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Common app essay: Topic of your choice ("a flower vase")

nylrej 1 / 2  
Dec 22, 2008   #1
Though beautiful and exquisite, the value and significance of a flower vase often pales in comparison to other practical house-hold items in the same room that it decorates. I then, was once likened to a flower vase by teasing male school-mates. How much they meant it, I didn't know.

It perhaps isn't very difficult to interpret the metaphor of a flower vase. "Pretty but empty" was how Amanda, a close friend of mine, phrased it. I took no offence of her words. Yet with each passing second, self-demeaning thoughts began to fill my mind: My grades are not extraordinary; I'm not an all-rounded sportswomen; I don't sing, I don't dance...There really isn't anything impressive about myself...

As though she had been listening in on my thoughts, Amanda interrupted, carefully emphasizing each word, "You are not a flower vase". She smiled, and added firmly, "You have an aspiration - you know what you want and you would do whatever it takes to reach it. That, my dear, is what makes you, you." I could not decide if it was reassurance or relief that I felt. But one thing I knew for sure: Amanda was spot on.

As I recall my first interaction with them, it was far from what I had imagined. It was difficult, yet fulfilling; tiring, yet immensely pleasurable. Those apprehensive young faces I was first greeted with soon changed to warm and welcoming smiles the very next morning. A small hand gesture, a whisper to get my attention, or simply a look into my eye, were tiny 'gifts' for me that never failed to put a smile on my face. They served as reminders that my effort was paying off; I was slowly entering the hearts of these young and innocent ones. The ones whom I would love to work with in future, not only as a profession but more importantly, as a passion.

Each opportunity - and I do mean every single interaction - I had to work with them was a whole new experience for me, where I would not only learn a tad more about them, I would also discover a little more about myself. Interestingly, I would often find myself with a different emotion each time, amassing a range of emotions I had felt throughout the experience. I could be nervous on the first day, drained by the end of it, yet looking forward to the next, and be rewarded by a sense of satisfaction on the second. As I realized my interest in this field almost immediately, I was greatly enthused by the thought of pursuing something I enjoyed as a career. "A child psychologist," I had told my parents, "I want to work with special children - children with special needs."

It has been some quite now since I made up my mind to pursue this aspiration and every now and then, I would ask myself, "Why exactly do I want to go into this field?" Most of the time, my answer would simply be on the basis of my profound interest and passion to work with special children. Yet there would be times where I would think, "Because I want to make a difference". I remember what fellow volunteers had shared at our late-night reflection sessions during the camp at the end of each day, that they were glad to be able to "make a difference" to the lives of these under-privileged beneficiaries. Even though I may possibly have once used such a phrase to describe Community Involvement Programmes, I would then wonder to myself: What difference could we possibly have made in such a short period of time? As awful as it may sound, our one-off contributions and effort would soon be forgotten within a matter of time. Reality hit, isn't it?

Making a difference in my terms means so much more than just being a volunteer at a camp for 3 to 4 days, or other similar one-off instances. It is about playing a crucial role in the developmental well-being of these children, be it a mental/physical disability or an emotional/behavioural disorder. I want to be able to make use of my expertise in future to intervene in the early stages of their lives, doing my part to ensure that they receive the necessary treatment to strengthen their minds and bodies. Just as how a local special school puts it, our role is to allow these special children to maximize their potential, preparing them for their lives ahead even with the obstacles they face today.

It has been over a year since my first encounter with special children, and today, I find myself counting down to the day I begin work as a Teacher Aide under the Youth for Autism programme at a special school. My parents, though glad that I'd be earning my own allowance, were rather worried that it'd be a tiring and demanding job. Indeed, I was aware of what I was getting myself into. In my friends' opinion, no doubt it is a meaningful job, it would be 6 months of plain-Jane dress-up facing a bunch of unruly children. Nevertheless, I am thrilled to begin this experience where I would be taking a quick peek into the world I want to enter in the near future. I was taking charge of my own life. More importantly, I was slowly inching towards achieving that final pot of gold.

Now, who's calling me a flower vase? Think again.


im not sure if there's actually a link between being once likened to a flower vase and my aspiration. it feels a little weird, i was thinking of maybe removing the entire flower vase part? and its about 900 words, no idea where to start cutting. please advise thanks alot!

imike 3 / 20  
Dec 23, 2008   #2
This is a great story but I don't think the flower vase portion really does much to make it better. You should never deprecate your self, so you can do with out that part because it doesn't add much at all.

It would be fine to start with As I recall my first interaction with the... because it is a very strong start to this essay.

Besides that, great job :]
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,334 129  
Dec 23, 2008   #3
With this understanding, some of my peers once likened me to a flower vase by teasing. How much they meant it, I didn't know.

I took no offense to her words.

No, the flower vase part is important -- don't cut it! :) It is profound. However, you can reflect a bit more on it at the end... a bit more than you already do with that last sentence. Elaborate on that last sentence to fill in the meaning.

In order to cut it down to size, try making some of the sentences more efficient by condensing them into fewer words. This makes your writing more powerful.

But keep the flower vase theme!!

OP nylrej 1 / 2  
Dec 25, 2008   #4
hey, thanks alot for all the comments! :)

i personally would like to keep the flower vase part i guess. it was something i wanted to write about all along. but im having trouble with condensing the essay.

so sorry to trouble but do you have any suggestions on how i could condense it?
is there an approximate maximum number of words?
imike 3 / 20  
Dec 25, 2008   #5
No there is not a limit on the common app essay so you dont have a problem there. It is always better to condense your writing since being able to write concisely and still make your point makes for better writing.

I think its a beautiful essay and the flower vase is a great metaphor but you should try to make a stronger connection between it and the whole essay.

Good luck :]
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,334 129  
Dec 26, 2008   #6
Here's an example of how to remove stuff that, although it may be meaningful to you, is not important to the reader and therefore weakens the essay:

Every single interaction with them was an opportunity for me to understand a new perspective and discover a little more about myself. I found myself experiencing a different emotion each time; I could be nervous on the first day, drained by the end of it, yet looking forward to the next -- and I could be rewarded by an ongoing sense of satisfaction. As I realized my interest in this field almost immediately, I was inspired by the thought of pursuing something I enjoyed as a career. "A child psychologist," I had told my parents, "I want to work with special children - children with special needs."



OP nylrej 1 / 2  
Dec 26, 2008   #7
wow thanks alot kevin i think i kinda get it :)

does the essay feel very long? if it doesn't i think i will probably try to cut as much as i can but not be bothered too much by the number of words. how does it feel as a whole?

anyway, really thank you so much to the both of you! your comments really helped :)

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