I talked about my grandmother, who passed around five or six years ago. She was someone who really influenced me in terms of seeing what one can do with a selfless attitude. Seeing what someone can do with a high school education was amazing for me, to think about what I could do with the power of a prestigious college education.
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It was such an inspiration that I immediately wanted to start writing about her. My family was watching a football game, and I was pumping out this essay. There were a couple of weeks when I was sitting in front of my laptop and getting nothing. But once I figured out what I wanted to write, it was fast; in a day, I was done.
In one of my essays, I wrote about growing up in a predominantly white area and a skin condition that I have called vitiligo. I wrote about how those things impacted my identity as an Indian woman. In another, I wrote about how I went from competitive swimming, to lifeguarding, to teaching lessons, to starting a program for free swim lessons for underprivileged kids in my area.
It was interesting to go back at the end and see what I had written, summing up my entire life for 17 years. I did submit my essay with a typo! I wrote it on Google Drive and made a comment to myself and a reference to switching something around. I also wrote the essay as kind of a spoken-word poem. How many people have done that? I did not want to do the whole paragraph thing.
I wrote about the culture shock I experienced moving from Jamaica to Milton, Mass. I was really happy with the essay. It was very emotional to write, and I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders when I finished it. For my essay, I wrote about being an athlete and finding your way after athletics by applying yourself in school. Back then, we had a set of different prompts :. I chose to write on a topic of my choice, which no longer exists as an option probably for good reason - kids just went all over the place.
I also felt a need to be distinctive and thought that a free essay topic might give me more freedom. The way I saw it, the personal statement was a vehicle to convey my personality and my interests. To build my Personal Narrative, I wanted to showcase my personality and reveal a bit about my life experiences. The idea I used was to talk about my battle against the snooze alarm. Frankly this personal statement is really embarrassing.
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Each time I read it, I cringe a bit. I think I sound too smug and self-satisfied.
But again in the interest of transparency, here goes:. I want to as well. The theme of the essay — battling an alarm clock — shows this well, in comparison to the gravitas of the typical student essay. The frank admission of a realistic lazy habit — pushing the Snooze button — served as a nice foil to my academic honors and shows that I can be down-to-earth.
So you see how the snooze button acts as a vehicle to carry these major points and a lot of details, tied together to the same theme. So overall, I believe the essay accomplishes my goals and the main points of what I wanted to convey about myself. Note that this is just one of many ways to write an essay.
It worked for me, but it may be totally inappropriate for you. Looking at it with a more seasoned perspective, some parts of it are WAY too try-hard. I try too hard to show off my breadth of knowledge in a way that seems artificial and embellishing. With just words, I could have made the essay more cohesive by keeping the same theme from beginning to end.
Some phrases really make me roll my eyes. A key principle of effective writing is to show, not say. The mention of Nietzsche is over-the-top. I mean, come on. Where in the world did fried rice come from? I could have deleted the sentence and wrapped up the essay more cleanly. I think it accomplished my major goals and showed the humorous, irreverent side of my personality well. However, it also gave the impression of a kid who thought he knew more than he did, a pseudo-sophisticate bordering on obnoxious.
I still think it was a net positive. At the end of the day, I believe the safest, surefire strategy is to develop a Spike so big that the importance of the Personal Essay pales in comparison to your achievements. You want your Personal Essay to be a supplement to your application, not the only reason you get in.
There are probably some cases where a well-rounded student writes an amazing Personal Essay and gets in through the strength of that. Without a strong application to back it up, your mileage may vary. We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit. We want to get you admitted to your dream schools.
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- The Harvard Crimson Highlights 10 Successful Harvard Application Essays!
This is a really fun section. Teacher recommendations are incredibly important to your application. The average teacher sees thousands of students through a career, and so he or she is very well equipped to position you relative to all other students. Furthermore, your teachers are experienced adults — their impressions of you are much more reliable than your impressions of yourself see my Personal Essay above.
They can corroborate your entire Personal Narrative as an outside observer. The most effective recommendation letters speak both to your academic strengths and to your personality. For the second factor, the teacher needs to have interacted with you meaningfully, ideally both in and out of class. Check out our guide on what makes for effective letters of recommendation.
Starting from sophomore year, I started thinking about whom I connected better with and chose to engage with those teachers more deeply.
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The minimum requirement for a good letter is someone who taught a class in which you did well. Beyond this, I had to look for teachers who would be strong advocates for me on both an academic and personal level. These tended to be teachers I vibed more strongly with, and typically these were teachers who demonstrably cared about teaching. This was made clear by their enthusiasm, how they treated students, and how much they went above expectations to help. If you honestly like learning and are an enthusiastic, responsible, engaging student, a great recommendation letter will follow naturally.
The horse should lead the cart. Read my How to Get a 4. She was my favorite teacher throughout high school for these reasons:.
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By the time of the letter writing, I had known her for two full years and engaged with her continuously, even when I wasn't taking a class with her in junior year. All of this flowed down to the recommendation you see here. Remember, the horse leads the cart. The Common Application now has 16 qualities to rate, rather than the 10 here.
The Harvard Crimson Highlights 10 Successful Harvard Application Essays
You can tell that the updated Common App places a great emphasis on personality. The more experienced and trustworthy the teacher, the more meaningful this is. You'll see below how you can accomplish this. As you read this, think — what are the interactions that would prompt the teacher to write a recommendation like this?
This was a relationship built up in a period of over 2 years, with every small interaction adding to an overall larger impression. You can see how seriously they take the letter because of all the underlining. The letter here is very strong for a multitude of reasons. First, the length is notable — most letters are just a page long, but this is nearly two full pages , single spaced. The structure is effective: first Miss Vorak talks about my academic accomplishments, then about my personal qualities and interactions, then a summary to the future.