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A Book I Enjoyed Reading Essay Sample

Lesson Three: Short Essay Samples

Please select from the following short essay sets:

Note: The below essays were not edited by EssayEdge Editors. They appear as they were initially reviewed by admissions officers.

 

SAMPLE SHORT ESSAY SET 1:

Georgetown, Saudi International Relations

For many years, I have been interested in studying international relations. My interest in pursuing this field stems from several factors which have affected me. First, I have been exposed to international affairs throughout my life. With my father and two of my brothers in the Saudi Foreign Service, I have grown up under the shadow of inter-national affairs. Second, I am fascinated by history, economics, and diplomacy. I believe, through the study of international relations, I can effectively satisfy my curiosity in these fields. A third factor which has affected my interest in international relations is patriotism. Through the Foreign Service, I would not only have the opportunity to serve my country, but also have the chance to help bridge gaps between my country and others. Finally, as a Saudi living abroad, I have been bridging cultures throughout my life. This experience has taught me to look for differences to compromise and similarities to synthesize in order to balance different cultures. In short, I believe that my experiences in life, combined with a rigorous academic education, will enable me to pursue a successful career in the Saudi Foreign Service.

Georgetown, Favorite Class

At St. Albans, especially in our later years, we are given the freedom to choose from a vast array of classes. Using this freedom, I have selected classes which have personal significance to me, regardless of difficulty or appearance on my transcript. However, from these classes, one holds an extraordinary amount of value to me. This course is A.P. Omnibus History, a combination of American and European history. There are several reasons for my great interest in this class. First, I am fascinated by the cyclical nature of the past. I see these recurring political, economic, and social trends as a means of looking forward into the future, while allowing us to avoid the mistakes of the past. Second, history teaches many lessons about the nature of human behavior, both past and present, providing insight into the actions, desires, and aspirations of those around me. Finally, it lays a solid foundation for several disciplines, including political science, economics, and international relations, three fields of great interest to me.

Georgetown, Visual Arts

Another major interest of mine, which I have not had the opportunity to express elsewhere on my application, is the visual arts. Throughout high school, I have used a variety of media to express myself. I began with black and white photography, focusing on the presence of lines and balance in nature. For my work in this medium, I received an award at the St. Albans School Art Show. From photography, I moved on to glass etching. Using a sandblaster to etch the glass, I again concentrated on lines and balance in my works. Moreover, by arranging several glass panes into a sculpture, I moved my study into three dimensions, winning another Art Show award. Currently, I am working on canvas, using oil and acrylic in a Mondrian style, which is based on lines and balance. Eventually, I hope to explore the effects of combining these and other media, creating my own style of artistic expression.

Georgetown, Wrestling

In the past four years of my life, no activity has affected me more than wrestling. Four years of varsity wrestling and the honor of being a team captain has instilled many qualities in me. First, through years of hard work and continuous dieting, wrestling has given me discipline. This discipline has spread to other parts of my personality, including my moral character, work ethic, and perserverence. Another quality wrestling has given me is leadership. As a team captain, I have learned to lead by example, both on and off the mat. Above all, though, wrestling has given me a love of life. Through this sport, I have experienced pain, sacrifice, adversity, and success. Exposure to these feelings-which are, in my opinion, the essence of being-has allowed me to truly appreciate life. I hope to continue wrestling at Georgetown.

COMMENTS:

What immediately strikes the reader about this set-before even reading it-is the balance between the essays. Each answer contains only one paragraph, each of approximately equal length. The solid structure of each essay and the focus of each reflects this outward balance. Each one focuses on a completely different area of its writer’s life, another striking detail. The first focuses on his career goals, the second on his interest in history, the third on his interest in the visual arts, and the fourth on wrestling. This is a perfect example of the jigsaw puzzle approach. When put together, you have a well-rounded individual with passion, depth, and involvement in many different areas.

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SAMPLE SHORT ESSAY SET 2:

Duke, Sports/Debate

Throughout my life, I have tried to be a well-balanced person. Growing up in the South, I had a hard time fighting the stereotypical image of a Chinese person. I was expected to be a math and science genius and nothing more. As it turned out, I defied my detractors by excelling in English and history along with math and science. And over the years, I have continued to maintain my academic standards.

Nevertheless, I have also made sure that I am more than an academic person. I am an active one as well. In middle school, the most popular game during lunch was a basketball game called Salt and Pepper (white vs. black). The first day of school, I stepped onto the basketball courts and was greeted by cries of consternation, “Who is he? Is he salt or pepper?” But after the game, I had made a name for myself. From then onward, I would be known as Spice, and the game we played became Salt, Pepper, and Spice.

When I moved to California, things were no different. I continued to play an active part both academically and socially. My involvement with Cross-country, Speech and Debate, Ultimate Frisbee and numerous clubs guaranteed that I would not be only known as an Honors student.

Like myself, Duke is much more than an academic institution; it is a living institution. I feel that I will be given the opportunity to excel both academically and socially. Duke is a university known for its rich history and strong academic program. And, at the same time, it is also known for its innovation and progressiveness. These are qualities which draw me to the college.

In addition, Duke and I have a lot in common. The two most important extracurricular activities I have are a major part of Duke University. Duke’s Speech team is known for its strong Extemp squad. I remember the time when my speech coach asked me what schools I was applying to. When I had listed my top five choices, he frowned at me and said, “Out of all those schools, I will only respect you if you either join us at Berkeley or go to Duke and extemp.” I hope I will be given the opportunity to contribute my part in the Duke Speech team.

Equally important, the Duke University has a well-known Ultimate Frisbee team. I look forward expectantly to becoming a part of the team. Strange as it seems, Ultimate Frisbee is one of my top criteria for choosing my future college. It delights me that Duke places such great emphasis on the two extracurricular activities that mean most to me.

My first year at Duke should be a great one. Majoring in economics at Duke should allow me to both pursue my major studies and allow me time for personal interests in Chinese and the Humanities. Moreover, in my spare time, I plan to join the Speech team and the Ultimate Frisbee team. Hopefully, with my previous experience, I will have an early start in both Speech and Ultimate. Yet, I will never forget why I’m in college in the first place. As long as I give organic chemistry a wide berth, I should be able to continue my level of academic excellence. Overall, my first year at Duke promises to be exciting, if a bit hectic.

Duke, Books

I find Hermann Hesse’s book, Narcissus and Goldmund, intellectually exciting. After reading the book last year, I remember putting it down and sighing contentedly. I had, after a sleepless night, finally finished. What I reveled in was not the fact that I could sleep, but that I had come away with an inexplicable something. It was not an understanding which could be pinpointed and explained. Rather, it was a sense I felt in the depths of my soul. And yet, what delighted me more was that I knew that I had only begun to understand the book; that there remained countless messages which I could only sense but not grasp. Here, finally, I had a book which could be re-read. And every time I finished, I would come away with a new understanding of something I could not put into words.

Unlike the normal academic, I do not want to find the final answer for everything. Throughout my life, I have always felt a sense of loss after succeeding in a long search. For me, it is not the ends I seek, but the means themselves. I am perfectly content to never find the final answer as long as I will always be able to find a better one.

Duke, Chinese Culture/Economics

Born in Taiwan, I came to the United States when I was five. Armed with only two words (“hello” and “popcorn”), I braved the uncertainties of a complex, new environment. Twelve years later, my vocabulary is considerably larger and I have adapted well to my surroundings. At the same time, I have neither forgotten my native culture nor its language.

My ties with my native Chinese culture remain as strong as ever. I visit my relatives in Taiwan regularly almost every summer and have traveled throughout China. And to everyone’s continuing surprise, I have yet to forget how to speak Mandarin. Nevertheless, twelve years in America has made its impressions upon me as well. I am as “American” as anyone my age. The songs I listen to, the sports I play, and the way I speak are all a reflection of that. In short, I am a combination of both East and West.

Nevertheless, I sometimes wonder whether speaking Chinese at home and visits in the summer are enough to maintain my ties with my native culture. Often, when I see my parents reading old Chinese literature or poetry, I feel that I am only in touch with half of what I am. This sense of loss has led me to seek out my old roots. I turn to the East to rediscover what I have lost.

Yet, I cannot resign myself to merely studying my own culture and language. I want to be able to apply my knowledge as well. To me, pursuing a career in business is a very pragmatic solution to my future welfare. My father is a businessman in Taiwan and I have had numerous opportunities to watch him work. Through him, I have discovered my own interests in the business field. I find the way business operates in the East to be very exciting. At the same time, my father has soothed my sense of morality by showing me that it is possible to be an honest businessman in Asia.

Before I learned about Duke, I had made up my mind to study economics and to ultimately pursue a career in international business. I had come to see this path as the best combination for fulfilling both my aspirations towards knowledge and my pragmatic goals of a future livelihood. China, my planned area of focus, is an expanding market with a dearth of skilled business professionals. But I had misgivings because I wanted a school with a strong focus on the humanities as well.

Thus, I find Duke University exciting and perfect for me. It gives me a strong economics curriculum, but still allows me to pursue my interests in the humanities. With economics at Duke University, I will have access to a wide array of studies both within and beyond my chosen major. I will have an edge in the business world by virtue of Duke

After attending Duke (if I am accepted, of course), I will have a clear path before me. My studies at Duke should virtually guarantee me for any graduate business school. And, after my graduate studies, I will be able to realize my dreams. Perhaps, I will be able to serve as a bridge between East and West.

COMMENTS:

These three well-written essays create a strong set. The first and the last would have been impressive on their own. Reading them all together magnifies their impact considerably. This student does an especially good job of targeting the school. This student focuses his first essay on his extracurriculars and relates them to why Duke would be perfect for him. He focuses the third on his Chinese background and how it relates to his career goals and academic interests. Then he also relates these interests to why Duke matches him perfectly. His favorite book provided the focus of the second essay. What makes this second essay better than others like it is that the applicant manages to put himself into the question. He does not just talk about the book, he uses it to talk about himself and stress the inquisitive nature of his personality-always a plus.

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SAMPLE SHORT ESSAY SET 3:

Dartmouth, Debate

Participating in my high school’s debate program has been my most meaningful activity these past four years. I have learned how to speak in front of a crowd without becoming nervous, how to think on my feet, and how to argue the merits of any side of an issue. Being on the debate team also allows me to educate myself on current topics of global importance such as the homeless problem, health care, and pollution.

Throughout the three years I have dedicated to the activity, (high school) has always maintained a successful squad and I am quite proud to know that I have earned many of the trophies and awards that have helped make the program so successful and (high school) well known on the debate circuit.

Because of the activity, I have learned that from education to communication, from argument to enlightenment, debate is necessary for two or more humans to transcend mere exchange of thought and achieve synergy instead. I now view success in debate as far more than a trophy; I now see it as evidence that I can successfully communicate my beliefs to others and have them logically accept them as their own, thus priming me for any future challenges involving human interaction.

Dartmouth, Honors and Awards

My most important honors since tenth grade have been winning the Brown University Book Award for my skills in English, being named as a National Merit Semifinalist (Finalist status pending), winning the Journalism Education Association National Write-off Award of Excellence in the Editorial division at a national conference, being selected as a Semifinalist in the NCTE Writing Contest for my work in prose, being named as an Illinois State Scholar for my academic achievement in high school and my high A.C.T. scores, being selected to the Spanish Honor Society for my consistent success with the language in the classroom, being selected as the Student of the Month in the Foreign Language/Social Sciences division two years in a row for my success in those classes, and in a culminating event, being featured in Who’s Who Among American High School Students for my overall scholastic success.

Dartmouth, Summer at Dartmouth

Most of my past summer was spent away from home. In that brief month in which I remained in (town name) I worked at (job) in order to earn the money I was going to spend on my trips. My first excursion was to the east coast where I visited several schools and took in the atmosphere of an area to which my midwestern self was somewhat unaccustomed. One school I was considering that I did not visit was Dartmouth. After all, I spent a month there later in the summer. As a participant of the Dartmouth Debate Institute I spent a lot of time in Feldberg, Dana, and Baker libraries; resided in the well-known Choates; attended sessions in Silsby; and dined in the Full-Fare section of Thayer. There was also time for recreational activities such as rope swinging, volleyball, frisbee, sleep (every little bit was cherished), and beautiful hikes up to Dana. I did manage to sit down and work in such a clean, open environment, however. The instructors made sure of that. The four-week institute honed my skills in speaking, researching, structuring arguments, and thinking. As a result, my partner and I were able to break into the elimination rounds at the institute-ending tournament which included the top debaters in the nation. Aside from the debate skills I learned, I found the institute very favorable because of the exchange of ideas taking place between the students and staff. What I learned from those exchanges enlightened me not only as a debater but also as a person.

Although I enjoy all of my subjects, I regard classes I have taken in the social sciences to be the most meaningful. Whereas some classes use formulas to describe natural occurrences, the social sciences show that not everything is explicable in such a clear-cut manner. The social sciences describe people; they describe the people who make up the formulas and how and why that was done. The social sciences also explain the past so as a society, people can avoid past catastrophes and build upon past successes. Not only do they describe how we act as we do, but why we act as we do.

I am not a student who always likes to follow someone else’s rules. While most subjects allow for free thought, the social sciences encourage innovative thinking. Those classes expect students to explain why something happened based on certain conditions. I didn’t learn that the Iron Curtain was an economic measure in any math class.

As a student my ultimate goal is to understand things. I feel the best way to understand is not by reciting another’s thought, but by formulating my own and debating it with people who disagree with me. I believe that exchange of thought is vital in every curriculum, but the social sciences do the most to promote that exchange. I highly doubt that anyone will be debating Einstein’s ideas in the near future-and be right.

COMMENTS:

This essayist dedicates the first essay to his involvement in debating. He manages to communicate quite a lot in a short amount of space (what he has learned, what he has achieved, and what debating means to him) without ever losing his focus. The second essay is an example of an answer to a list question (“List your honors and awards”). The third gets more personal by describing the summer he spent at Dartmouth. The strength of this essay is that he sells himself on his knowledge and familiarity of the school. The weakness of this essay is that he tries to do too much and loses his focus after the second paragraph. The conclusion does not seem to fit with the points he has made in the essay-the last line particularly seems to come from nowhere.

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SAMPLE SHORT ESSAY SET 4:

Harvard, Favorite Books

The novel Black Like Me was the most stimulating book I have recently read. I was taken aback by the cruelty the narrator experienced when he was black compared to the hospitality he found as a white man. Possessing the same occupation, clothing, wealth, speech, and identity did not matter when his skin was another color. Given that this was a non-fictional piece, my reaction was even stronger. The book made me favor equality of opportunity for all in every endeavor so others’ opinions of them are based on performance, not preconceptions.

Harvard, Favorite Teacher

I selected Mr. (name) because he taught me more than U.S. History; he taught me how to think independently. This wasn’t done only to prepare me for the free-response section of the A.P. test, either. I know he did it to make his students responsible citizens and responsible adults. From the outset, he wanted to make sure that we knew how we stood in our political philosophy: strict constructionists or loose constructionists. He wanted to make sure that we didn’t gravitate towards empty categories like liberal or conservative, but rather focused on issues separately whenever we needed to take a stand on them. Imagine my surprise when I, the son of two very conservative parents who constantly bombarded me with their rhetoric, discovered that I had strong liberal tendencies on some issues. Aside from political affiliations, Mr. (name) taught us how to make sense out of history by trying to understand the personal motives that went in to any chain of historical occurrences. In his class, I came to the realization that history isn’t only a series of names and dates printed in a textbook, but a more complex subject that requires deep thought and analysis for full comprehension. Because of Mr. (name), history is now my favorite subject. He has also been a motivating force outside of the classroom. He always had faith in my ability and constantly encouraged me to do my best. I believe he respected my abilities and wanted to see them developed further. In fact, had it not been for his faith in me, I would have never applied to Harvard, the school I plan to attend in the fall.

Harvard, Unnoticed Accomplishment

It’s not that I’m a weak guy, just that I had been somewhat self-conscious about my strength early on in my high school career. My gym class didn’t help too much, either. Thanks to a demeaning test of strength appropriately dubbed the “Grip Test,” once each quarter I was provided the opportunity to squeeze a gadget, get a score, and have my teacher announce it out loud, no matter how high or (as in my case) how low it was. No matter how hard I tried, the cruel and callous scale never registered above 40. Almost every other male in the class could boast of a high-40’s or mid-50’s score. I hated that test with a passion. Until recently. When this semester rolled around and I had the gripper placed in my palm, I was prepared for the same old same old. I had been improving slightly from quarter to quarter, but nothing impressive ever happened. I drew in a deep breath, squeezed, looked at the scale, and almost fainted. Sixty-six! In a way only a teenager can appreciate, for an accomplishment only a teenager would find meaningful, I thought I was in heaven. My success was even sweeter as I watched jocks pale in comparison when they took the test. Sure, to some people my academic accomplishments seem fairly impressive, and I would agree. Yet the grip test situation was much more personal and represented success in an area I normally don’t pay attention to. Plus I learned two things. One: I can pride myself on the smallest triviality. Two: I’m glad we don’t measure strength in our gym classes with the bench press.

Harvard, Leadership through Dedication

To me, leadership does not necessarily mean accumulating as many titles as possible in school activities; I feel one leads through his dedication, actions, and contributions. I have always tried to lead in almost everything I set out to do. I feel I have been successful at that. Superficially, I have earned such titles as president of the National Honor Society chapter at my school, Editor-in-Chief, columnist, Investigative Editor, and Editorial Editor of the school newspaper, senior varsity leader in debate, and a Class Representative for Student Council. However, those titles don’t begin to tell the story of my abilities as a leader. They don’t reveal how I volunteered to help out at a handicapped lock-in at an unfamiliar youth center when no one else wanted to, they don’t reveal how I always sought to be on time for work and to avoid boondoggling, they don’t reveal how I aided younger debaters with their argumentation so they can have the same success I was lucky enough to enjoy, they don’t reveal how I became a role model for the JETS squad by studying my material often, eventually becoming the most medaled member on the team, and they don’t reveal all the effort I put into learning my lines and acquiring a good stage presence for Images, my first stage production ever, so I wouldn’t single-handedly jeopardize the whole show with my lack of experience. All those actions stress the quality I feel is most important in a leader, dedication. With dedication comes hard work and the ability to seek out solutions when problems get in the way, whether they are with a news page layout or in a student’s diction. Because of this dedication, taking charge is second nature for me. People are always willing to follow one with a clear sense of direction.

Harvard, Close-knit family

I don’t view my important characteristics as different from those my family has imparted on me throughout the years. The pride, care, dedication, effort, and hard-working attitude that I view as critical to any success I may achieve have all descended upon me courtesy of my close-knit, Italian family.

Born the child of two immigrants who came here with nothing, only one possessing a college degree, the importance of a good work ethic was stressed by my parents from day one. Through their actions in their jobs and through the verbal lessons on life I began to get from the moment I could communicate, they set an example for me to follow, one of being proud of what I do, no matter what it was, and above all, to care about everything I do as if everything had a big impact. This meant that everything had to be done right and be done well. Undoubtedly, following their own advice carried my parents from their status as blue-collar immigrants who labored as a factory workers to white-collar citizens, one of whom owns his own business while the other works as a bank officer. Those ascensions from nothing only served as other examples for me to follow, examples that delineated the ability for a person to improve through effort.

Another quotation from my father propelled me from the time I started school to today: “No matter what you do, you have to be the best.” This set up the inner drive that motivates all my actions. It was what forced me to try hard in school although I didn’t know English well enough to always understand the teacher. It’s the reason why I have developed my skills. It accounts for my dedication to all activities, and to the hard work I put into all of them as I strive to lead both in class and out. Essentially, my parentage was the first quality that distinguished me as a leader.

Despite all the talk of being a leader, I have never lost sight of the importance of my family. I know I owe my family everything, and as a result, I’ll always be close with it.

Harvard, Fun

I pursue a variety of activities for fun and relaxation. I enjoy reading books and magazines (my tastes range from Time to Gentlemen’s Quarterly) on a regular basis, imitating Beavis and Butt-head, and most of all, spending time with my friends. Although I am fan of playing pick-up games of basketball, football, and roller hockey, the phrase “doing nothing with my time” doesn’t bother me since I can have a good time just hanging around. I think people, not places, make for a good time.

Harvard, Social Concerns

My major social concerns all revolve around the future. In other words, I’m concerned about what prevents people from rising above their disadvantages. Specifically, I am most concerned with the handicapped, education, and crime.

I feel society’s response to handicaps is what really hampers the potential of the disabled. It is important for the disabled to get a better sense of worth and to be able to adapt to, and survive in, today’s world. Through National Honor Society (NHS), I have done just that. I have helped out at a lock-in that was designed to foster interaction among the children of the organization, as well as at Special Olympics, where the children participate in sports on a competitive basis so their talents and abilities can be recognized. Whenever the disabled can be successful at an activity, the barrier between them and the rest of society is drastically reduced.

Education is key to other problems such as gangs, drugs, and crime because it can prevent and eliminate them. I try to get students in our school to maximize their opportunities by using the educational resources available. By setting up a tutoring program through NHS, I have matched up needy students with other students who can assist them with their problems in classes. More directly, I help students out with English and show them how to use the Writing Center Lab, an indispensable resource for English students at any level. The more educated a person is, I believe, the more able he is to be successful in the future.

I have dealt with criminal problems in my school by discussing solutions to gangs and other crime in the Student Advisory Committee. We have drafted several proposals to help reduce those problems in our school.

Educating people about such social concerns is also very crucial because they won’t fix what they don’t think is broken. That is one objective of our newspaper, in which we have written various editorials and news stories to educate the student body on social topics. Through debate, I myself have become knowledgeable on such topics as the homeless, poverty, health care, and the environment. That way I can practice what I preach.

COMMENTS:

Harvard is notorious for its long list of essay questions, as you can see from the seven essays this applicant had to write. The first essay is a standard favorite book essay. His second, about his favorite teacher, goes into more depth and reveals more about the candidate, that he enjoys learning, admires independent thought, and plans to study history.

The third essay in this set stands out from the rest. Had the panel who were grading the compositions understood the context of this essay in light of the six others in the set, they probably would have given it more credit. Its strength lies in its funny, lighthearted approach-it shows a completely different aspect of the candidate’s personality. Without it, he would have appeared deadpan serious and probably a bit dull. However, showing the wittier side of himself strengthens the set considerably. It is a good example of allowing yourself to take a risk in one essay, as long as more serious approaches in the others balance it.

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Back to Short Essays

For many high school students, writing an essay is one of the most daunting parts of the college application process, especially when students are unsure of each university’s expectations.

Going over top college essay examples is a great way for students to learn more about expectations for essay submissions. Check out these tips for ideas and inspiration, and read these example essays before getting started!

The Importance of Good Essay Writing

 

Being able to write a great essay is extremely important when applying for college, but the skills students use to write their essays don’t end with college applications. Writing skills are some of the most important, not only preparing students to write a top college essay, but they are preparing to write well for life.

College Admission Essay 1

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

Pushing through the hordes of people, I catch a glimpse of my train’s boarding check-ins. Like a captain frantically seeking a lighthouse in a storm, I haul myself across the ocean of human bodies, trying to stay afloat, to avoid being stranded – or trampled – in the dustiest city in the world: Beijing, capital of both China and smog.

Luckily, I find my train with plenty of time to spare, and without being turned into a pancake, which is always a plus.  The train conductor in his freshly pressed dark green uniform checks my ticket and welcomes me to the train. At last, it is time to return home to Shanghai.

This is the summer of 2012 and Shanghai isn’t to be my home for much longer. Another week and I will cross the globe to start a new life in a foreign land called Charlotte. But which is home? The place I am leaving or the place I am going? Arrival or departure? Like a compass with a broken magnetic strip, I can’t decide where to call home.

This uncertainty is unsettling, leaving me consumed by worry. I take The Things They Carried from my backpack and run my fingers over the slightly crumpled pages. It doesn’t take me long to lose myself; I’m sucked in, broken down, and shot off into the distance by this book of memories.

They say the best books tell you what you already know, resonating with your own thoughts and emotions. As I read The Things They Carried on the train to Shanghai, it is as if the tempest of my thoughts has become unraveled and spelled out on paper. The overflowing sense of hyper-reality in Tim O’Brien’s words of warfare spills into my world. His words somehow become my words, his memories become my memories. Despite the high speed of the train on the tracks, my mind is held in a perfectly still state – trapped between the narrative of the book and the narrative of my own life.

I feel like I should be disturbed, but I’m not. I read the last page and close the book, staring out the window at the shining fish ponds and peaceful rice paddies. I feel like I am a speck of dust out there, floating, content, happy. I realize that I am at home between worlds. I speak both English and Chinese. I use Chinese for math, science, quantity, and process. English, however, is my language of choice for art, emotion, and description. America owns my childhood, filled by pine trees, blockbusters, and Lake Tahoe snow; China holds my adolescent years, accompanied by industrial smog, expeditious mobility, and fast-paced social scenes. Shanghai is the place where I fought my first bully, discovered mobile phones, became acquainted with heartaches, and tasted independence.

I look out the window and realize we are drawing into Shanghai Hong Qiao station. My reverie is at an end, but I have the answer to my question.  Home isn’t arrival or departure. Home isn’t America or China. Home is the in-between, the cusp of transition, the space between breaths, and that is where I feel most content.

College Admission Essay 2

Prompt: 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.

I won “Most Original” pumpkin at a Halloween party years ago. I hate the “Most Original” award. It’s a consolation prize. You can’t be the best, or the prettiest, so you have to be “original”. I’ve won the “Most Original” award a fair amount of times. I was even named “Most Original” at a basketball awards banquet. What does that mean? How can anybody be “Most Original” when she’s playing basketball?

Recognizing the “Most Original” award for the pity-prize that it was, I grew increasing hostile toward the very word “original”. If you win this cursed award, everyone around you feigns sympathy for your circumstances. Phrases like “oh, bummer” and “well, good for you” often circle around the recipient. This creates a cyclone of cynicism and regret, one from which the “winner” will never quite recover.

Okay. Maybe I’m overreacting, but I cannot for the life of me understand that award. “Most Original” always let me down, and as a result, I hated to be original in any context. In my hometown of New Haven, Connecticut, where normality was… well, the norm, I tried to be a typical student, absolutely, perfectly normal.. I blended into crowds, the definition of the classic American teenager. I became a person who refused to surprise people. Just another brick in the wall. Dull.

And then I moved to Berkeley for 6 months. It’s an odd, vibrant place, with odd, vibrant people. I love it because originality is celebrated there. I became friends with a student who dressed outlandishly, wearing corset tops and tutus, and on some days, carrying around a parasol. Her best friend was a boy with purple hair who once wore a shirt with built in LED lights for Christmas. They were the most popular people in school, despite being contradictions to all that was admired in New Haven. Our peers recognized them as being unique, but instead of ostracizing them, as would likely have happened in New Haven, the students in Berkeley accepted and celebrated their originality.

In Berkeley, I learned the value of originality: Those who celebrate their individuality are not only unique, but strong. It takes great strength to defy the definitions of others, and because of that strength, those who create their own paths discover a different world than those who travel the same worn road.

When I returned to New Haven, I had changed. My hair was dyed with red streaks, and I wore crazy clothes that instantly made me stand out. Suddenly, everyone knew who I was. Once, such notoriety would have made me nervous, as if I had painted a large target on my forehead. But I had changed more than just my hairstyle and clothing – I had embraced the idea of being original. Spending time in a place where “most original” was the highest compliment allowed me to explore myself without fear of being different, lesser.

I’m still skeptical about the “Most Original” award. In the context of an award ceremony, it’s still just a meaningless consolation prize. But I don’t think of being “most original” as an insult anymore. I wear it as a badge of honor, proof that I am myself and no one else.

Very recently, a friend joked, “If there were a ‘Quirkiest’ award in the yearbook, you would definitely be in it.” We were standing outside of a classroom, and I was wearing a pair of gold colored shorts that definitely caught the eye. Her comment made me laugh. “‘Quirkiest’ makes me sound awkward.” I answered. “How about ‘Most Original’?”

College Admission Essay 3

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

The sweet smell of cinnamon resonated through the house. A wave of warmth washed over my face as I opened the oven door to reveal my first batch of snicker doodles. Small domes of sugary cookies shyly peeked from the edge of the door. I smiled in excitement as I thought about the laughter these cookies would bring to my friends. They like to compare me to the witch in Hansel and Gretel, except that I fatten children up and then forget to eat them. I am inclined to send a slight glare at this comparison, but any rancor is overwhelmed by my enjoyment of their anticipation of my baked goods.

There is something about the warmth of a kitchen filled with the buttery smell of pastry that evokes a feeling of utter relaxation. I find joy in sharing this warm and homey experience by showering the people around me with the sweets. The smile that creeps up in the corners of someone’s mouth as he or she bites into my food gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment.

For as long as I can remember, baking has been an integral part of my life. Thanks to busy parents and hungry siblings, I was encouraged to cook from a relatively young age. Time spent in the kitchen naturally piqued my interest in baking. Such interests expanded into a heart-warming hobby that rejuvenates my stressful days, improves upon even my happiest moments, and brings joy to the people around me.

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. It has been my experience that the way to ANYONE’S heart is through the stomach. To me, food is not simply about sustenance. The time that I spend in my kitchen, the effort and care that I pour into my confectionary creations, is a labor of love that brings me just as much satisfaction as it does my hungry friends and family.

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