This is the essay I wrote for the Common App. I'm applying to Columbia via early decision, and I would really appreciate it if I could get some helpful feedback. Here's the prompt and essay:
Prompt: Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
My mother watched as I waved my hand over a pile of yellow flesh peaches in an outdoor display at the local farmer's market. Small black specks whizzed lazily away from the peaches, settling on top of the fruits just seconds later.
"Mom, these flies are everywhere."
"We'll go look inside. There won't be any flies."
Wheeling the shopping cart through the door, I scanned the store for peaches. "There!"
We pushed the cart toward a sign I had spotted. "White Lady Peaches: $1.50 per lbs."
My mother immediately recognized the fruits. "Oh! White peaches! These are like the peaches from China. Very sweet! Much better than the yellow ones."
And so, that evening, our refrigerator was filled with "White Lady Peaches" because they were "just like the peaches from China".
Just like China. It is a phrase that my parents, first-generation immigrants, have uttered countless times; it is essentially our family motto. Since I was young, my parents considered anything "just like China" excellent. When we went on vacation, my parents would zealously search for restaurants that served food most closely resembling genuine Chinese cuisine, often to the point where I would become irritated by the constant stream of oriental restaurants and angrily reprimand my parents for their lack of originality. According to my parents, there were very few good non-Chinese restaurants. Even on a recent vacation to New York City, my parents, infatuated with the heavily populated and culturally lively city, repeated themselves over and over: "New York is just like Shanghai."
Every other summer since I was eight, my family and I traveled to China to visit family and friends. Despite finding my parents' "just like China" mantra tiring, I loved these month-long trips, mostly because we visited relatives that we had not seen in years. Even so, a month is a long time; I typically began to feel homesick during the final week of our stay. I missed spending time with my friends, living with central air conditioning, and traveling by car. There was one visit in particular when I felt even more homesick than previous trips; I was annoyed with the constant pushing of crowds in the street, the unruly lines to get on buses, and the almost tropical humidity. Above all, I was tired of eating the food. A week of genuine Chinese cuisine is fine, even delightful; however, I could not take an entire month of deep-fried dough for breakfast. In the last few days of that trip, my father's colleague took us to a high-class restaurant. Just next door, I spotted a McDonald's.
"I want McDonald's tonight."
"Why? The restaurant's so nice."
"No, I want McDonald's."
I did not realize how rude I was until I placed my brown take-out bag on the dinner table. Our hostess, Dr. He, was good-natured about my preference for junk food; still, I felt guilty and embarrassed as the waiters brought us plate after plate of Beijing specialties. However, the most humbling aspect of the situation was how similar my actions were to my parents' behavior in America. For me, my choice of McDonald's over dumplings was a significant insight. I realized that I was searching for America in China; that, like my parents, I was searching for a reminder of home in a foreign place.
I will always consider America my home, yet I still have deep connections to my Chinese roots; I spent the first two years of my life with my grandparents in Renshou, a smaller town in China, and the next three years in America with them in a traditional Chinese household. I will not deny that I am confused by the integration of two very different cultures in my life. I believe, however, that perplexing matters are all part of the growing process. The issues that may puzzle me today will, I hope, become clear in the coming years as I enter college and encounter new experiences. Even now, the frustrations I felt when I was younger are fading. I have begun to realize that my multicultural background is an integral part of who I am, an asset that I have begun to take pride in.
(Word Count: 695)
I think the essay is a bit too long, so if I could also get some opinions on what to take out that would be great.
I think this essay was actually great.
one of the best I have read
It was original, described a trip but it cut to the point and you even evaluated the lesson you learned in the end. The only thing I would suggest, is probably elaborate more on the 'multicultural' aspect, describe more about the similarities and differences in from your parents, and how you have changed from it. The way you view there desire for chinese culture. ( ALSO, a hint since new york is similar to beijing it may not be a good idea to complain about the crowded streets, humidity and transportation since new york has all of that also and Columbia is in nyc.- just a thought!)
Good luck with Columbia, I hope you get in