Harvard Common App Essay: Evaluate a Significant Experience

Harvard Common App Essay: Evaluate a Significant Experience


Evaluate  a  significant  experience,  achievement,  risk  you  have  taken,  or  ethical   dilemma  you  have  faced  and  its  impact  on  you.

The  most  gratifyingly  productive  and  exhilarating  hours  of  my  life  were  spent  frantically  typing  by  the  glow  of  a  laptop  on  a  desk  in  the  dark  corner  of  a  crowded  basement  office.  Glamorous,  working  in  politics  is  not.  When  the  campaign  office  in  which  I  toiled  for  most  of  my  waking  hours  didn’t  smell  like  dirty  feet,  it  was  due  to  one  of  two  things:  someone  had:

  1. emptied  a  bottle  of  Febreeze  in  a  futile  attempt  at  air  freshening  or  
  2. opened  one  of  the  mini-­‐fridges  that  were  crammed  with  ancient  leftovers  and  energy  drinks.  

The  harsh  overhead  fluorescents  added  to  the  unhealthy  glow  surrounding  even  the  most  defiantly  active/healthy  members  of  the  campaign  staff.  We  worked  exhaustively,  putting  everything  else  in  our  lives  on  hold.    A  few  of  my  colleagues,  and  best  friends  because  of  the  campaign,  joined  the  campaign  in  lieu  of  going  to  back  to  college.  Another  postponed  his  wedding.  I  neglected,  to  a  certain  extent,  my  friends  and  family.  We  did  all  of  this  because  we  shared  a  common  commitment  to  what  it  was  we  were  working  for.  We  did  all  of  this  for  a  losing  candidate.    

 Of  course,  we  weren’t  planning  on  losing  at  the  time.    When  I  met  and  began  working  with  Congressman  Tom  Perriello’s  field  director  in  January  2010,  I  had  no  idea  what  I  was  getting  into.  Returning  his  January  phone  call  turned  out  to  be  one  of  the  best  decisions  of  my  life.  After  working  during  the  early  months  of  the  campaign  as  a  volunteer,  reaching  out  to  party  activists  around  the  district  and  helping  to  build  a  field  program  from  scratch,  the  campaign  hired  me  as  paid  staff  for  the  summer.    This  was,  of  course,  excellent  campaign  strategy.    Whether  I  was  leading  database  training  over  video  conference  or  traveling  to  and  working  in  Rocky  Mount,  Virginia,  (yes,  it’s  exactly  as  rural  and  charming  as  it  sounds)  for  two  weeks  during  the  dog  days  of  summer,  I  had  opportunities  to  meet  and  work  with  incredibly  dedicated  people  at  every  turn.    

 Despite  our  best  efforts  and  great  work,  we  failed.  There’s  really  no  sugar-­‐coating  that  point.  Tuesday,  November  2nd,  was  a  rough  day  for  many  in  Democratic  politics,  to  be  sure.  While  we  were  able  to  find  some  consolation  in  the  nitty-­‐gritty  numbers  (we  out-­‐performed  expectations  in  virtually  all  metrics,  except  in  the  pesky  vote  count),  it  still  didn’t  change  the  fact  that  Tom’s  days  as  the  congressman  from  Virginia’s  5th  district  were  numbered.    

 When  the  dust  settled,  and  after  everyone  got  a  few  hours  of  sleep,  the  up-­‐sides  of  losing  became  readily  apparent.  Losing  is  worthless  unless  you  take  the  skills  that  you  honed  in  the  process,  land  on  your  feet,  and  apply  them  to  your  next  adventure.  Tom  Perriello  (occasionally  pronounced  “Per-­‐jell-­‐i-­‐yo”  in  5th  district  vernacular)  is  democracy  building  in  Egypt.  Several  of  my  former  coworkers  are  working  for  the  President  of  the  United  States,  which  is  super  snazzy.  A  couple  went  back  to  college.  Me?  I’m  figuring  it  out.  

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