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A Common App essay about my life, my challenges and what makes me unique...

katelinhand 1 / -  
Oct 25, 2017   #1
Thanks to anyone who can provide some good feedback .... writing about oneself is really hard!

I believe that I'm a unique person

If you were to look up the definition of unique, you would see my picture. Most teenagers would think that "unique" means that you look different or that you do not "fit in". To me, it means that you are a leader, not a follower and that you offer eclectic qualities, which make you an interesting individual. I believe that uniqueness is a human quality to be treasured.

I live in a small town in the smallest state of Rhode Island, a place that could be seen by most to be pretty vanilla in the spectrum of uniqueness. And yet I have found that no matter where you go in this world, you can find people that have a little something special to offer if you are just willing to listen to their story. Something about them motivates you to be a better version of yourself. This is who I strive to be. I aspire to give back what I would have surely missed out on, had my family not given me a chance to blossom.

I had a rather unusual start to my life, which I believe is the root of my uniqueness. I lived in an orphanage until I was almost 5 years old, in a small Russian town that shared the border with Estonia. I am the youngest of 8 children, all of us raised in an orphanage. All of my siblings were much older and as such, most had already fallen victim to drugs, alcohol, and teen pregnancy. Had I stayed, my fate would have been sealed. My family first came to visit and then quite literally by some miracle, came all the way back to Russia to adopt me.

Life in Russia was very different than my life in America. At the orphanage, all the kids were tasked with daily jobs that had to be completed. There were no excuses. Instilling this work ethic early on made me independent and a very hard worker right from a young age.

At an age when many American kids are just past formally being potty trained, I had already learning many survival skills in the orphanage. For example, I had learned how to do my own laundry, how to prepare a meal, how to clean a bathroom spotlessly, how to do dishes and how to make my own bed. I most definitely had a jump-start on maturity compared to my American peers. On the other hand, I also had challenges early on like learning to read in a new language, especially with a totally different alphabet than Cyrillic. I am proud to say that after 3 years of Honors English and Honors Literature in high school, I have well overcome those early challenges!

I have always strived to honor a self-imposed tenet that pushes me to do nothing short of my own personal best. When driving oneself so hard, it's only reasonable that you'll take a few knockdowns along the way. A particularly challenging time for me was during sophomore year, when I suffered a major concussion. I took a direct hit to the head, not once, but three times during back-to-back lacrosse games. I was absent a lot of days and was only allowed to go back half-days for the rest of the year. My grades suffered immensely. I really struggled with balancing my own obsession to get good grades and needing to allow myself time to heal. Thankfully, I fully recovered by junior year, but not before taking a considerable hit to my GPA.

Yet even these challenges seem so insignificant in comparison to where I could be. When I reflect on my experiences working this past summer in orphanages in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, it makes me truly appreciative for all the little things in life. The opportunities that both my family and community have given me inspire me on just how limitless my future dreams can be!
just_writer 24 / 42 5  
Oct 25, 2017   #2
Here are some corrections,

unusual start in my life
I had already learned
bathroom spotless
it makes me truly appreciative of all
TJLuschen - / 241 203  
Oct 26, 2017   #3
Hi Kate, I like your writing style, but to me your essay sounded a little scattered. You started off focusing on uniqueness, but really it seems the only unique thing you discussed is spending your first five years in a Russian orphanage. Yes, that is unique, but I did not get a clear sense of the specific effects that experience had on making you into the unique person you say you are today. I guess maybe you are more mature than your classmates? If so, what would be an example of that? And being a hard worker is good, but is that really unique? I guess your first paragraph set me up to be so excited to learn about this eclectic unique person - I was thinking Pippi Longstocking maybe or Anne of Green Gables, but after finishing your essay I still don't feel I have much of a sense of who you really are.

And then your second to last paragraph seems to go off in a completely different direction. And that experience didn't seem to have a clear resolution. What happened with your struggle between good grades and healing? You don't really say, just that a year passed and everything was back to normal, but did that experience change you in any way or display a specific trait of yours?

And then you go off in another direction for your final paragraph, which really left me hanging. I was like "wait, what, an orphanage?!" and then that's it. What was that experience like? Did it bring back memories of your own childhood, or was it completely different? Did your experience allow you to connect with the orphans in a special way? There was so much I wanted to learn about this unusual circumstance, a former orphan volunteering at an orphanage. Maybe you plan to write about this in another essay, but if so, I would not mention it here in passing. And finally, I think it is more effective if your conclusion ties back in with the main theme given in your introduction, but this conclusion seemed to be for almost an entirely different essay. What happened to uniqueness? I guess now it's challenges and opportunities?
Holt  Educational Consultant - / 14,801 4780  
Oct 26, 2017   #4
Katelin, you need to provide me with a copy of the complete prompt that you are responding to because this essay actually combines at least 3 of the current common app essay topics in one. All the college application essays focus on only one topic so I need to know what that is. Perhaps the university you are applying to has its own common app prompt for applicants. I can't really asses which direction you should take this essay in at the moment because I do not know what the end result of the essay should be. Care to enlighten me? I would not worry about the content placement and message of the essay at the moment since I don't really know what you want to do with this essay. I can offer you a more focused and detailed assessment of your work, and how to redirect it once I know the exact prompt you need to respond to. As of now, the essay has some pretty good references to various prompts that, once I know which prompt you are responding to, will make for a very good basis of an opening statement for your revised essay.

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