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Beyond "Good" and "Bad" - Common App Essay, Prompt 3 (questioning/challenging a belief)

espeon12 1 / -  
Oct 14, 2019   #1
Hello all,
I'd appreciate any advice I could get on my common app essay draft as possible. Thank you so much!

Common App Prompt 3:

Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea.

What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

My child mind found life simple. Without question, I soaked up the instructions my parents told me. Don't steal, don't cheat, don't make others sad. Do study for school, do make friends, do love your family. I found no problem with these instructions. When glimpsing a spare pencil on a desk, I stifled the urge to snatch it up; I left for school in the morning with shouted 'I love you's to my parents. Slowly, I internalized the "do's and don'ts" as positives and negatives. There seemed no good reason for acting otherwise.

At age ten, I lived in a stereotypically "perfect" family. It consisted of a hard-working father, a loving mother, an intelligent elder brother, and myself, the ever-naïve and carefree younger sister. Life was good. At least, I told myself life was good. I didn't notice the business trips, the increasingly infrequent visits home-which gradually escalated into screamed arguments and violently thrown objects. However, over years of conflict, I slowly started to see the fissures beneath the superficial appearance of my family. After all, to myself as a child, everything was either "good" or "bad"-and I chose seeing a good, united family rather than a bad, crumbling one. Finally came the ultimate blow: the divorce.

Had I not lived through the aftermath of my parents' divorce, I think I would have gone on believing divorces were uniformly and definitively, "bad," just like all my other "don't"s. Divorce was bad because it splits up a family meant to be loving and happy and together.

Even after divorce split up my together family, we healed, albeit scarred. My mother took care of both my brother and me, settling into a nearby neighborhood, while my father moved out-of-state. But I could see my mom's happiness rise on a daily basis, and on my father's occasional visits, he seemed lighter too. Moving past the incredibly provincial assumption that all divorce was bad, I saw how it ultimately sprouted into happiness. And on the other hand, I recognized just how much my parents' marriage restricted them both.

Through the next few years, my eyes opened to the world of ambiguity between positive and negative; it transformed my extremely restricted view of "good" and "bad," taking into consideration the broader picture surrounding those things. It wasn't about looking on the bright side; it was discovering how to look at both sides of the coin.

Meeting the man who would become my stepfather tested my newfound "philosophy." Stepping into his house, I first noticed the cloying smell of smoke. Even during the introductions, that pungent odor repulsed me. But, while driving home, I realized I fell into the very same pattern I followed before: I assumed smoking defined him as a "bad" person. Whenever I visited my stepfather after the first day, I asked him more about his life and his history, and learned more about what made up his identity, such as serving as a professor at Leiden University in Amsterdam for almost a decade, harboring a severe sweet tooth, and zealously supporting the North Carolina Tar Heels. And although I will never approve of his smoking, learning more about him helped me redefine him as a multifaceted person.

Honestly, I still have trouble looking beyond the rigid boundaries I had imposed on the world. Despite this, I strive to stay as open as possible to other concepts and people, not fixating on their detracting features, but observing their redeeming ones as well.
Lilliputian 1 / 2  
Oct 17, 2019   #2
Great job! Your essay is really good and it made me think. Thank you for that. I personally like it as it is.
Maria - / 1,098 389  
Oct 19, 2019   #3
Hi. Welcome to the forum. Let me provide you with feedback on your writing to hopefully help you in your writing endeavors.

Firstly, while I think that the composition is quite innovative in terms of the manner of writing, I also think that you still have a lot of room for improvement. For instance, the first sentences of the first paragraph could have been compartmentalized better. Doing this will surely improve the overall structure of the writing because, then, you wouldn't need to add as much unnecessary detailing.

Furthermore, the second paragraph can also be improved with the same mindset in mind. The descriptions were vivid, however it was already quite excessive, especially because you still needed to take in the theoretical angle of the writing. Focus more on your interpretation of what happened instead of a generalized understanding of the whole idea.

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