Hey, thanks so much for helping me out. I'd be glad to hear any comments you guys have, and I'd especially appreciate critiques. For those who don't know, the first UC prompt is: Describe the world you come from - for example, your family, community or school - and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.
Here's my draft...
In some ways, my world can be far more easily described by what it lacks than by what it encompasses. I was never told to say my prayers, or lectured about the dangers of hellfire and brimstone; I was never beseeched or chastised into following the family rules, simply because of their virtue as such; and I never heard those infamous words that so many frustrated parents inevitably resort to: "Because I told you so."
In my family, information was the key.
My parents took caution from the start to avoid the role that so many others fall into out of expedience - the adults, those almost mystical sources of power, wisdom, and authority. My brother and I, as much as we respected and loved them, never deferred to them; their will, although generally reasonable and worth following, was never propped up as infallible and incontrovertible. Instead of issuing blanket directives, they actually took the crucial time to explain things to us rationally, clearly, so that we could understand and evaluate the logic behind their wishes. In short, they treated us like individuals - and so that's what we became.
This refrained attitude allowed them to leave us to our own conclusions in an area that so many parents, apparently, find so difficult to let alone: religion. Both my mother and father, as victims of painful, at times even persecuted withdrawals from their childhood faiths, are quite intimately acquainted with the subject. But for me, the various beliefs were never anything more than so many stories - stories of power to other people, perhaps, but stories to be believed or not as I saw fit. What I learned of religion, I picked up mainly through cultural osmosis, or through the vague but persistent hopes of more pious relatives that I would be converted.
And so in the eyes of some, I suppose my upbringing was critically flawed. In order to have a moral compass, many have argued, one has to have some kind of guiding force: preferably religion, but at the very least the firm hand of one's parents directing one towards the "right" way to think, the "good" way to act. Otherwise, what could hold a child accountable for such an abstract thing as a conscience?
But if I didn't have the autocratic hand of either a parent or a God directing me towards what they claimed to be righteousness, I had so much more. I had the dilemma itself to guide me - a dilemma that no one attempted to reduce for me to the starkly black-and-white terms of Heaven and Hell, a dilemma that my parents made no pretense of knowing the answer to. And I had the priceless records of so many others who had labored to find their personal solutions to the same eternal questions with which I had to wrestle. For in my books - books that always have been and always will be an inseparable part of my life - I could see the struggles of both characters and authors as they wrestled with what was right. A young boy who bears the guilt of a genocide. A woman torn between her duties to the past and the present. Morals versus necessity. Necessity versus denial. All of these conflicts, I knew, were only part of a story that has lasted through the ages; and my own struggles and doubts, too, continue to fill a tiny chapter of their own.
My parents' wisdom, and the world's experiences: these are my foundations. These are what bring me comfort and confusion, doubt and hope as I weigh the morality of all that I do and see. But above all, they give me the faith that I, too, can create my own "right," can determine my own meaning and purpose.
It's not a goal that I take lightly.
But that's not enough, either. I also have to live by it - whatever that ultimately means. And that, too, is a struggle that may take a lifetime. But for now, it begins with an education.
I'm just not terribly happy with it, but I can't pinpoint why; any help would be greatly appreciated...
I don't know why you're not happy with it. From what I read, I can pick up your depth. Your quest for "right" shows that your goals go far beyond what most applicants have in mind -- You seek to find what is right. I think your essay is good as is.
Just a couple small nitpicks
I was never told to say my prayers, nor lectured about the dangers of hellfire and brimstone;
In short, they treated us like individuals - and
so that's what we became.
I deleted the word so here because with it added, it sounds a little redundant.
...that so many parents
, apparently, find so difficult to let alone: ...
Here, I removed the word the word apparently. It makes the sentence come off stronger as a whole.
guiding force, preferably religion,
colon ----> comma
But that's not enough
Deleted either. Sounds stronger without it.
Other than that, I think you're set!
Thanks for taking the time with my essay.
Why are you not happy? I personally think this is good. A classic-type essay with very interesting information about you. I planned to do my essay like this (haha, my family is the same type), but lacked the skill to make it a distinction. Your short sentences balanced the whole essay, make it lighter than most of its type. Your voice is calm and full of reason. Strong conclusion,too.
You can change
"In my family, reason was the key."
And the paragraph about religion (4th) is kinda long. I think you can make it stronger and leave a better impression by making it more concise.
I don't know, I would also suggest you change the headline into something short and catchy, instead of "my world and its effects on my aspirations" write like "My reason" (I know it's a horrible example, I know u will come up w/ a better one)
Sorry I can't be that critical. I hope other posts would find another flaw and make it better. As for me, it's a pretty solid essay.
Could you also take a look at mine :).
I'm so sorry I wasn't hear to respond to your replies yesterday - Thanksgiving, you know.
I really appreciate the feedback, everyone! It's encouraging that the point of the essay seems to have gotten across; that was kind of my main worry, I think. I wasn't really sure if the UC graders would think I'd answered the prompt.
Thanks for all the small tips, too - I especially like the idea of changing "information" to "reason". And I'll try to edit that religion paragraph down, too.
I'll be sure to read+edit all of your essays!