Writing a college application essay




2. Organize your writing

They covered the precious mahogany coffin with a brown amalgam of rocks, decomposed organisms, and weeds. It was my turn to take the shovel, but I felt too ashamed to dutifully send her off when I had not properly said goodbye. I refused to throw dirt on her. I refused to let go of my grandmother, to accept a death I had not seen coming, to believe that an illness could not only interrupt, but steal a beloved life. When my parents finally revealed to me that my grandmother had been battling liver cancer, I was twelve and I was angry--mostly with myself.

They had wanted to protect me--only six years old at the time--from the complex and morose concept of death. Hurt that my parents had deceived me and resentful of my own oblivion, I committed myself to preventing such blindness from resurfacing. I became desperately devoted to my education because I saw knowledge as the key to freeing myself from the chains of ignorance. While learning about cancer in school I promised myself that I would memorize every fact and absorb every detail in textbooks and online medical journals.

And as I began to consider my future, I realized that what I learned in school would allow me to silence that which had silenced my grandmother. However, I was focused not with learning itself, but with good grades and high test scores. I started to believe that academic perfection would be the only way to redeem myself in her eyes--to make up for what I had not done as a granddaughter. However, a simple walk on a hiking trail behind my house made me open my own eyes to the truth. Over the years, everything--even honoring my grandmother--had become second to school and grades.

As my shoes humbly tapped against the Earth, the towering trees blackened by the forest fire a few years ago, the faintly colorful pebbles embedded in the sidewalk, and the wispy white clouds hanging in the sky reminded me of my small though nonetheless significant part in a larger whole that is humankind and this Earth. Before I could resolve my guilt, I had to broaden my perspective of the world as well as my responsibilities to my fellow humans.

Volunteering at a cancer treatment center has helped me discover my path.

When I see patients trapped in not only the hospital but also a moment in time by their diseases, I talk to them. For six hours a day, three times a week, Ivana is surrounded by IV stands, empty walls, and busy nurses that quietly yet constantly remind her of her breast cancer. I need only to smile and say hello to see her brighten up as life returns to her face.

Upon our first meeting, she opened up about her two sons, her hometown, and her knitting group--no mention of her disease. Without even standing up, the three of us—Ivana, me, and my grandmother--had taken a walk together. While I physically treat their cancer, I want to lend patients emotional support and mental strength to escape the interruption and continue living. Watch the lessons on your own or via the live option. This was written for the Common App college application essays, and works for multiple prompts or none of them, because the author is that cool: I write screenplays, short stories, and opinionated blogs and am a regular contributor to my school literary magazine, The Gluestick.

I have accumulated over community service hours that includes work at homeless shelters, libraries, and special education youth camps. I have been evaluated by the College Board and have placed within the top percentile. But I am not any of these things. I am not a test score, nor a debater, nor a writer. I am an anti-nihilist punk rockphilosopher. And I became so when I realized three things:.

There is a variety of underwear for a variety of people. You have your ironed briefs for your businessmen, your soft cottons for the average, and hemp-based underwear for your environmental romantics. But underwear do not only tell us about who we are, they also influence our daily interactions in ways most of us don't even understand. For example, I have a specific pair of underwear that is holey, worn out but surprisingly comfortable. And despite how trivial underwear might be, when I am wearing my favorite pair, I feel as if I am on top of the world.

In any case, these articles of clothing affect our being and are the unsung heroes of comfort. This specific branch of debate is an hour long, and consists of two parties debating either side of a current political issue. In one particular debate, I was assigned the topic: During the debate, something strange happened: I realized that we are a special breed of species, that so much effort and resources are invested to ensure mutual destruction. And I felt that this debate in a small college classroom had elucidated something much more profound about the scale of human existence.

And that's when I realized that the world was something I will never understand. One summer night, my friend took me to an underground hardcore punk rock show. It was inside a small abandoned church. After the show, I met and became a part of this small community. Many were lost and on a constant soul-search, and to my surprise, many, like myself, did not have a blue Mohawk or a nose piercing. Many were just ordinary people discussing Nietzsche, string theory, and governmental ideologies.

Many were also artists creating promotional posters and inventive slogans for stickers.

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How to Write a Great College Application Essay

They were all people my age who could not afford to be part of a record label and did something extraordinary by playing in these abandoned churches, making their own CDs and making thousands of promotional buttons by hand. I realized then that punk rock is not about music nor is it a guy with a blue Mohawk screaming protests. Punk rock is an attitude, a mindset, and very much a culture. It is an antagonist to the conventional. It means making the best with what you have to contribute to a community. This was when I realized that I was a punk rock philosopher.


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The world I come from consists of underwear, nuclear bombs, and punk rockers. And I love this world. My world is inherently complex, mysterious, and anti-nihilist. I am David Phan, somebody who spends his weekends debating in a three piece suit, other days immersed within the punk rock culture, and some days writing opinionated blogs about underwear. But why college? I want a higher education. I want more than just the textbook fed classrooms in high school.

A community which prizes revolutionary ideals, a sharing of multi-dynamical perspectives, an environment that ultimately acts as a medium for movement, similar to the punk rock community. I do not see college as a mere stepping stone for a stable career or a prosperous life, but as a supplement for knowledge and self-empowerment; it is a social engine that will jettison us to our next paradigm shift.

I would stumble into the kitchen to find my grandma squatting over a large silver bowl, mixing fat lips of fresh cabbages with garlic, salt, and red pepper. That was how the delectable Korean dish, kimchi, was born every weekend at my home. And like my grandma who had always been living with us, it seemed as though the luscious smell of garlic would never leave our home. Dementia slowly fed on her memories until she became as blank as a brand-new notebook. The ritualistic rigor of Saturday mornings came to a pause, and during dinner, the artificial taste of vacuum-packaged factory kimchi only emphasized the absence of the family tradition.

Within a year of diagnosis, she lived with us like a total stranger. One day, my mom brought home fresh cabbages and red pepper sauce. She brought out the old silver bowl and poured out the cabbages, smothering them with garlic and salt and pepper. The familiar tangy smell tingled my nose. Gingerly, my grandma stood up from the couch in the living room, and as if lured by the smell, sat by the silver bowl and dug her hands into the spiced cabbages. As her bony hands shredded the green lips, a look of determination grew on her face. Though her withered hands no longer displayed the swiftness and precision they once did, her face showed the aged rigor of a professional.

For the first time in years, the smell of garlic filled the air and the rattling of the silver bowl resonated throughout the house. That night, we ate kimchi. But kimchi had never tasted better. Try it, my boy. Seeing grandma again this summer, that moment of clarity seemed ephemeral. Her disheveled hair and expressionless face told of the aggressive development of her illness. But holding her hands, looking into her eyes, I could still smell that garlic. The moments of Saturday mornings remain ingrained in my mind.

Grandma was an artist who painted the cabbages with strokes of red pepper. Like the sweet taste of kimchi, I hope to capture those memories in my keystrokes as I type away these words. A piece of writing is more than just a piece of writing. It evokes. It inspires. It captures what time takes away. My grandma used to say: Mine will be these words. When I was very little, I caught the travel bug. It started after my grandparents first brought me to their home in France and I have now been to twenty-nine different countries. Each has given me a unique learning experience. When I was eight, I stood in the heart of Piazza San Marco feeding hordes of pigeons, then glided down Venetian waterways on sleek gondolas.

At thirteen, I saw the ancient, megalithic structure of Stonehenge and walked along the Great Wall of China, amazed that the thousand-year-old stones were still in place. It was through exploring cultures around the world that I first became interested in language. It began with French, which taught me the importance of pronunciation. I remember once asking a store owner in Paris where Rue des Pyramides was.

In the eighth grade, I became fascinated with Spanish and aware of its similarities with English through cognates. This was incredible to me as it made speech and comprehension more fluid, and even today I find that cognates come to the rescue when I forget how to say something in Spanish. Then, in high school, I developed an enthusiasm for Chinese. As I studied Chinese at my school, I marveled how if just one stroke was missing from a character, the meaning is lost. I love spending hours at a time practicing the characters and I can feel the beauty and rhythm as I form them. Interestingly, after studying foreign languages, I was further intrigued by my native tongue.

Through my love of books and fascination with developing a sesquipedalian lexicon learning big words , I began to expand my English vocabulary. Studying the definitions prompted me to inquire about their origins, and suddenly I wanted to know all about etymology, the history of words. My freshman year I took a world history class and my love for history grew exponentially.

To me, history is like a great novel, and it is especially fascinating because it took place in my own world. But the best dimension that language brought to my life is interpersonal connection. When I speak with people in their native language, I find I can connect with them on a more intimate level. I want to study foreign language and linguistics in college because, in short, it is something that I know I will use and develop for the rest of my life.

I will never stop traveling, so attaining fluency in foreign languages will only benefit me. In the future, I hope to use these skills as the foundation of my work, whether it is in international business, foreign diplomacy, or translation. This was written for a Common App college application essay prompt that no longer exists, which read: Evaluate a significant experience, risk, achievement, ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you. Smeared blood, shredded feathers. Clearly, the bird was dead.

But wait, the slight fluctuation of its chest, the slow blinking of its shiny black eyes. 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.

35+ Best College Essay Tips from College Application Experts

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. Here is a secret that no one in my family knows: I shot my brother when I was six. 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: To me, Jon was just cocky. Deep down I knew I had to get the chip off my shoulder. The Korean War game was simple: Once we situated ourselves, our captain blew the pinkie whistle and the war began.

My friend Min-young and I hid behind a willow tree, eagerly awaiting our orders. To tip the tide of the war, I had to kill their captain.

College Essay One

We infiltrated the enemy lines, narrowly dodging each attack. I quickly pulled my clueless friend back into the bush. Startled, the Captain and his generals abandoned their post. Vengeance replaced my wish for heroism and I took off after the fleeing perpetrator. Streams of sweat ran down my face and I pursued him for several minutes until suddenly I was arrested by a small, yellow sign that read in Korean: Boar Traps Ahead.

My eyes just gazed at the fleeing object; what should I do? I looked on as my shivering hand reached for the canister of BBs. The next second, I heard two shots followed by a cry. I opened my eyes just enough to see two village men carrying my brother away from the warning sign. That night when my brother was gone I went to a local store and bought a piece of chocolate taffy, his favorite. Several days later, I secretly went into his room and folded his unkempt pajamas. Then, other things began to change. I ate dinner with him. I even ate fishcakes, which he loved but I hated.

Today, my brother is one of my closest friends. Every week I accompany him to Carlson Hospital where he receives treatment for his obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. After he leaves, I take out my notebook and begin writing where I left off. And Grace, my fears relieved Essay written for the "topic of your choice" prompt for the Common Application college application essays. Bowing down to the porcelain god, I emptied the contents of my stomach. Foaming at the mouth, I was ready to pass out. Ten minutes prior, I had been eating dinner with my family at a Chinese restaurant, drinking chicken-feet soup.

Take three minutes to think about the prompt. If needed, divide the prompt into phrases and look at each aspect. Why would the admissions officers ask this prompt? What do you think they want to know? How does that information relate to your ability to excel in college? Next, leave the prompt for a while and then return to it. Do you see something new? With so many other things in your schedule, this process can initially seem like a waste of time.

However, it will save you a lot of time in the long run. If you later realize that you misread the prompt, you might need to start the writing process from scratch. This is another step that can initially seem completely skippable, but organizing your writing can save you considerable stress and frustration. A good writing plan can streamline or even eliminate the need to do any significant rewrites.

Brainstorm your anecdotes.

Tips for a Stellar College Application Essay

Create a rough outline, including approximately how long each paragraph needs to be in order to complete the essay within the word count limits. A paragraph a day? The whole thing next weekend? Creating a schedule, even if you need to modify it later, gets your brain in motion. When selecting anecdotes for your essay, pick vivid ones that you can tell succinctly.

Remember that the admissions officers are more interested in your perspective of what happened than the events themselves. They want to get to know you, and the essay is your first introduction. Show them through strong examples. Your admissions essay should reflect command of college-level vocabulary. One of the most common mistakes that we see in essays is using advanced vocabulary almost correctly.

writing a college application essay Writing a college application essay
writing a college application essay Writing a college application essay
writing a college application essay Writing a college application essay
writing a college application essay Writing a college application essay
writing a college application essay Writing a college application essay

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