Here is my Common App essay. It took me a while to come up with a topic, but getting my progress report in the mail has posed as some inspiration (you will understand after you read my essay). I feel like my "mistake" is vague, and it does not flow too well. I need an outsider's perspective.
As I sit here writing my college essays I am forced to evaluate my growth and development as a human being and as a student. As I ruminate on how I have changed over the past few years I find it difficult to tack down how I have become the person I am now. Because I am a compulsive list-maker, I make a list. I take a blank piece of paper and draw a line through the center. I label the left side "successes and things I am proud of" and the right side "failures." I look at both lists trying to find the experience that has had the greatest impact on my life, but instead I discover something more profound. On the left side I see a list of everything I enjoy doing--things that I have pursued under my own disposition and things that I am most passionate about. On the right side I see the things that I thought I was supposed to do to impress classmates, my teachers, my counselor, my parents, and the top colleges and universities.
I turn my attention back to first list: becoming a nursing assistant, photographing my aunt's wedding, taking my friends' senior pictures, working for my dad's business, relearning the piano, organizing weekly tutoring sessions after school, starting martial arts, going to the gym in the mornings, being creative, well-rounded, organized, responsible, honest, receptive, and reliable. These are things that are not well-represented on transcripts and I deemed them secondary behind trying to impress colleges by taking a full load of AP classes my senior year. There is where my failure appears.
The route of this failure, I think stems from making my friends' goals my own. By the middle of tenth grade I made friends who concentrated their energy in positive directions. My friends are the type of people who do pretty much everything they can to maintain a perfect application. Taking SAT improvement courses and attending costly forums, joining sports, and being in clubs not out of sheer interest but to put on their application. One thing I do admire is their virtually flawless academic records. They would take the most challenging courses and excel, and I saw and admired the tenacity that it represented to me and would represent to colleges. As I became better friends with them I began to mimic their style of accomplishing their goal of perfecting their application.
"If it is worth doing it is worth doing right." This is the motto my dad goes by and advice he has handed down to me and my sister. For the most part, I follow this advice with everything I do: If I am going to do a sport I am going to train all year, if I want to relearn the piano I will sit at the piano bench for hours, if someone asks me for help with something I will make sure they get the answer whether it is from me or someone else, If I am going to be president of a club I will be the best president I can be, and if I promise my AP US history teacher I will get a 5 on the AP test I will get a 5 on the AP test. But as was loading myself with extracurriculars, and AP classes it did not leave room to be the best I could be. Though I am excelling in extracurriculars, my mistake is now manifested in me struggling to keep my grades up.
What I did not know then but know now is that I could have been more successful by being myself and focusing on the my pursuing my interests. I was engrossed in trying to do everything I could to impress colleges that I lost sight of myself and my own interests. However, I would like to note that though I often struggle in my classes in the beginning of the year I usually pull through by the end, learning more than I know I would have learned by taking easier classes. Though I see trying to challenge myself too much as a failure I am glad I went through it. I will learn much more on the various subject areas as well as the extent of my capabilities, but the most penetrating lesson I have learned from this experience is to pay attention to my interests and pursue my goals. Throughout high school I have made other people's goals my own; I am throwing away my old goal list and writing a new one.
Unfortunately, lists aren't the most engaging things in the world, and neither is this essay.
It sort of revolves around a laundry list of what you deem to be your successes or failures.
Just a tip, college admissions officers aren't expecting you to be perfect robots: it's less impressive to be a perfectionist unfaltering piano player, 5-star AP student, than it is to be someone with flaws and personality.
These generic words do not convey personality nor are they interesting : being creative, well-rounded, organized, responsible, honest, receptive, and reliable.
Also, don't make a list of your accomplishments, that's a No-no. Instead focus on a specific aspect that can show you in a positive light and be memorable to the officer.
Your last line is a good one, it conveys personality, and that you are making personalized goals for yourself.