Common Application Essay
Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
It was Veteran’s Day, and my kindergarten class was listing family members who had served in the military. I raised my hand, waving it intensely, intent on sharing mine. Regardless of the lack of honesty in my statement, I went for it. “My grandpa was in the army.” I needed an explanation for his absence, so my imagination filled the void where truth didn’t exist. He was now a soldier, a hero. Still, my statement was untrue.
Cambodia: My parents would romanticize it. And I would listen. It was a beautiful place, dotted with stone temples, rice fields, and water buffalo. My dad would tell me of when he sat on his water buffalo, tending to the crop, climbing trees for coconuts, and taking the occasional nap. My mom would tell me of her bicycle ride to school and her trips to the market. An image of a tranquil, green, Cambodia, filled my mind.
At age 12, this image was shattered. My mother’s voice pierced my ears, revealing all. For years, my parents hid the chaos that the once peaceful land endured: War, Violence, Instability. They hid the hunger, loss, and pain. They hid the regime that chased away its own children, choking its own people with soulless hands. They hid that at my age, my father ran from home to a refugee camp in Thailand. They hid that at my age, my mother struggled in constant hunger. They hid, that for years, death hungrily floated above my grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Never will I truly know their struggle, but that was their intention: I will never truly know their struggle.
When I was born, my parents made a promise, stating that I would never be exposed to the things that they were, that my aspirations would never be cut short by hunger or war. America would be our safe haven, and they sought to make the best possible present out of the past that they were given. For me, they bore a huge burden. For me, they worked tirelessly.
“Work hard, son.” My mother had repeated to me. My parents seemed to live by these words themselves. “Work hard.” At first, I did not pay them much attention, but that soon changed. One day in second grade, I missed the school bus. An unconcerned seven year old, I walked back home. After I knocked on the apartment door, my mother opened it in surprise. Realizing that my dad had gone to work and that she had no other way to take me to school, she grabbed me by the hand, and we began a seemingly endless trek to school.
When we had arrived inside the school building, she looked at me. Her eyes housed neither disappointment nor shame. Her voice sounded fulfilled, as it said the same words in Khmer that she had told me for years: “Work hard, son.” She began the long walk home. It wouldn’t be until later that I realized the importance of those words. They were the reason why we were here today. They were the beginning of a cycle: Use what you are given. Do what you are able. Live well. Strive for better.
“Work hard, son.” On my first day of my senior year, my mother hugged me, and said the same words that I’d heard for so long. I smiled, and I listened to those words gently echo inside of my head. “I will,” I promised.
My parents did not deserve to go through life as they did, but because of their sacrifices, they made sure that I was given all that they could possibly give. They made sure to give me the ultimate present: the present. With it, I’ve been entrusted with the challenge of building the best possible future, and I gratefully accept this challenge.
Name your favorite books, authors, films, and/or artists.*
Books: Fantasy (Harry Potter); Insightful Nonfiction (Outliers)
Movies: Foreign Historical Dramas (Ip Man, The Front Line); Superhero (The Dark Knight)
Music: Film Soundtrack (Two Steps From Hell); Folk Rock; Classical; Pop
What newspapers, magazines, and/or websites do you enjoy?
YouTube. I like watching quirky educational videos from CGPGrey as well as political satirists such as Jon Stewart and John Oliver. They bring attention to important current events, issues and they do so in an entertaining manner.
What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (50 word limit)*
That we name a single significant challenge and do not address all of the challenges that others around the world face. Each part of the world has its own challenge: pollution, discrimination, inequality. Our nearsightedness causes us to panic, reacting to only one problem, preventing us from solving any.
How did you spend your last two summers? (50 word limit)*
I spent last summer working at my part-time job for the most part, wondering what I could have been doing instead. I spent the summer before that not working a part-time job, wondering why, without any responsibility, I did nothing as time passed, and what I could be doing instead.
What were your favorite events (e.g., performances, exhibits, competitions, conferences, etc.) in recent years? (50 word limit)*
In Greenville, South Carolina, the annual Artisphere, an annual event, showcased the Carolina Ballet Theatre, sculptures, visual art, pottery, and more works of emerging talent. Fall for Greenville displayed the diverse culinary choices in the city. I’ve also had the honor of watching the Greenville Symphony Orchestra.
What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (50 word limit)*
Les Misérables, when it was released in Broadway in 1987. I would love to be in the Broadway theatre for the first time, to see such a remarkable performance, to hear the voices of the original cast, to witness a production that helped make Les Misérables a true spectacle.
What five words best describe you?
In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman points out several tendencies that humans possess than can often lead to rational error. For example, heuristics are how we make judgments. The rules of judgment are meant to be quick and efficient, but they often lead to mistakes. For example, with Substitution, we use simpler questions to answer more difficult ones. In the “Linda Problem,” subjects used Representation, erroneously stating, that if a hypothetical “single, outspoken, and very bright” woman, Linda, is to be either a bank teller, or a feminist bank teller, that she must be a feminist bank teller, because she had the traits of a feminist. However, the laws of probability contradict this. She is more likely a bank teller; more people fall into that category.
Despite the belief that we are rational, our reasoning is sometimes near opposite. Our minds easily lapse, and, even when patterns and statistics easily substitute incorrect human logic, we fail to do so. We fail to deny human nature, and we fail ourselves. We make decisions too quickly, and we overlook their possible negative implications. Kahneman’s book has caused me to become more cautious of my judgment, and I have begun to weigh decisions more carefully in order to avoid consequences due to natural tendencies.Though I now strive to avoid biases, I accept that, often, I will fall victim to my own thinking, and when these anticipated instances occur, sometimes, I will be unable to stop myself.
In Kindergarten, my classmates and I learned the basics of acrostic poetry, and because I cannot bear to leave any of my skills unused, I have written you an autobiographical poem.
Run away. That’s what people usually do when they meet me.
Oh! You’re still here!
Nerd. In all honesty, that is really all I really have to say to describe myself. I articulate the letters in my words to the point where some actually find it harder to understand me. I wear a calculator on my watch to check mental calculations. I actually participate in my AP Physics class. Hopefully you are a nerd, too.
Alive. It’s a state, one that I am very glad describes me. I breathe. I speak. I talk with other people that are alive about the fact that we are alive. I gratefully use the time that I am alive. I smile. I laugh. I dance (not well). I play violin. I listen to others play violin. (Itzhak Perlman is pretty good.) One thing that I really want is to have done is to touch others, so that when they are alive, they feel the warm impact of something good that I did while I was alive.
Love. Another thing that I want. Love me?
Deaf. I love music, and singing out loud for everybody to hear, despite the atrocity that is my pitch. I’m sorry. You will probably go deaf.
So… Write me a poem?
What Matters to You, and Why?
Diction. Diction matters to me. A writer’s selection of words has a major impact on the message that conveyed and the emotion that wrung from the audience. Diction is extremely powerful. Not only is diction important because of its primary purpose. I find it fascinating that each writer has a particular style, and that diction composes a large portion of a writer’s identity.
Even something as simple as the selection of articles describing definiteness (whether or not something, someone, or someplace can be identified as a specific thing, one, or place) has a major effect on writing. Definiteness can show us how we feel toward any certain thing, one, or place. It can show our perception of a certain noun and the extent of its importance to us. This is the strength of the definite article the. Unlike a or an, which completely rob specific occurrences of nouns that they are paired with of their definiteness, and with that, their importance and dignity, the enhances these aspects of a noun’s occurrence, and it makes them stand out.
A writer’s diction is a major component of a his or her identity. While proofreading essays in English class, my classmates and I frequently argued with each other about whether the noun should came first and the verb afterward, or the verb first and the noun afterward. Our arguments were fruitless. We could never settle them, though we did settle that these choices were merely preference. No right, no wrong, only distinction.
Standardized Test Scores:
- SAT Composite: 2160
- Math: 730
- Critical Reading: 720
- Writing: 710
- SAT Subject Tests:
- Biology-Molecular: 770
- Math Level 2: 770
- US History: 690
- ACT Composite: 35
- English: 35
- Math: 34
- Reading: 34
- Science: 36
- Writing: 10
This applicant took the ACT twice.
- Human Geography: 5
- European History: 5
- United States History: 5
- Government and Politics: United States: 5
- English Language and Composition: 5
- Computer Science A: 5
- Calculus AB: 5
- Biology: 5
School Record and Class Ranking:
- GPA: 4.0 Unweighted
- Class Ranking: 4/486 Weighted
- AP Scholar with Distinction, National, 11th Grade
- National AP Scholar, National, 11th Grade
- Furman Scholar, School, 11th Grade
- SCMEA Region II Honors Orchestra School, State/Regional 9th, 10th Grade
- PTA Reflections Music Composition Contest, School, 11th Grade
Extracurricular Activities Essay:
I have worked at Krispy Kreme for over a year, where, I have improved my skills in coffee-making and donut-decorating. Although some scoff at my paycheck, the odor lingers on my body, and my legs ache as I get in my car to return home, I’m somehow glad I get to see so many different people each weekend: the German engineer on call for BMW, the French family of regulars, the party of English tourists. As I sweep and mop, I imagine the number of shoes that have stepped onto the floor of our little shop. So many. And whose? I’ve glimpsed at the surface of so many other people’s lives, yet, they remain strangers. The sheer size of this earth forces me to ponder, as I leave behind footprints of my own, adding a mere two to the number of shoes that have stepped into the shop.
JV/Varsity Tennis, Mauldin High School Varsity Boy’s Tennis Team-10th, 11th, 12th Grade
6 hr/wk, 12 wk/yr
Most Improved (10th), Coach’s Award (11th)
Community Service (Volunteer)
- Beta Club-11th, 12th Grade
- 1 hr/wk, 10 wk/yr
- Participate in 10 hours of service per semester.
- National Honor Society-12th Grade
- 1 hr/wk, 10 wk/yr
- Participate in 10 hours of service per semester.
- Key Club-12th Grade
- 3 hr/wk, 8 wk/yr
- Participate in four service projects per semester.
- Spanish National Honor Society-12th Grade
- 2 hr/wk, 8 wk/yr
- Secretary (12)
- Mu Alpha Theta-12th Grade
- 1 hr/wk, 6 wk/yr
- Practice and take tests before competing in mathematics. Host competition for middle school kids.
- Greenville County Youth Orchestras: Sinfonia-9th Grade
- 2 hr/wk, 20 wk/yr
- Practice, rehearse, and perform the violin with a youth orchestra.