Common Application Essay
Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
I don’t know what hit me first, the sight or the smell of the dead pig. It must have been dead for a few hours as the smell had begun to condense around the table. I could still see the purplish bruise left from where my uncle clubbed it, and the sanguine laceration underneath his leg leading to his heart, still dribbling blood. The pig’s expression was a mixture of confusion and pain, unaware what was happening until it was too late. I didn’t realize, however, that I was blocking my uncle from passing until he shoved me aside and motioned me towards the table. With each step I took, the air thickened with a mix of rotting death and whiskey that only a dead pig and my uncle’s presence could provide. My uncle turned to me brandishing the rustiest knife I’ve ever seen from a sheath in his belt, handed it to me, looked me in the eye, and said, “I need you to cut up dinner for us.”
Two years ago was my first time visiting the sitio, a recreational farm, built by my uncle since I last visited Brazil. Upon arrival, my uncle stated his intention to “beat the city life out of me” through work in his usual jovial manner. He proceeded to sit back and open up a bottle of whiskey while I fed the donkeys and created a makeshift irrigation system out of a punctured hose I interspersed through his crops. Despite attacking all the previous chores with aplomb, I was dumbstruck while alone with the pig. I couldn’t take another step closer for fear of succumbing to the noxious odor worsening by the second, nor could I raise the shaking knife in my hand. Minutes passed, and my mind raced. “This knife is so rusty, is this even sanitary? What if it poisons the pork and we eat it and die? Avunculicide, matricide, and suicide via a single pig- that’s got to be a record. What if I mess up? I think I’m going to puke.” Before I could follow up on that, my uncle walked back inside, noticed I was failing at my task, and snatched the knife away from me while I retreated into the kitchen. Eventually, he emerged uncharacteristically silent and blood-soaked, then he sat down next to me and poured himself another drink, clearly disappointed in me. After a few minutes of silence, he looked up and with whiskey on his breath said, “You can’t be afraid of messing up. Some things need to be done, and you’ll have to step up.” And with that he walked away.
My first response was to never eat pork again, a short-lived promise as dinner that night was pork and the carnivore inside me shall not be denied. More importantly, however, I realized that the idea of failing and disappointing someone terrifies me. Thus, I had limited myself by only partaking in activities that I was certain to succeed in, such as learning music, and participating in the Library Council. These activities are very important to me, but they only require you to put in effort to succeed. My uncle, however, tried to explain that I should be willing to take risks and have more faith in myself. Recently, I’ve taken my uncle’s words to heart and have opened myself to growth, and while I haven’t escaped my fears, I’ve used them as motivation to succeed in new endeavors, such as founding the Current Events Club, and joining Mock Trial and Improv Club. These activities all require you to risk failure in order to succeed, whether through an objection, a skit, or creating and promoting a new club. This incident has led me to excel in these activities, and has made me willing to take necessary risks in order to succeed throughout my college career and the rest of my life.
Princeton Supplement Essay: Empathy
Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences that was particularly meaningful to you. (About 150 words)
I started the Current Events Club because my group of friends like to discuss current news and local, national, and international politics. Our discussions would usually become very intense and attract a diverse crowd of participants. After two years of these discussions, we noticed that people would express their interest in joining the discussion, but would not have enough knowledge on a topic to formulate and express their view. Once we realized this, a friend and I decided that it would be a great idea to turn our discussions into a club where we could inform people about current events that they are unfamiliar with. This club has successfully given me a way to teach people about important topics, while also providing an open forum for learning and an exchange of ideas. Further, as I have an interest in teaching, the formation of this club has provided me an avenue to practice teaching and confirm it as a future career plan. 161
Please tell us how you have spent the last two summers (or vacations between school years), including any jobs you have held. (About 150 words)
During the summer breaks leading up to my junior and senior year, I volunteered at School of Rock’s summer camps. This music school is based on the belief that playing in a band is a unique experience that teaches one how to truly be a musician. The weekly summer camps were exercises in this belief as they group 4-6 students from different age groups and skill levels in a band, and, over the course of 5 days, they learn the skills needed to come together and perform about 4 songs at a local venue on the final day. My job was to help prepare students for this performance by teaching them how to play their songs, and how to perform together. This was an incredibly rewarding experience as volunteering has elucidated to me my love for teaching children, and has led me to strongly consider teaching as a career path. 150
In addition to the essay you have written for the Common Application, please write an essay of about 500 words (no more than 650 words and no less than 250 words). Using one of the themes below as a starting point, write about a person, event, or experience that helped you define one of your values or in some way changed how you approach the world. Please do not repeat, in full or in part, the essay you wrote for the Common Application.
Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way.
I have always regarded Joe as one of my musical heroes for working with world renowned bands, such as [REDACTED], but he has influenced my life as a mentor, a role model, and a friend these past few years. I met Joe through my music school, the School of Rock, during my sophomore year when I joined the showteam, a team of the best musicians in the school that tour the state. He runs the band through rehearsals each week in preparation for our shows, however, when I first joined, he mentored me not only as a musician, but also through a crippling anxiety that stunted my playing and behavior. I was so nervous and anxious to meet him because I had been listening to his music for years, and I felt sort of starstruck to be learning from him. This anxiety made the first few rehearsals incredibly embarrassing as I constantly made mistakes and shied away from any interaction with the other band members. I was certain Joe would be disappointed or angry with me, however, he was incredibly kind and helped me get through my anxieties by talking to me in and out of rehearsal about the importance of having confidence in one’s self. He also taught me how to maintain a relaxed composure while on stage and during practice. His kindness helped me develop the confidence and composure needed to synergize with the band. Furthermore, his advice and mentoring molded me into the confident musician and person that I am today.
However, Joe is also the reason why I’m a leader and teacher at the school today. After a year in showteam, Joe decided that the school needed a student to act as a mentor to all the younger students. I didn’t initially see myself as a possible candidate for the role so when he asked at showteam I immediately balked at the prospect. Joe, however, specifically asked me to fulfill this role as he was confident that I would be a great teacher and role model. At first, I was going to decline, but then remembered my earlier difficulties and how I had matured with Joe’s help. I wanted to help the younger children just as Joe had helped me. Further, the fact that he had so much faith in me empowered me and gave me the courage to accept. His proposal led to my work with the students and volunteering at the school’s summer camps, which, as I discussed in an earlier question, has led me to consider teaching as a career path. Joe’s confidence in me has helped me improve myself as a musician and as a person, and without him, I would never have realized my love of teaching children. 461
Standardized Test Scores:
- SAT Composite: 2090
- Critical Reading: 690
- Math: 640
- Writing: 760
- Subject Tests:
- US History: 790
- Math Level 1: 650
AP Test Scores:
English Literature & Composition: 4
English Language & Composition: 4
Mathematics: Calculus AB: 5
Government & Politics: U.S.: 5
US History: 5
School Record and Class Ranking:
- Cumulative Rank: Not provided/unranked
- Cumulative GPA:
- 3.996/4 weighted
National Honors Society National 11
Teacher’s Association Book Award School 11
National Hispanic Recognition Program National 12
Extracurriculars and Student Demographics:
Senior member of the Library Council
Co-Founder and Co-President of Current Events Club
Member of Mock Trial
Co-President of Improv Club
Senior member and contributor to Animation Club
Senior student and co-captain at School of Rock Showteam (a music school)
Bass and guitar teacher at School of Rock
Community Service (Volunteer) Volunteer helper at Public Library
Community Service (Volunteer) Volunteer at the Paraclete Center (Afterschool program for underprivileged kids)
Volunteer at School of Rock’s summer camp