I am using this essay in the supplement of Cornell's application. I don't know it is unique or will improve my chance to get enrolled.
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: How have your interests and related experiences influenced your selection of major?
"We have been consuming more food than farmers have been producing for most of the past decade. What will it take to grow more?" This striking question jumped out at me when I was scanning an issue of National Geographic. "Feeding the World," a food report in that magazine, presented several set pictures that shocked me. The magazine showed Ethiopian women whose growth had been stunted due to starvation. A baby boy was born with three arms because his mother had ingested pesticides when pregnant. The final picture was of the Amazon rainforest burning to make way for a cocoa plantation. With a growing population, the magazine argued we are killing the means we have to feed ourselves.
Folding the issue of National Geographic, I found that article mirroring many of my experiences growing up in China. I remember every time I went back to my father's hometown, I saw my uncles and aunts cultivating their paddy fields with their own hands. They complained that this ineffective way could be replaced by the hum of machinery they heard occasionally on TV. I remember how my mom was once diagnosed with severe diarrhea. The doctor said she had eaten vegetables coated in pesticides because she had forgotten to wash them. Listening to Grandpa phoning his nephews in Shan Dong Province, I found out that they, farmers, lived on no more than 500 yuan per month-about 70 dollars. Once, touring to the northwest of China, I saw green fields sucking up all the water from the nearby river. I do not think that river even had enough water to reach its end anymore. It just dried up. Just like the countries shown in National Geographic which have big problems managing agriculture, China poorly manages this essential business: resources are wasted, farmers lead tough lives and food is not safe.
I feel obliged to do something to make changes to Chinese agriculture. Some of my friends now mock my desire to study agriculture, because, in their point of view, agriculture is not a prestigious or lucrative field. However, in my mind, studying agriculture is meaningful because it will give me the chance to save and improve so many lives. There are about one billion farmers in China, including my relatives from rural areas, who still cultivate the land in an inefficient and environmentally unfriendly way. Planning to major in agriculture, I look forward to introducing the advanced technology in order to farm formerly abandoned alkaline soil (soil with high pH) in northwestern China. At the same time, I am eager to promote the concept of sustainable agriculture, including the practice of prescription agriculture, which helps farmers avoid overusing pesticides. I hope that through my future contributions in this field, farmers, who make up the majority of people in China, will be able to lead more healthy lives and produce safe and nourishing food.
" This striking question jumped out at me when I was scanning an issue of National Geographic."
Change "when I was scanning" to "as I scanned"- it's more consistent with "jumped".
"presented several set pictures that shocked me."
This should be "sets of pictures".
Also, you could easily combine that sentence with the fthree sentences following it:
""Feeding the World," a food report in that magazine, presented several sets of pictures that shocked me: Ethiopian women whose growth had been stunted due to starvation, a baby boy born with three arms because his mother had ingested pesticides when pregnant,the Amazon rainforest burning to make way for a cocoa plantation."
"With a growing population, the magazine argued we are killing the means we have to feed ourselves."
Your syntax is rather ambiguous here- what is the subject of "with a growing population"? Your sentence seems to imply that it is "the magazine", which is incorrect. Restate it to say "Population growth, the magazine argued, was destroying our means of feeding ourselves."
"I found that article mirroring many of my experiences growing up in China."
"Mirroring" should be "mirrored", and "article" should be "the article".
The second half of your essay, once you move past the National Geographic article, is much stronger than the first half. I get a clear sense of why you want to study agriculture, and it's obviously a very personal subject to you. I think you should focus on that personal aspect more, instead of writing so much about the National Geographic article. Although you use the article to prove a point, the second half of your essay is really much more important.