Revisiting My Favorite College Essay

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A College Essay From a College Student

They tell you to apply to a range of colleges.  To shoot for your dream schools, aim for your target schools, and come up with some safety schools just in case.  I applied to seven schools, four of which rejected me, including my dream school. Looking back, I would have done it all differently.  

First of all, I would’ve calmed down.  I would’ve worn different outfits to my interviews.  I would’ve asked for help. I would’ve researched more, visited other schools, and written different essays that spoke more about what it means to be a female college applicant interested in STEM. 

There is one essay that I think about often.  I’m particularly proud of this essay because it represents one of the only times during my college application process when I wasn’t agonizing over how to make myself look interesting and unique to admissions.  I just sat down and wrote about something I knew I could connect with.

Now that I’m established in a university, I want to revisit this essay.  I want to rethink my words, knowing what I know now about myself, and what I’ve learned about my feminism.  So, here is the reprise version of my favorite college essay, written by someone who’s already in college.

 

Please Submit a Brief Essay Which You Feel Best Describes You

“Describe yourself.”

I still firmly believe that this is one of the worst commands to hear.  The question always arises in my mind: How can I possibly describe my hobbies, my skills, my interests and who I am as a person in one essay or one conversation while maintaining some degree of modesty?  If the last few years have taught me anything, it is that I am unique just by being myself. What piece of myself could be so monumental that I can actually use it to describe who I am?

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Books. Anytime I think about who I am, I immediately think: books.  Real books with real pages, paper and covers. Books that you can hold in your hand, without looking into a bright screen. I have always loved reading.  It is a part of me I hope I will never abandon. It defines me. For example:

I am a mystery novel, one that you just can’t put down until you find out the answers and know for sure that your theory was correct. One wherein the reader puts the clues together to find out the truth and solve the riddle.  As I often say building your feminism is much like this; putting together pieces of the puzzle that defines who you are as a feminist. For me, sometimes feminism can be mysterious when I don’t know what journey I will take to uncover the clues to who I’m meant to be.  But, I have faith that my detective skills will enable me to solve the mystery and build a stronger foundation for my feminist agenda.

I am an adventure series, a compilation of death-defying feats that only the hero, or in this case, the heroine, can accomplish. Just like anyone, personal challenges are placed in my path all the time and only I possess the will and cunning to overcome them.  Only I can make the quick decisions in the always changing adventure of life as a feminist. Can I pick and choose which female societal standards to accept?  How can I fuel my feminist identity in the midst of oppressors? The answers to these questions lie within the courageous hearts of every feminist adventurer, including myself.

I am a travel guidebook or brochure illustrating all the hot-spots and prime vacation locations.  My life is like a map in this way, following the lines and dots where I make my dorm room into a home, a library into a private getaway, and a lecture hall into a museum filled with ages of knowledge.  A map of the places I’ll go and a reminder of where I’ve been. And most of all, a visual representation of the imaginary lines connecting me to the sisterhood of feminists everywhere.

I am a book of poetry wandering through the lines and rhyme scheme seeking a deeper meaning.  My experiences are like stanzas on a page, each representing a new person or event that means something special to me and only me.  Poetry is one of the most dynamic art forms available for feminists. It a way to foster intense expression and highlight our experiences to a world that wants to deny us of equality.  Poetry is power.

I am a children’s story, one that explores the bright world and sees the possibilities and adventures that one can only experience fully in the mindset of a child.  I see my whole life ahead of me, and a world with endless opportunities. Though now I know it is a world where I might fall down a few times and scrape my knee, I know I have to get back up and keep playing the game.  I know, just as thousands of other women know, that striving for equality and intersectional representation has ups and downs. It’s not a sprint toward the swings, it’s a marathon around the whole playground.

I am a science fiction and fantasy novel, one with fire-breathing dragons, clashes with warring kings (and queens) and flights through space. While I have never defeated a dragon to save a kingdom or fought an epic space battle, I have defeated my own beasts and fears and fought for what I believe in so fiercely that I might as well have been fighting to save the galaxy from a looming Death Star.  Feminism is often an ongoing battle in this way.

I’m at the very beginning of my roaring 20s now, and I have problems that I need to overcome with a brave face and mature decision-making.  I’ve learned that sometimes being who you are simply means upholding your values and accomplishing difficult tasks in your own way.

Finally, I am an autobiography, a written account of a life with each chapter representing a different piece of a puzzle that is a human person.  This is who I am, how I would describe myself with all of my qualities and skills in a way that is different from a resume that simply lists everything “important” about me.  I am writing my own story, my own bestseller. This is how I “describe myself”, with my tragic heroic flaws, my so-called life-saving skills and abilities, and the classic feminine qualities that make me, me.

 

Please Relate Your Interest in Studying at ______ University To Your Goals

In my original essay, I went on to describe how I could envision myself spending the subsequent four years at that university.  I talked up the strong sense of community I felt when I visited and how it was a place where “academics converged in a whirlwind of experiences.”  I gave them the usual hyped up dreams and goals every senior in high school conceives. Similar to other college applicants, I tried to persuade them to understand me, and more importantly, to deem me worthy of an acceptance.

I got rejected from the dream school I sent that original essay to.

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Recount a Time When You Faced a Challenge or Failure. What Did You Learn?

“I have dreams and ambitions just like every other college applicant.  While I understand that college is stressful and there will be many times when I am dissatisfied, still I want to be happy and feel secure.” - An excerpt from my original essay

Getting rejected from my number one school hit me hard.  I felt like I wasn’t good enough in any capacity, like I was a profound failure in every way.  Because of this, I was miserable when I started college. I couldn’t decide on a major. I didn’t want to be at a mediocre school with a bunch of other losers who couldn’t get in anywhere better.  My friends and family told me I should be proud of my accomplishments and look to the bright future I had in front of me. “Think happy thoughts,” my mom said, “You’re going to a great school and you’re going to do great things.”  I wasn’t buying it. I was certain that I was going to be sad for the rest of my college career.

But it got better, despite all my best efforts to remain a tragic heroine trudging her way through college until something more appealing came along.  I made friends and matured. I joined a lovely handbell ensemble. I got a job that I love. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and got to work on my studies.  I came to realize that I was exactly where I meant to be, even if it took two years to discover it. I discovered even more about my feminism. I learned about its capacity to change and grow with the movements of my time.  With feminism, I began to recognize that my identity is defined not by people and institutions who don’t want me, but instead by the power I see within myself.

This fall, I will be entering my third year of college in a brand new program.  I can’t wait to go back to school and take what I’ve learned with me. Thanks to my rejection, I know what it feels like to be profoundly crestfallen, but I also know what it feels like to pick yourself back and start over.  In reflection, my experience has been thoroughly empowering. I’ve been able to build upon my past failures and mistakes, to build character and excel to the best of my abilities. And I look forward to the next chapter in the novel of my life.



Author: Kelly Friday

Kelly is an undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh pursuing a major in Health Information Management and a minor in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies. She is dedicated to the University’s Handbell Ensemble, of which she is the Vice President and currently holds a student position in the Infectious Diseases Division at Pitt. When she isn’t trolling for new music for the Ensemble, she spends her free time wandering bookstores, always on the hunt for the next gripping page-turner. As part of the Make Muse Team, she uses her experience in the male-dominated professional sphere to empower more women to join the competitive workforce, particularly in underrepresented fields.