College essays demand personality

Saving space for self-expression

Minjae Lee , Fashion, Arts & Culture Editor

Congratulations, seniors. After the gory battle of standardized testings, you’ve finally climbed to the summit. In couple of days, many of you will be submitting your first college application. Perhaps you’ve woken up in the middle of the night because you had a panic attack thinking about your Common Application essay. Perhaps it was your college counselor’s cut-throat comment on your supplemental question responses that had caused a frustration. Admittedly, college application essays aren’t always profound. You’re caught in a vulnerable situation and asking the admission officers to accept you for who you are. But today, I want to ask you to stop boxing yourself in that negative perception. Instead, I want you to experience the excitement of delivering your one-and-only story to colleges.

Since the first day of high school, it became apparent that I was going to write about my transition from South Korea to the U.S. Perhaps I’m very lucky to have dealt with unanticipated circumstances at a young age. Students who constantly say “my life isn’t interesting” might even be envious of my transition. However, I want to reassure them that there lies a great essay topic on their palms, regardless of their background history. You don’t need to start over your education in a different country nor need to participate in a six-week service trip in Ecuador.

Though I’m not a college essay coach, after spending weeks on my application essay, I can tell you what mattered to me the most in the writing process: authenticity.

Conveying an optimistic voice is critical in the college essay, but I didn’t want to pretend as if everything went perfectly, excluding the agonizing days of high school. I flashed back to 2013 to address how terrified I was of my language barrier and inability to integrate with the student body. My willingness to share my adversities in my essay helped me to write about how I began to overcome the challenges in my own way. Ultimately, by the time I finished the last paragraph of the essay, I retrieved back to 2016. As soon as I typed in the last period of the sentence, I began to tear up a little bit, because I felt a sense of pride for my maturity and progression I’ve exhibited throughout four years of high school. Considering how there’s a large population of international students studying in the U.S., my experience might be typical. Nevertheless, I decided to persist through with this topic, because I realized that it’s not about the transition itself. Instead, it is about what  “I” made out of the experience that has made the essay so special.  

You can think of your college application essay as one of the major factors to your college admission ticket. On the other hand, you can interpret your essay as a form of expression and exploration. This isn’t a three-page literature essay in which you are required to analyze a text from a novel and to put them into words. There isn’t a rubric for this essay. You get to dictate your story, so take it to an unpredictable direction. Start writing about your favorite Starburst flavor or even a pair of socks you must wear before going to bed. Generate your enthusiasm to discover the hidden inner self. We’re all in this together.