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Why Columbia and My Upbringing - The Columbia Short Answer and Essay


aa6877 5 / 29  
Dec 5, 2009   #1
Hi everyone =) First of all let me just admit that I took some sentences and even whole paragraphs from my UC essay and put it into the Columbia essay. Please tell me if these points are still appropriate to use and relevant to the prompt. Oh, and I'm pretty sure the character limit for the first essay - "Why Columbia" - is 600 characters. Thanks in advance!!

Oh and one more question, is my format ok, or should I write it in the style of a narrative?

Essay # 1: Please tell us what you find most appealing about Columbia and why.

When my guidance counselor recommended me to add "at least one Ivy" to my list of universities, I added Columbia without hesitation. Though I plan to major in a biological science, I think the Core Curriculum will provide me with critical skills in the humanities as well. Also, the comprehensive biology curriculum at Columbia College matches all my needs and interests when it comes to what I ultimately want to pursue. With amazing academics, a central location, and a diverse student body, Columbia University is a perfect fit for me.

(449 characters - without spaces)
(538 characters - with spaces)
(Which character count is the right one to consider?)

Essay #2: Write an essay which conveys to the reader a sense of who you are. Possible topics may include, but are not limited to, experiences which have shaped your life, the circumstances of your upbringing, your most meaningful intellectual achievement, the way you see the world-the people in it, events great and small, everyday life-or any personal theme which appeals to your imagination. Please remember that we are concerned not only with the substance of your prose but with your writing style as well. We prefer that you limit yourself to approximately 250-500 words (or 1-2 pages).

"We're all connected!" exclaimed my biology teacher, her eyes gleaming vivaciously. Thus began her lecture on DNA. I listened raptly and tried to digest the complex idea that information could be stored chemically. I had always been intrigued by the notion that we are all one, and now science was proving it. Quantum physics and genetics, for example, have shed light on this amazing concept.

Ever since I was young, I have always been astonished by the intricacies of life and the universe. I used to wonder whether or not I had a special purpose on Earth, and where exactly I fit into the grand scheme of things. When I came to the realization that all life is interconnected, I felt both humbled and proud simultaneously. I knew that I was a small part of something big, and that feeling was immensely empowering. I wanted to know all there is to know and to see all there is to see.

Living in the USA, South Africa, and Pakistan has complemented my love of new experiences, and having a multicultural childhood has enriched me greatly on many levels. Going to school in each nation has opened me up to all kinds of people. I had the opportunity of experiencing diversity in so many ways by meeting individuals with all kinds of interests and viewpoints. To know that we are all linked is a wonderful feeling.

I do my best to follow the golden rule and treat others like I would want to be treated. After all, we are all related in some way. Keeping an open mind about everyone and everything, though difficult at times, has always been a personal goal of mine. I try my hardest to respect life in all its forms, hence why I believe in animal rights, including those of humans (humans are animals too)!

When I inevitably pass away, I know that I will want to be remembered most for the effect I will have had on this world and the lives I will have benefited through my accomplishments. Knowing through personal experience, as in the case of my education, that I can only make a positive impact if I work hard enough, I strive to excel at everything I do. My enthusiasm for science, specifically biology, has inspired me to pursue research science as a career. I yearn to explore the frontiers of molecular biology, biochemistry, and genetics; to be involved in such a field is a dream of mine. Hopefully, with diligence and perseverance, I could one day be responsible for another discovery that would help humankind advance.

Working for the good of humanity and keeping its vital interconnectedness intact is one of my most compelling aspirations. If everyone on Earth were to know that we are all bound to each other while still remaining unique, the world might be a better place. I endeavor to do my part in hopes of achieving something great - for me, and for us.

(496 words)
yang 2 / 313  
Dec 5, 2009   #2
(Which character count is the right one to consider?)

with space, you'll notice that when you type in a space, the count goes down by 1 (or not depending on the program used)

With amazing academics, a central location, and a diverse student body, Columbia University is a perfect fit for me.

With amazing academics, a central location, and a diverse student body, Harvard/Cornell/NY/... University is a perfect fit for me. see where i'm getting at?

their love and guidance

their? what's its antecedent?

was and still is

just say is? or say: my grandmother, a very ... person, taught me (or something to that effect. Making things active strengthens your essay)

your essay is decent and well written, and just like my diversity first draft...not nearly powerful enough

i see that columbia seems to be your first choice and your ivy, and you must really want to go there. to have a fair chance, u unfortunately need a much stronger essay

what's missing? personal thoughts. It's good that you have a family like that , and that you lived in 3 countries (me 2), but THAT DOESN'T MAKE YOU SPECIAL. I can copy paste your essay, change my dad's job, and submit it... so it's not unique enough

what makes you unique? IT'S HOW YOUR FAMILY IMPACTED YOU. HOW YOU ACT TO YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES. Tell your STORY. See how each paragraph covers a different part of your life? WELL FOCUS!!!!!!! I can go all day and write 5 pages on the different parts of my life with 2-3 sentences in them, THAT'S NOT HARD. What is hard is to bring all these into 1 story and really reflect on WHO YOU ARE.

I grew up in a loving, close-knit household.

who doesn't? it would be much more powerful if somebody wrote about the opposite, just saying.

My parents, who are some of the most caring, understanding, and responsible people in the world, have also had a profound impact on me.

surprise...MINE TOO

Of the many qualities my parents instilled in me, open-mindedness is one that I am very proud of.

wow, we must be really alike!

I had the chance to live in three different countries on three different continents

THAT'S THE ONLY different thing about you...and not so different. I can't boast 3 different continents, but does that make you more special than me? great, you've been to these places. HAVE YOU DONE ANYTHING TO EARN IT? if not, then how does that make you special? you were lucky, sure, but so? colleges don't want lucky people, they want people with unique thinking style.

I feel extremely lucky to have had such a wonderful upbringing. My family and the experiences I have had around the world, in each school, country, and home, have shaped me into the person I am today - a person that I can feel truly proud of.

man, you don't know how i can talk about the same thing...

don't feel bad, my diversity essay was dissected and destroyed also. that doesn't change the fact that i rewrote it and created a much stronger and personal essay. It's better to talk about a special thing only YOU have even if you are not proud of it, than go about how great your life (you sure it's your life? not mine?) is.
OP aa6877 5 / 29  
Dec 6, 2009   #3
Thanks for the critique, the CAPS LOCK and unnecessary sarcasm really helped.

... Anyway, I'm not totally sure why the essay made you so angry, but I'll try to implement some changes you mentioned and I'm working on my second draft right now. But seriously, thanks, I appreciate it.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Dec 6, 2009   #4
Dialogue should be preceded by a comma:
The great author Alex Haley once said , "In every...

Te first paragraph needs more definition; it is too simple to just say your loving family influenced you. Can you make it more unique?

The second paragraph needs a topic and conclusion sentence; perhaps you should add a sentence to the beginning, and a sentence to the end. They should both be sentences about how your multifaceted personality reflects qualities from family members. That would be a theme for the paragraph that would justify the mention of their personalities. If you don't add a topic and conclusion to that para, it is just a list of their personality types.

I don't think Yang was angry. It is difficult to criticize each other's writing without sounding... critical! And the caps were for emphasis, I think, not anger. Plus, I understand what he means. In places like this...

...the multicultural childhood I had has made me even more of a unique person...
I think you should use the rule "Show, don't tell." That means you should write a sentence about a particular ability that you honed as you acclimated to various cultures. If you write about a particular ability you developed, that SHOWS the reader a way in which you became unique.

So... don't take offense!! You write very well. I see that the last paragraph lacks definition, though, too. The whole essay could go a little deeper if you add more detail about the way in which this upbringing affected you.

Challenge for you: Can you think of one word that captures the main theme of this essay?
yang 2 / 313  
Dec 6, 2009   #5
I'm not totally sure why the essay made you so angry,

nono, i'm not angry at all, it's just that if i say state the same thing, without the same emotion, then you won't get the same meaning out of it.

i learned this trick when my english teacher pretty much did the same thing to me and left me in shock, but that transformed my way of thinking, so...sorry to be brutal tho, i just thought that it might help you the most.

well, kevin pretty much covered my main point, but he didn't say that you really need to ADD something. Your life can't be perfect, and both you (and the admin) know it. so you need to add some of the struggles you had and show how the good things in your life helped you through.

your essay right now is kinda like the high gpa/scores a person have. unless you tie something significant in that shows their value, then they'll just be numbers, in this case words
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Dec 7, 2009   #6
Yes, it's so hard to explain how we are affected by an essay, we can all agree not to be offended and not to intend any ill will... that is what people in writer's groups often do...

:-)
yang 2 / 313  
Dec 7, 2009   #7
we can all agree not to be offended and not to intend any ill will...

yea, who would be such a lowlife as to waste time to destroy other people's essays for the sake of personal pleasure?
OP aa6877 5 / 29  
Dec 8, 2009   #8
I'm sorry yang, I suppose it was all a misunderstanding =) having the right tone is a hard thing to do over the Internet. Anyway, I took all the advice in this thread - of trying to be unique - and I wrote a completely new essay. In this one, I talk less about my history and family, and more about me as a person. I took one theme and tried to work with it to convey my voice. This is only a first draft, so there is probably a lot to change, but I hope using this approach will make my essay better than my first attempt. (Oh and just a note; Columbia is not my first choice school, if you were wondering, yang. But I really would love to go there)
yang 2 / 313  
Dec 8, 2009   #9
Columbia is not my first choice school

i'm really curious, what is your first choice?

I had the opportunity of experiencing diversity in so many ways

which ways? if you feel that you don't have space to put the different ways, then take out this sentence and add another more personal one

where do I fit in the grand scheme of things? Do I have an important part to play here on Earth? Why was I put here at this time?

realize, questions don't explain themselves. i get that you're using these rhetorical questions to jump to a conclusion, but there's better way of doing so. try avoid rhetorical questions when you ca.

I used to wonder my purpose on this earth... something like that would save words and sound less theory-like

With the knowledge that I can only make a positive impact if I work hard enough, I strive to excel at everything I do

how did you get this knowledge?

With the knowledge that I can only make a positive impact if I work hard enough, I strive to excel at everything I do. My enthusiasm for science, specifically biology, has inspired me to pursue research science as a career. I yearn to explore the frontiers of molecular biology, biochemistry, and genetics; to be involved in such a field is a dream of mine. Hopefully, with diligence and perseverance, I could one day be responsible for another discovery that would help humankind advance.

this paragraph doesn't have to do with the related part. I suggest that you take the idea that you want to help others in the conclusion out and put it here, and focus your conclusion on reflecting back to your intro. maybe you could talk about your plans for the future in the conclusion, which makes more sense since you would end with how your initial understanding of everyone relating to each other played in your choice of major.

much much better. you sound very personal this time and they get your thinking, which is essential to this prompt. just avoid going off topic. you have the idea of all is one and one is all going on, keep the momentum and focus on this.

btw, my diversity essay pretty much went thru the same change, and i emerged with an essay not too far in style from your :D that just confirmed my theory haha
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Dec 9, 2009   #10
wrote a completely new essay

Impressive resolve...

Can't say confirmed about such an abstract concept:
Quantum physics and genetics, for example, have shed light on this amazing concept.

Don't capitalize universe (although it probably should be a proper noun!!)

You write so well!! Yes, and when you consider how replication is everpresent in nature, it sure is easy to fathom the idea that this all could be one love story being forever told. Rumi writes, "The sunlight splits when entering the windows of the house..." talking about one thing splitting into many. Imagine that. If reincarnation theory has any truth to it, there is no reason to think you cannot live 2 lives at once. I might be being you right now!!

I like the essay...
yang 2 / 313  
Dec 9, 2009   #11
there is no reason to think you cannot live 2 lives at once. I might be being you right now!!

or you might be living a dream and "think" that everyone else actually exist, when it is simply your dream, in that case, it doesn't matter anymore how many lives you're living right? haha, we're learning existentialism, and i couldn't hold back.
OP aa6877 5 / 29  
Dec 10, 2009   #12
You guys are so philosophical =) Thanks for all the help (and compliments!), I'm making the final changes right now ^__^

yang, actually Columbia is sort of tied at first-choice. My others are Berkeley, UCLA, U Wisconsin-Madison, or Johns Hopkins =)
yang 2 / 313  
Dec 10, 2009   #13
yang, actually Columbia is sort of tied at first-choice. My others are Berkeley, UCLA, U Wisconsin-Madison, or Johns Hopkins =)

no prejudice or anything, but columbia is a lot harder to get in than any of your other schools =)

I do my best to follow the golden rule and treat others like I would want to be treated.

put this later

Since we are all related, I do my best...

humans are animals too

instead of animal, maybe give the scientific name for humans. animals sound...degrading even if you don't mean it

for me, and for us.

i dont' know how to take this. it could be pretentious, but some might view it as appropriate considering the prompt...

it's not bad, and you did impart your view of the world, but maybe discard the mention of you passing away. It's a good thing that you want to be remembered, but your life cannot be focused on becoming famous and such. plus, death sounds really far especially when you're a teenager, so mentioning what will happen after your death sounds at best impersonal.
OP aa6877 5 / 29  
Dec 11, 2009   #14
I know, I wasn't going to apply to any Ivy in the first place, but my guidance counselor really encouraged me to =) I don't really mind applying to Columbia though, even though I know there is a much smaller chance I'll get in.

So are these fixes ok?Since we are all related, I do my best to follow the golden rule and treat others like I would want to be treated. After all, we are all related in some way. Keeping an open mind about everyone and everything, though difficult at times, has always been a personal goal of mine. I try my hardest to respect life in all its forms, hence why I believe in animal rights, including those of humans (homo sapiens are animals too)!

Oh, and can you recommend a way of making it sound less like me wanting to be famous, and more me just making a positive change? Because just focusing on becoming famous is definitely not what I wanted to express; that's the last thing on my mind.

And is the ending too pretentious? I thought it might be, but I've seen similar endings on some winning college essays that I've read.
ldh8504 8 / 16  
Dec 11, 2009   #15
That your counselor recommanded you to apply to "at least one Ivy" part doesn't seem exciting. Although you said you chose columbia without hesitation, it sounds like if he hadn't recommanded, you wouldn't apply to it..
yang 2 / 313  
Dec 11, 2009   #16
After all, we are all related in some way.

i think you forgot to take this out

Keeping an open mind about everyone and everything, though difficult at times, has always been a personal goal of mine.

try making it active. A personal goal of mine has always been to keep an...

I try my hardest to respect life in all its forms, hence why I believe in animal rights, including those of humans (homo sapiens are animals too)!

which is why
well...i just realized that you kinda included human rights in animal rights, but clearly we have different rights than animals. we have the right for nationality for instance, and animals don't. So, i'd give a different example than animal rights. Plus, it's fine that you believe it, doesn't mean that you did anything about it. Think about it this way, I'm for go green, but I'm still wasting a lot and using plastic, since it's more convenient. So talk about something stronger that you can say: here's how I respect life forms, and here's what I did.

As I understand it, this essay has nothing to do with why columbia (nor does the prompt), so was it a misleading title?

ok, the greatness part...it's the first time you mention it.

i think this is how you need to reorganize. since your focus is how everyone's related, you can keep paragraph 1 and 2. and write a personal experience in which you found out or acted upon the fact that people are related. You could include paragraph 3 and 4, but 5 is just too random.

your conclusion would be great if you actually explained what you did as "work for humanity". (i wouldn't recommend it cuz work for humanity sounds like you did something magnanimous like creating cure for cancer or donating billions of dollars to charity)

btw, the early decision results came out yesterday and this guy in my school got in! definitely impressive.
grocks6 3 / 12  
Jan 7, 2010   #17
I agree with all of the changes that yang has said but I don't agree in that he states your essay is not yet personal enough.

From your first draft, I can definitely see the vast amount of improvement and I commend you for that!
yang 2 / 313  
Jan 8, 2010   #18
he states your essay is not yet personal enough.

I never stated that, I simply suggested writing about a personal experience, not that the essay wasn't personal. It could be better structured.

From your first draft, I can definitely see the vast amount of improvement and I commend you for that!

This is not helping the essays at all. Watch out or you might get suspended.
grocks6 3 / 12  
Jan 9, 2010   #19
yang:
This is not helping the essays at all. Watch out or you might get suspended.

I was offering him a simple congrats as he wrote a good essay; I understand this site is for critiques but I don't see the harm in giving a compliment in addition to what I say. And I didn't say his was perfect, just that it definitely got better.

By the way, please don't threaten me with suspension. It makes me think you have a vendetta against me personally which is impossible since I don't even know you.

aa6877,
Living in the USA, South Africa, and Pakistan has complemented my love of new experiences, and having a multicultural childhood has enriched me greatly on many levels. Going to school in each nation has opened me up to all kinds of people. I had the opportunity of experiencing diversity in so many ways by meeting individuals with all kinds of interests and viewpoints. To know that we are all linked is a wonderful feeling.

While this is a good description of where you have lived, you still merely stated that you did live in those places. You didn't really explain how it enriched your life or what kind of viewpoints you developed because of those places.
yang 2 / 313  
Jan 9, 2010   #20
I understand this site is for critiques but I don't see the harm in giving a compliment in addition to what I say

read the guidelines. if you want to give a compliment, at least say why. Things like: this essay is good, is really not useful and show that you've given absolutely no thought. Think of it as spamming.

By the way, please don't threaten me with suspension. It makes me think you have a vendetta against me personally which is impossible since I don't even know you.

i've got nothing against you. I can't even suspend you as a matter of fact. but i'm warning you in case you keep doing this and actually get suspended, like many others.


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