that kindness is the key to the kingdom and that we must treat all beings with respect in order to truly appreciate the circle of life.
Although I haven’t been forced to slay a dragon or to vanquish a villain, I have battled with bullies and fought for equality within the halls of my high-school. Breaking the barriers of traditional southern stereotypes, I helped found the first LGBT+ club and head a female-oriented leadership group, Girls-In. Using only my wit and my intellect as weapons, I’ve pushed through both the minor and the massive obstacles that life has thrown at me––tearing my hair out at seemingly impossible math problems or enduring grief after the death of a classmate––while never losing myself in the process.
Nevertheless, like a Disney heroine, I’ve persevered and discovered my passions. Just like Ariel's infatuation with humans in The Little Mermaid, I became fascinated with the study of history and the Latin language. I dreamed of pyramids and ancient Ptolemaic queens ruling with fervor; of Mt. Vesuvius erupting over Pompeii and Herculaneum, with Pliny’s vivid descriptions sparking my imagination; and of Shakespeare pondering the perfect phrases while writing Romeo and Juliet. History has inhabited me, helping me connect with the people of the past and learn from their trials and triumphs.
While Pocahontas taught me the importance of the natural world and Belle encouraged me to embrace my love for literature, the true princesses of the past also taught me much about my own life. Princess Anastasia Romanov showed courage throughout the frightening ordeals of the Russian Revolution; Princess Nefertari educated herself, an unusual feat for women at the time; Princess Pingyang seized power from her father during the Sui Dynasty, proving her tenacity and strength in the face of patriarchal oppression.
These women became the backbone for my own feminist being, guiding my opinions and helping me find my voice. Both the Disney protagonists and the true royals influenced me: whether it be while walking in a Women’s March or while petitioning against the inhumane treatment of animals, they have provided me with the strength I need to recognize modern injustice and to overcome it. Their stories have guided me, and I strive to reflect their strength, their compassion, and their independence in my own life.
However, the true princess in my life is my mother. Embodying the traits of Disney heroines––kindness, compassion, strength––she has passed on more wisdom than any animated film could. She taught me to be kind to all beings, explaining that even the smallest and most insignificant act can considerably affect the surrounding world; she encouraged me to be empathetic and to love all animals and treat them well, influencing my choice in becoming a vegetarian. Many of my friends shudder at the idea of becoming just like their parents. I, on the other hand, would like nothing more. My mother is my best friend, my accomplice, my secret-sharer; she’s the Tigger to my Eeyore. She is my rock.
I don’t mind my lack of royal blood or of a castle; I’m perfectly content with my southern core and the quaint, yellow beach-house I call home. I don’t need the animation of Walt Disney to provide me with fairies, flawless beauty, or a Prince Charming to save me. All I need is paper and a pen, and I can make my own magic.
Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.
When I first started working in a restaurant as a timid and uncertain freshman, I found myself quite shy and scared to exit my comfort zone. But through my manager and coworkers’ kindness and sympathy, I grew out of this uncertainty and into a leader myself. During my second year with the company, I was promoted to shift leader and key holder, putting me in charge of my coworkers––despite them being years older than me––and accountable for the daily success of the restaurant. Working in such a fast-paced and health-centered restaurant, I encountered a wide variety of people types, and I had to quickly understand the importance of communication both with my fellow employees and with my customers. I learned empathy and patience; I became not only a leader to my coworkers, but also a friend.
The company I worked for had lots of internal problems; the management was rather distant and the owner rarely made an appearance in the store. Thus, I had to find ways to solve the problems within the store myself. I alone resolved disputes between employees through empathy, forming a kind and joyful work environment for myself and others. Our staff became a family––we were united through the difficulties of work and the friendships we maintained. Everyone had a specific and important task in the business, and we all relied on each other to create a positive atmosphere. Although technically in charge, my fellow employees viewed me more as a friend than an imposing supervisor; we had a mutual respect for each other. Although Gogogreens eventually closed, the leadership I held there allowed for me to develop a newfound confidence in my abilities as a leader.
Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.
Every Saturday night, my family and I huddle into our golf cart and drive down the street to a local restaurant, carrying a guitar, a cajone drum, and occasionally a dog or two in our laps. We arrive to the porch of what once was our beloved Cafe Medley, then Gogogreens, and now is Pier 22 and are greeted by the wizened and comforting faces of our local musician-friends. No matter the weather, no matter the holiday, you will find these graying hippies jamming out on the porch every Saturday night. They laugh and cheer as I sit on my cajone and my sister pulls out her guitar, and we all join together in a harmonious exchange. We play a hodge-podge mix––Prince, The Eagles, Michael Jackson, Ed Sheeran, The Beatles––and as the night goes on and the adults loosen up, the music intensifies along with the drunkenness of the older, wannabe rock stars. You can smell the salt-water in the air and the faint trace of pluff-mud, distinguishable scents of Sullivan’s Island. But through it all, I’m singing my soul out; jamming with these adults twice or triple my age is when I find myself the happiest. I allow the music to inhabit me; the lyrics flow off of my tongue and my foot taps naturally to the rhythm. I am one with the melody. On this small porch, I’m united with both my family by blood and the family I’ve found on this quaint, quirky island.
When I’m not jamming out on my cajone or drum set, I use creative writing to express myself. Through the stroke of a pen, I can create stories and vivid images; I have the ability to become anything or anyone. I write of love and lust, of tragedy and sorrow; I write of hope. My writing allows me to understand my deepest fears and greatest fantasies, and it provides me with the capability to convey important ideas and generate conversations. The greatest form of change, I believe, is brought about by the written word
Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
While taking Honors World History in the eighth grade, I fell in love with ancient cultures. As I learned of Queen Nefertiti and Pharaoh Akhenaten, of the Harappan civilization, and of the masterful works of the poet Pliny, I felt a connection with the people of the past and I developed a desire to dig up more information on these unfamiliar cultures. I began reading historical records outside of class and found an intensified appreciation for primary sources; my passion for the past deepened with every word I translated and with every historical article I read. I wanted to become a part of the narrative; I wanted to touch the past with my bare hands.
My AP English Literature teacher introduced me to the concept of cultural anthropology, combining the study of cultural variation within a lab with archaeological fieldwork. He also introduced me to a local librarian with a background in anthropology, as well as an actual archaeologist; through these sources, I have been able to further my interest in the subject with professionals. Although time travel has yet to be developed, anthropology provides an otherwise impossible up-close and personal look at human history; I can physically touch historical antiquities and determine the “normals” for past cultures.
Although I have yet to become an anthropologist, I still find ways to satisfy my appetite for historical understanding within Charleston itself. Living in such a historical town, there are countless opportunities to embrace the history of our home; I frequently visit Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter, connecting the knowledge I have learned in the classroom with the true locations of major historical moments.
I’ve taken advantage of the many history courses my school has to offer––AP World History, AP U.S. History, AP European History, Honors World Religions, Honors Philosophy, etc.––broadening my sphere of knowledge and exciting my curiosity. With each course I take, connections form and ideas manifest; I find myself reading both the required textbooks as well as outside information, slaking my thirst for insight.
What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
Living in the south, an underlying form of bigotry and racism penetrates through some aspects of the community; those with a long line of ancestors from Charleston tend to reject any form of change within the city. Even within my high school, Porter-Gaud, there remains some faint traces of these old southern routes. While I was a freshman, my sister founded the first ever LGBT+ club in high school; however, due to some internal concerns with the school board, the group was unable to be considered an official high school club. Nonetheless, both her and I continued to advocate for change. This change payed off, and I formed PG Pride during my junior year, the first official LGBT+ club at Porter-Gaud.
Furthermore, I’ve always had a passion for community service, particularly regarding animal advocacy. Our school’s service program offers many opportunities to get involved, and I started participating in minor projects during my Freshman year––recycling, Bicycles for Humanity (a non-profit that ships bikes to Africa), and Pet Helpers (a local no-kill animal shelter). During my Junior year, I became one of two heads of Bouquets of Cheer, a program in which we made and delivered bouquets of flowers and cards to veterans in the VA hospital. Leading this program greatly changed my outlook on life; I loved seeing the joy I brought to these sick veterans, and I wanted to find more ways to help the community. My work in this program and others allowed me to become the head service leader of all environmental and animal programs. I’m in charge of five programs: recycling, Pet Helpers, Adopt-a-Highway, beach/marsh sweeps, and Bicycles for Humanity. Not only do I lead each of these programs, but I also gather students to join me as well. Seeing so many students participate in our programs provides me with a sense of hope for the world; not only am I physically helping the community, but I am also inciting others to do so as well.