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A Chinese proverb / Favorite place - admission essay to boarding school

aboveblues 2 / 7  
May 18, 2011   #1
This is for an admissions essay to boarding school for 11th grade. I have two prompt choices, and I have ideas for both:
1. Find and choose a Chinese proverb and relay to us your understanding of the proverb and its meaning to you or,
2. Describe your favorite place.

Here are my two ideas:
for #1, I could use "I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand." To me, it displays the importance of first hand experience. I like this quote a lot, and I've had several occasions in my life where it took a first hand experience to learn a lesson, but I don't think the school would be very pleased with the subject matter of the experiences.

for #2, I was thinking about having my favorite place be at my piano. This school is filled with mostly whiz kids without an ounce of creativity (very few of which play instruments), so I'm not very concerned about the originality of the essay topic. I like this topic more, but I don't know how to develop an entire essay on it.

My questions:
Which essay topic do you think I should write about? I like #2 more, but I feel like I might be able to construct a better essay with #1.

If I were to choose #2, what should the format of the essay be? I'm used to the usual intro, body 1-3 w/ examples, conclusion, and I don't know how I could mold this topic to that.

Thanks in advance.
silverystars 14 / 105  
May 19, 2011   #2
Hello Blue,

Consider writing an essay that incorporates and combines the best of both ideas: 1. the importance of first-hand experience as illustrated by the Chinese proverb, and 2. your experience with the piano and music.

The format of the essay would depend on what you want to say. Are you informing/explaining, persuading, or entertaining? Hopefully, your essay would be a bit of all of those, but I digress. Don't be a slave to a given format, but you also must make clear what your format is, as well. It's paradoxical, but still very key to an effective essay.

The hardest part oftentimes is putting pen to paper, or whatever might be the modern digital corollary to that idiom. In other words, begin to write freely about the two subjects and see where it takes you. If you find a way to bring them together cohesively, I think you will be amazed by what you come up with.

When at all possible, write about what you enjoy and what you are genuinely interested in discussing at length. Then those who read it will more likely enjoy doing so just as much.

Good luck!
OP aboveblues 2 / 7  
May 19, 2011   #3
I might try your first idea if it were for a different purpose, but it says "write about ONE of the following" ;) sorry for not posting that part before.

So I've chosen to write about the 2nd prompt. I have plenty to say about the experience of being at the piano, but I don't know an appropriate way to organize my thoughts. How do you think this outline would do?

I. Introduction
I'll use imagery that hints at a piano, but doesn't make it explicit until the last line.
II. Body
A. My familiarity with the piano, how it as been a part of my life since birth, maybe including an anecdote
B. Versatility of the piano across genres and musical settings
C. I don't know...maybe I'll stick with 2 unless I can come up with something else
III. Conclusion
Switch back to the imagery of intro, but shorter and less elaborate.
silverystars 14 / 105  
May 19, 2011   #4
Hello Blue,

Thanks for the clarification, though I understood what the assignment was. My, how rigid standards tends to stifle the creative mind! Not to be rude, not in the least, but it is possible for you to combine the two assignments, while still adhering overall to either. Just my two cents.


1. To begin, the important thing to keep before you is your assignment. Imagery as a means of building interest is good, but your introduction should also touch upon what makes it your favorite place.

2. An anecdote is a good idea. Hopefully it is a personal one, so that you can speak from your own experience. As I've said (or rather, quoted) many a time before, "That which is most personal is most universal".

3. Speaking of the versatility of the piano, etc., should be reserved perhaps for the first paragraph, to establish the what: the technical stuff, the rote, the prerequisite information for those not as familiar as you are with piano music and so forth. Thus the subsequent paragraphs will be well primed and set up for the why and how, which is far more interesting to read about (in terms of it being a favorite place of yours, that is.)

4. Your conclusion doesn't necessarily have to echo your introduction. Perhaps it can drive home a point within the body of your essay. The hard and fast rule of writing is: there is no hard and fast rule for writing. Of course, keeping a good structure is important, but having that, you can be free to write and convey virtually whatever you can dream up.

Good luck, Blue!
OP aboveblues 2 / 7  
May 19, 2011   #5
Absolutely! I like the way you think.

I'll definitely flip those paragraphs, as the personal paragraphs will be far more interesting.
Thanks for all of your help, you've made this far much more easy to tackle. I'll probably post the first draft on this thread in the next couple of days, I'd love your input once I'm done!
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
May 20, 2011   #6
Hi Ned, nice to see you again!

Wow, this has become a great thread.
Here is my best idea for you: choose #1 but write about the piano (i.e. write what inspires you). Get the best of both options.

Most importantly, find a way to connect the essay to your education and career plan. Have a plan. Find a way to write about something you "do and understand" perhaps involving the piano, and make a connection between that and your intended major, career plan, etc.

OP aboveblues 2 / 7  
May 25, 2011   #8
Piano Essay for Boarding school final draft

Every time I visit, I am overtaken with admiration of the expansive landscape. The auburn canyon is home to hundreds of corrugated vines that stretch from wall to wall. The off-white valley floor is evenly lined with peaks of gleaming obsidian, and years of tireless weathering have only given the site more character. Though I have ventured to this place many times, each experience is as novel as the first. What is this mysterious wonder of the world, you may ask? My 1918 Baldwin Monarch Baby Grand piano.

This network of keys, hammers, and strings is capable of producing a broad spectrum of sounds. The higher register, used mainly for ornamentation, emits trickle-like sounds when touched. The lower notes, conversely, boom thunderously. The notes in between, the middle register, is where most playing is done; the full, warm timbre makes for enticing melodies. These diverse elements contribute to the versatility of the piano. However, this instrument is more than just a mechanism for sound production.

The piano serves as a personal therapist. With the familiar creak of the aged mahogany bench, we begin a conversation. Everything that has been on my mind-- frustration, sadness, or excitement-- is channeled through my fingertips, and onto the keys. Without delay, the soundboard articulates a sympathetic response. No matter how hard I beat the keys, they rise back up, willing to continue the dialogue. In this way, the piano is the ultimate tool for coping.

I once suffered a loss of a childhood friend. For days after the death, overwhelming depression and despair confined me to my bed. In an attempt to avert my focus from this tragedy, I retreated to the piano. Without restraint, my bottled emotions poured through me and onto the instrument. My fingers mercilessly pounded the ivory into the instrument's shell until my arms were shaking from fatigue. The strings shrieked back at me, emulating my aggravation. However, as my nerves calmed, the dissonant music softened into a cohesive, therapeutic soundscape. As I composed myself, I was also composing music. Though the pain of the loss has never subsided, it was certainly eased when I brought it to the piano.

After each exchange, the piano grows closer to my heart. It is a tool for self discovery, an outlet for creativity, and the one place that I truly feel at home.

Any ideas for another sentence or two for the conclusion?
Any other suggestions are welcome :] Thanks!
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
May 26, 2011   #9
Oh, i don't know how to explain why, but I think it is better to use FOR here:
admiration for the ...

Capitalize: The Auburn Canyon is home to ...----Wait... is that a name of a canyon or not? Maybe I am wrong... but if it is a name, capitalize it. :-)

I would do it this way: My 1918 Baldwin Monarch baby grand piano.----not capitalize baby grand

These diverse elements contribute to the versatility of the piano. ----Good sentence, hero!

No matter how hard I beat the keys, they rise back up, willing to continue the dialogue. ----I am impressed with this personification!!!
Thanks so much for sharing this excellent writing here. You really captured the feeling of relief that can come from solitary music therapy! Please check out the contributor page.

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