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Common App Short Essay: A counselor's experience


jbrown09 3 / 18  
Dec 5, 2009   #1
Hey, this is my short essay for the common app. Any constructive criticism would be appreciated!

For the past two summers, I've worked as a counselor at Penn-York Camp. PYC is unique because it's a summer camp that integrates a few special needs campers with the general population. I worked with Joey, a 24 year-old camper with Down syndrome, Cerebral palsy, and other challenges.

Taking care of Joey required a lot of patience; he relied on me for many of his personal needs. Often, he would wake me up in the middle of the night to take him to the bathroom, or make a mess during lunch that I had to clean up. His smile when I helped him, made it all worthwhile.

I'm glad I had the opportunity to work with Joey. He taught me taught me what it means to serve others and how to enjoy doing it.
xugx29 4 / 17  
Dec 5, 2009   #2
For the past two summers, I've worked as a camp counselor at Penn-York Camp, a summer camp in northern Pennsylvania .

The job is at times stressful, and the pay is almost nonexistent.
The job is at times streesful and little-paid.

and the other staff members are some of my closest friends.
and the other staff members became some of my closest friends (guess you mean through working with these people, you made good friends)

In addition, I've learned a lot. Being a counselor has taught me a great deal about communicating with others, being a leader, and responsibility.

In addition, I've learned a great deal about how to communicate, be a leader, and take responsibility.

I think you might want to write something in details that you did in this camp. Just one or two sentence will do good.

Good luck.
yang 2 / 313  
Dec 5, 2009   #3
nonexistent. However I wouldn't trade my camp experiences for anything else.

, but I wouldn't

Money can't buy happiness.

the admin knows that already

your essay answers the prompt, but it doesn't really link to your numerous emphasis of how little the thing pays. if money is so important to you, then tell an instance where you realized that this experience is EVEN MORE! talk about how this experience CHANGED YOUR PSYCHOLOGY. or else, the money observations just make you sound like a greedy person.
OP jbrown09 3 / 18  
Dec 5, 2009   #4
thanks for the imput guys. i'll try to make it a little more personal.

I've revised it a bit, tell me if you like it.
Mustafa1991 8 / 373 4  
Dec 5, 2009   #5
"almost nonexistent" these two don't gel well. try "scant", "meager"...

"However I wouldn't trade my camp experiences for anything else." this type of statement always struck me as lazy and unfair; it's a glib enough claim, but I question if there's truth in it.
yang 2 / 313  
Dec 6, 2009   #6
the pay almost nonexistent

still is awkward

but I wouldn't trade my camp experiences for anything else

sounds magnanimous: Oh, even though I'm not paid, the experience was SOOOOOOOO great that I wouldn't do ANYTHING else for money.

still not personal enough. It's not about what happened to you, but how you THINK. everything you talked about are FACTS. the admin can care less about facts, unless they determine how you think.

it changed the way I viewed work.

so, HOW DO YOU VIEW WORK?

Rather, work should be something you enjoy and look forward to every single day.

great, you understand work. so why should the admin accept you? i mean, work comes later and you never tied it to college or your personality.
OP jbrown09 3 / 18  
Dec 6, 2009   #7
everything you talked about are FACTS. the admin can care less about facts, unless they determine how you think.

I don't really understand what you mean about how I think? Like what exactly would you add to the essay to get this aspect in it. They tell you to briefly elaborate on a work experience...so that's what I decided to do.

so, HOW DO YOU VIEW WORK?

I answer that in the following sentences

great, you understand work. so why should the admin accept you? i mean, work comes later and you never tied it to college or your personality.

Again, not really sure what you expect me to talk about. Not a whole lot I can do in 150 words.

I agree the wouldn't trade for anything else statement is a little cliche. I decided to change that.
yang 2 / 313  
Dec 6, 2009   #8
They tell you to briefly elaborate on a work experience...so that's what I decided to do.

yes, but they don't want to know what you did, unless that changes something in your mind.

for example: i go to the library. do they care about how i arrange the books? no, what they care about is how the experience made me more patient, or careful, or helpful or a bookworm, or SOMETHING internal.

I learned work should never simply be work for a paycheck.

as i prob mentioned, this is...trivial. making this your main theme seems like you're trying to show the admin how you've finally caught up with the idea of working for what you like, and not money.

what i'm trying to say that it's not personal enough. you've got a great job, but that's all you learned? I can work at a lemonade stand and come to the exact same conclusion as this. therefore, it's really not unique enough

Again, not really sure what you expect me to talk about

Rather, work should be something you enjoy and look forward to every single day.

i guess i had a prob here. It's great that you see work as something you can enjoy, but that's IT? that's all you've got? your focus for this essay shouldn't be that job is fun, cuz this conclusion tells nothing about you, except that you enjoy work? instead of focusing on how fun you thought the experience is, it might be worthwhile to talk about it's impact on you, except the monetary side

Not a whole lot I can do in 150 words.

i understand your plight, and I'm not trying to discourage you or something, so no need to get defensive.

However, I've had to do an essay on "something you do for pleasure" in 100 words...so i know how you feel. You really don't need 150 words to talk about how you've been changed by a job, if you do it the right way. Don't waste sentences on talking generically about how fun it is, but tell the admin things they might not know. You've got an unique experience here, so tell it in an unique fashion and about the unique stuff you've done.
OP jbrown09 3 / 18  
Dec 7, 2009   #9
thanks for your advice. i'll restructure the essay and put a revised version up soon
OP jbrown09 3 / 18  
Dec 9, 2009   #10
I kind of brought the essay in a bit of a different direction, focusing on one experience and elaborating on what I learned. Here it is.
yang 2 / 313  
Dec 9, 2009   #11
For two weeks, my primary responsibility was to take care of a camper one on one. The camper I worked with was named Joey.

For two weeks, I took care of Joey, a camper (or worked one on one with Joey, but a bit awkward), who has been going to PYC for 10 years, and is now 24 years old. He has been diagnosed with...

I wouldn't call it a "disadvantage" simply because it doesn't convey enough the harshness of his life. I understand that you don't wanna call it a handicap, difficulties perhaps?

and what if you talked in your intro about what kind of camp it is. the fact that he's handicapped shocks the reader since you never prepared the audience for such a turn out. I thought that you were talking about a kid summer camp

Despite all of Joey's "imperfections", I

you sound sarcastic here. Obviously, no one is perfect, so the fact that you call his diseases imperfections pretty much put him on the same background and hardships as everybody else, which is demeaning to Joey's plight

you're going from a different perspective, which btw great. However, I do like to point out that you're still not personal enough. You spend too much time discussing Joey and not you.

I'd suggest you taking out the "The job was at times stressful and the pay minimal, but at the same time very rewarding. Being a counselor was enjoyable and I made a lot of great friends on staff." because it's not really your goal here in the story

instead, explain a bit what the camp does, and what you do: so combine your Joey sentence with the intro

then second paragraph, explain some of the activities you did with him, or how exactly did he impact you.

If you really wanna focus on what you learned, then end the paragraph with what exactly you learned or how you are changed.

try to avoid sentences like

I'll bring the lessons I learned from Joey with me forever.

and instead actually say WHAT lessons.

hope that helps, i definitely like where you're going with this, but making it more personal will empower your short answer
OP jbrown09 3 / 18  
Dec 9, 2009   #12
Yeah. It is primarily a kids summer camp but they also have a few special needs campers that require 1 on 1 attention. I took care of one of those kids for 2 weeks.

I wasn't sure how exactly to put "Despite all of Joey's "imperfections"...because I didn't really consider them imperfections, more something that made him unique.

I think your right i'll make it more personal and edit much of the first paragraph
yang 2 / 313  
Dec 10, 2009   #13
Yeah. It is primarily a kids summer camp but they also have a few special needs campers that require 1 on 1 attention. I took care of one of those kids for 2 weeks.

the admin won't know this though, so perhaps add one sentence?

I wasn't sure how exactly to put "Despite all of Joey's "imperfections"...because I didn't really consider them imperfections, more something that made him unique.

take that prep phrase out, you already mentioned their handicap, no need to reemphasize. plus, it's not because of his disease that he's unique

Despite all of Joey's "imperfections", I learned a whole lot from the time I spent with him. Joey is completely dependent on another person, and for two weeks that person was me.

see how these 3 sentences don't have anything to do with the lesson? you already said that you were going to take care of him, which naturally implied dependence and time.
yang 2 / 313  
Dec 10, 2009   #14
one of them, Joey.
For two weeks, I worked one on one with Joey, who has been going to PYC for 10 years and is 24 years old. Joey has been diagnosed with Down syndrome, Cerebral palsy, and multiple other difficulties.

Joey, a twenty-four year old man diagnosed with blabla
use disorders, it's more scientific
and you really don't have to mention the 10 years

Joey was a lot of work.

taking care of Joey required

His mobility is very limited; he spends most of his time in a wheelchair. He needs help getting dressed, cutting his food, and even going to the bathroom.

make these past.
wheelchair, and needed

Joey can't say much besides "Need to go to the bafroom".

no need to mention this, you already talked enough about his problems

Yet Joey had compassion for others. He was always joyful. Everyday Joey reminds me how others deserve to be treated, and how to enjoy life.

that's your whole point?

i admire your persistence and your relentless effort to create a better essay, but it seems that every time, you talk less and less about yourself.

this essay has to be YOU!!!! all we learn from what you wrote is that the person you helped was very handicapped. and it randomly ends with the person being joyful. and finally, this is your lesson.

you absolutely have to make this about you.

i'd suggest you keeping the combination of the first and second paragraphs (i covered this above), the reader gets that Joey needs a lot of help since you mentioned a lot of disorders

now, use the rest of your essay to talk about how this entire experience, and your helping Joey influenced you. what did you learn from this experience? patience? sympathy? kindness?

talk about more down to earth lessons instead of a vague statement of joy.
OP jbrown09 3 / 18  
Dec 12, 2009   #15
Okay..I tried once again. Here is my revised version. I tried to talk about how I learned patience and kindness throughout the whole experience. It's pretty tough still, I wish I could say more about it.
yang 2 / 313  
Dec 12, 2009   #16
This past summer I worked with one, Joey.

I don't see why you can't describe Joey in the intro.
E.G: I worked with Joey, a 24 year-old camper, who has been diagnosed...

I worked with Joey, who is 24 years old. Joey has been diagnosed with Down syndrome, Cerebral palsy, and multiple other difficulties.

as I prob mentioned, you could combine those 2 sentences

Taking care of Joey required a lot of work. But more than anything, it took extreme patience.

combine those 2 as well

I laughed

why would you laugh?
instead, smiled would be better

I also learned kindness. Joey was very kind and affectionate. Everyday Joey reminds me how others deserve to be treated.

how does Joey being kind affects you? Basically, you're saying that because this guy is nice, you learned to be nice. it kinda doesn't make sense

I hope to see him again someday.

you need a stronger finish here, better to summarize what you really want to talk about, which is how you developed patience and niceness (not so sure) through the experience

I get that you don't have a lot of words for this one, so try to combine sentences and make your ideas flow. instead of saying: he's 24. he has blabla, it would be much efficient and word-saving to simply say he, a 24 yr-ld, has... i k i mentioned this, but just wanna reemphasize

also, stay focus. rather than talking a bit about patience, and a bit about kindness, which reduces the focus and realism of your points, you could talk about only 1 of them. describe IN DEPTH on how you learned patience or kindness.

I'd do it this way:
intro: finish talking about what you have to do, which is to take care of Joey (AND BE DONE WITH JOEY'S DISEASES AND INABILITIES)

2nd: talk about how you took care of him, and thru the process learned something (just 1 thing).
it has to be more than simply walking him to the bathroom...frankly, not so impressive
emphasize how you felt

3rd: warp up with one or 2 sentences describing the entire experience(e.g. through my blabla months with Joey, I learned that taking good care of somebody requires tremendous patience. I was pleased though because I made a difference in Joey's life. (or something to that effect, put more emotion into it.)
yang 2 / 313  
Dec 12, 2009   #17
One example comes specifically to mind.

For example

I started too

I laughed with him as I tirelessly (or an adverb that means patiently) cleaned it up

by psychological, I meant showing a change. again, you talk about theory, fluff, instead of your thinking. if i were you, i'd write

Taking care of Joey required a lot of patience; he relied on me for many of his personal needs. Often, he would wake me up in the middle of the night to take him to the bathroom , or make a mess during lunch that I had to clean up. I sometimes struggled to keep my smile and hide my displeasure, but when I saw his gleaming face after I walked him back to his bed or mopped the food he dropped on the floor, I realized that it was worth the trouble because I was helping another human being.

this is just an idea, you really don't have to use it, but what I want to emphasize is your internal struggle and how you overcame it. I mean, it's great to say that you're patient, but as teenagers we are not always patient. So showing your other side kinda adds to the realism of your story.
OP jbrown09 3 / 18  
Dec 13, 2009   #18
Well, thanks for all your help Yang. I appreciate it.
yang 2 / 313  
Dec 13, 2009   #19
I sometimes struggled to keep my smile and hide my displeasure.

haha, you took out the part I thought was the most important.

but i guess we have different styles. i personally like to focus on the emotional stuff, and you seem to enjoy writing about the process of helping. I am absolutely saying that my style's better in any way, just different

i woudl change this nonetheless

Taking care of Joey required a lot of work(since there's no patience involved); he relied on me for many of his personal needs. Often, he would wake me up in the middle of the night to take him to the bathroom, or make a mess during lunch that I had to clean up. (add as transition) Although although my chores were tiresome, h (this sentence reflects your conclusion) is smile when I helped him, made it all worthwhile.

yea, it's a lot more concise and to the point. it not only talks about the camp, but also focuses on one person you helped and how you were glad to work for somebody else. good job for keeping up with my editing :D
OP jbrown09 3 / 18  
Dec 13, 2009   #20
thanks a lot. good luck with your essays too. I'll see if I can give you any suggestions


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