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Common App - Significant experience. "Lost in Translation"


kikula 1 / 3  
Dec 26, 2011   #1
Hi, everyone! I have already been admitted to some average acceptance rate schools with this essay, but I'm looking to make it the best it can be so that I can apply to some top-tier schools!

I am very open to any amount of constructive criticism and advice, especially since I feel that the end of my essay is exceptionally weak.

The question is from the common app: "Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you."

"I was in the car, clutching my Hello Kitty backpack to my chest and sobbing into its thick polyester fabric. My mother, in the driver's seat, stared intently at the road, furrowing her brow, wondering what part of my performance in my kindergarten's production of "The Little Red Hen" had gone wrong. "What wrong? Eat was supper. You wear supper. Eat was relay greet," she said in her thick Polish accent, trying her best to calm me down. After listening to the stilted yet heartfelt inquiry, I responded with a shriek followed by another intense bout of crying. The salty tears running down my hot, pink cheeks were not from regret or embarrassment, but rather from the stark realization that I was different. Although I had first noticed the disparity between myself and my classmates at school, I had never thought much of it - the fact that everyone had English nicknames like John and Ally and I went by Kasia (the Polish equivalent of Catie) had never really fazed me until that day.

After the play, my class was herded to a makeshift reception where all our parents were waiting for us. After spotting me among the sea of children, my mum eagerly approached me and greeted me in Polish, hugging me closely and kissing my cheeks. I basked in the affection until I noticed the stares from my classmates who not only didn't understand Polish, but also didn't understand what it was like having an affectionate parent - all they could hope for was a pat on the head and a peck on the cheek. After finally letting go, my mother, sporting high heels and a cropped hair cut, approached a gaggle of soccer moms clad in sneakers and sweater sets. As she introduced herself as Malgorzata, I noticed a slough of condescending stares beneath the dowdy bangs of my friends' mothers, their gazes quickly shifting between my mum and me. I immediately realized, as I clung to my mum's trouser leg, that neither I nor my mother were ever going to be like my friends or their parents.

Though I still feel the burning stares and hear the spiteful whispers of the inhabitants of our slowly gentrifying town as I chatter away to my mother in Polish, I have come to terms with my ethnicity and their closed-mindedness. In fact, the xenophobia in my community is the reason I am the person I am today. The malicious remarks, lingering glares, and the overwhelming and ubiquitous feelings of unwelcomeness have made me strong, independent, and, most of all, tolerant and open-minded. And although I regret ever being upset about my ethnicity, I am happy that I realized and embraced that I was, am, and always will be different."

summerteeth 2 / 6  
Dec 26, 2011   #2
If I'm not mistaken, once you've submitted the common app to one school, you can't alter it for any of the others.

As for the essay, I think it could benefit from a stronger transition. What made you realize that your unique background was really a benefit rather than detriment? Was there a specific incident that counteracted your traumatic "Little Red Hen" one?
OP kikula 1 / 3  
Dec 26, 2011   #3
I actually didn't submit it via Common App, so I am in luck! :)

Ok, I'll work on the transition. My problem, however, is that it was a long process of learning to respect myself and my culture -- not anything specific. Any tips/ideas?

Thank you!
summerteeth 2 / 6  
Dec 26, 2011   #4
Ah, I see. That's good then!

Even something as simple as "Over the years, I've learned to appreciate my heritage for x, y and z." Describe simple moments when you realize how much you love being Polish--cooking traditional meals with your mom, etc.

Also, I think pegging your community as "xenophobic" might be come off little harsh--rather than isolating yourself from the community, admissions officers would want to hear something like "I've proven to my community that diversity is a quality to be admired" or something of the sort. It may not be entirely true, but you can twist it to your advantage.


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