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"Cutting My Own Hair" - National Merit Essay: Meaningful Experience

ericy135 1 / -  
Sep 29, 2018   #1
Prompt: Describe an experience you have had, a person who has influenced you, or an obstacle you have overcome. Explain why this is meaningful to you. Use your own words and limit your response to the space provided.

I am capable of doing more than I thought

I have never been to a barbershop in my whole life. My father had cut my hair ever since I was a baby. That is, until sophomore year of high school. We all know how it is with high school, times change and I thought that my haircut had gone out of style (no offense dad). For the first time in forever, I had my hair cut by someone other than my parents. I have still never set foot inside a barbershop to get my hair cut. Have I just left my hair alone and let it grow out into a man-bun for the past two years? No, I decided to take matters into my own hand so I cut it myself.

Now, as one might expect, it is not an easy task to just grab a hair clipper and a pair of shears and start cutting your own hair. I remember my first self-haircut like it was yesterday. The whole back of my head looked like a toddler had drawn all over it with a hair clipper. The front had jagged and uneven strands of hair sticking up and I completely botched my bangs by cutting them way too short. Of course, my parents freaked out when they found out and my dad fixed up my hair the best he could. However, I was proud of what I accomplished that day because it marked the first time I started to become independent and took on new challenges for myself.

As I painfully learned, hair grows approximately half an inch per month. I had cut off more than two inches of my bangs that day. I looked like a mushroom. Well, lo and behold, two months later, I went back to the bathroom and once again picked up those clippers and shears. Surprise! The same technique led to the same result. At this point, I thought that I was just not cut out for this and that I would never be able to cut my own hair successfully. However, I happened to stumble upon a haircutting tutorial on YouTube one day and I ended up falling into a never-ending spiral of channels and videos all about how to become a better barber. Over the next month or so, I spent hundreds of hours obsessing over those videos, trying to soak in all of the tips and tricks that I could. It even got so bad to the point where my parents were concerned that I was falling behind in school (I wasn't).

Finally, after my hair grew back long enough to cut, I dragged myself back into the bathroom. This time, I came in prepared and ready to cut with the tools that I had learned. After around three (yes, three!) hours of tiresome cutting I picked up that mirror and looked at my (kind of) beautiful work. Of course, it was a vast improvement from the last time I cut my hair but I knew that I still had a long ways to go. So, I once again immersed myself into the world of YouTube but this time really getting into the nitty-gritty details and more advanced techniques. As time went on, I learned how to fade/taper the back and sides of my hair, texturize the top, blend in the crown area, use techniques such as clipper over comb and shear over comb, and even implement layers into my bangs. I took it upon myself to really become the best barber that I could and it really sparked a passion in me that I had never had before.

Not to brag, but nowadays I have one of the freshest haircuts at school and I am proud to cut my own hair as good as if not better than what most barbers could do. In fact, I now cut my brother's and father's hair and plan to cut hair as a part-time job in college. I believe that this achievement that started out as such a defeat really pushed me to better understand myself and realize that I am capable of doing so much more if I just put my time and effort into it. Cutting my own hair is something that I look forward to every month or so and I imagine that it is something I will happily be doing for the rest of my life. This exhausting experience taught me to accept challenges in the face of adversity and my hope is to continue this mentality that I adopted in all aspects of my life moving forward.

Holt [Contributor] - / 8,636 2522  
Sep 30, 2018   #2
You may want to lose the information in the parenthesis such as (No offense Dad) and (I wasn't). It cuts the smooth flow of the discussion presentation. You should instead, just mention those things as part of the actual essay presentation. That way the "asides" actually become a helpful part of the essay rather than a distraction.

I also feel like this essay is a bit too long and repetitive about the YT tutorials. Try not to repeat the same information twice in the same essay so you can avoid reader fatigue and boredom. Learn to merge the information into one paragraph that indicates both the beginner and advanced videos that you watched. The most interesting parts of the essay are the parts where you mention finally cutting your family member's hair and possibly supporting your other college fees by cutting the hair of your classmates or dorm mates. You should call more attention to that sooner in the essay. It should be kicked up a notch or two.

The fact that you want to cut your classmates hair is, I think, the perfect hook with which to kick off this essay. Explain the importance first and then the learning experience second. By reversing the essay you will not only be able to cut down on its length and lessen the repetitive nature of the current presentation, but you will also be able to immediately inform the reviewer about why this experience is important to you immediately. Which will most likely have him reading your essay until the very end as opposed to the current one dimensional presentation of "I have never stepped into a barbershop all my life because my dad cut my hair ever since I was a baby." It isn't as interesting as "When I get to college, I look forward to cutting my dorm mates hair for a fee to help defray college costs..." From this simple revised presentation that I made, you can already see which version creates more impact from the very beginning and that, is exactly what this essay needs.

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