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Creating opportunities: Personal Essay for Common App (a background, identity, interest, or talent)

oip 1 / -  
Dec 17, 2015   #1
I'm not entirely sure which of the prompts this essay fits under but I'm going to give it my best guess and go with the first one which is:

[Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.]

Thank you!

The car is running and I can feel even the small bumps in the road as my mother speeds down the freeway. I know we are headed to xxxxx, xxxxxx, a humid mess of city built upon tourism, but I have no reference point to even guess why such a change in my life is occurring. Eventually I will come to know that that move was a result of my parents' inability to sustain a life in xxxx without a college degree. Nobody told me why we did anything, but it was justifiable; at only six years old, it was incomprehensible to me.

The sound of my mother speaking Vietnamese in the microphone of her cell after she gets off from work is something distant to me. She's been in Vietnam intermittently for the past two years for prolonged periods, sometimes even ranging six months at a time. She hasn't been slept at the house in a year but this jumbled arrangement becomes clearer after a few years of being left in the dark: my parents divorced when I was nine, but never mentioned any sort of change in household arrangements. Those trips that left me longing for my mother's cooking and advice: they were never temporary.

I can't hold my words straight, and I stumble over my ideas, thoughts, and feelings; the things that I never had a chance to convey. These feelings of unwavering inadequacy continue to build up inside of me; I'm sinking deeper and deeper in a pool of my own self-doubt and I can't find an anchor.

Blindly feeling in the dark, somehow by chance the all-girls robotics team ends up as one of my starting footholds. Robotics becomes my comfort, my solace in the midst of a suffocating loneliness. Along with my team members, full of encouragement and ideas, we compete in regional competitions, making it to the state level. There're so many components that need to be fulfilled for the competition; communicating ideas is a given, applying them is another. It may be easy for one, but my voice continues to waver when exchanging dialogue with other teams. Despite that hump, it doesn't matter much - my words, ideas, and feelings are reaching POINT A from POINT B and it's allowing me to apply my skills and improve upon them. I'm growing and I feel a rush of excitement; my ideas, something never before done, are being heard and used.

I'm at the point where my self-doubt can't hold me back. I'm becoming more decisive and I decide to join my school's yearbook staff to clear the leftovers of my communicative anxiety. I love writing - so why not? I find out early on that publications are not about the words, but about the people. As interviewing tens of people become hundreds, I realize quite gradually that people are wildly different and offer a type of knowledge not found in a textbook. Moving my chapped lips and speaking with my hands, I'm learning about people's backgrounds, interests, and focuses. I am a messenger, converting these verbal, fleeting phrases into black-inked text, bound forever in a book. I'm growing attached to this diversity and I'm discovering so much. I can't cover everyone in my spread and I'm thinking about the big-name publications now; there are so many constraints, so little space, how much information is left out just to waste?

I feel unlimited; never did I think I would come this far. I take a step forward and I apply to take classes at a local university. Long gone are the days where I gave half of my effort in classes just because they're boring or easy. I don't know my potential or even my limits; it's expansive, filling my being like a gas. No longer am I depriving myself of opportunities because of my own self-doubt: I create them.

vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Dec 17, 2015   #2
Ann, try to focus your essay on the topic that matters the most. In this case, it isn't about your parent's divorce but rather the way that you went on a journey of self-discovery. I can't really connect the situation and despair you had with your mother with your development academically. Once a disconnection like that occurs, confusion sets in. Are you telling us about the effects of the divorce on your or are you talking about the obstacles to your academic development? You have 2 sets of background stories going here so you need to just pick the best one and build the whole essay around it.

Personally, I don't see how either of the stories make your application incomplete without it. So there is a need for you to find a highlight to one of the stories in your life. It has to be a highlight that shows a character development or the emergence of something within you that you were not given the liberty to discuss within the common app prompts. This is your chance to make yourself shine. Develop the story that you feel will best set you apart from the other applicants. Will it be about your love for robotics? Your enjoyment of journalism? Which story do you think will make you shine? That is the choice you have to make and then develop into an interesting background story.

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