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"Hoang the Headless Chicken" - Common App Personal Essay


batdoi 2 / 5  
Nov 30, 2008   #1
I'm an international student. I'm submitting my application very soon, the deadline is tomorrow December 1, so any feedback and comments are highly appreciated!

Prompt: Topic of your choice
Areas that I think especially need ideas/ improvements:
_ use of language and grammar!!! They've never been my strong points and I feel some of my expressions and word choices are really awkward. Please suggest corrections if you can.

_ after reading the essay, do you get the impression that it focuses too much more on my friend than me?
_ it's pretty long, 805 words. Do I need to shorten it, and if yes, how?
_ how do you feel about about the story? did you find it easy to read, or did you feel like wanting to speed-read the essay half way through it?

Thank you very much!

We called Hoang the Headless Chicken. He was a tiny boy with piggy eyes, thick blackish lips, a potato-shaped head so disproportionately big compared to the rest of his body, plus a pale countenance from which it was impossible to tell when he was happy or sad. And yes, he was socially inept.

Within the first two weeks of high school, I was convinced he wouldn't fit in. The way he minced about in his worn-out sandals, which rubbed hard against the floor, producing an irritating "scratching" noise, made people who met him for the first time chuckle. All we remembered of him were his social gaffes, which made for a source of laughter for other students. Otherwise, he was too anonymous an individual for anyone to notice. But that was expected when you were a shabbily-dressed boy who sat in the bottom right corner of the classroom, silent as a monk and never raised his hand.

I sympathized with Hoang. Till then, while I couldn't tell if it was the intimidating atmosphere of the class that had gradually turned him into the distant kid he was today, what I knew for sure was that beyond the blank and impassive face, he was more than an anti-social and emotionless guy. Whenever the other boys sat together to make fun of him, I felt my heart jump and warily looked around, sighing with relief to realize that Hoang wasn't sitting close enough to overhear.

As the soccer team captain, I was used to being popular among my classmates. It startled me to imagine how anyone could ever go to school at seven am and back home at noon day after day unnoticed, and pass through his 3 years of high school as if he was a bored spectator watching a soccer training session from the stands. Hence, less than a month ago, when we were required to work with a partner for an English presentation, I'd made a bold decision to ask Hoang to work with me. No doubt he was surprised. That evening, he gave me a thank-you phone call. The next day, he rang again to ask something generic about the presentation, which I knew was just an excuse for him to set up a chat with me. The guy was badly in need of someone to talk to.

That's how I became Hoang's confidant. He started to call me on a regular basis, once every two days usually. In those three weeks, I got to know him more than I'd ever done the entire first 2 years. I felt sorry, even guilty to learn of his failure to socialize with his classmates. Ever since, I had persuaded myself to assist him with his homework, call him at night to ask what he had in mind for the weekend, and wish him good luck before exams. I wanted to assure him that he had a friend who cared and wanted to know more about him.

At the same time, however, I knew perfectly well that this whole temporary assurance strategy would be futile unless I somehow made everyone accept him. Last week, Minh, my best buddy for two years, asked me why I had been talking a lot to "that two-digit-IQ geek" recently. For three seconds, I was sure I would yell at him, "Why don't you just stop being so indifferent and pretending like there isn't a dude named Hoang sitting right there in the class;" then, all of a sudden, I felt my throat constricted by my enormous ego. After all, I was the class representative, had great rapport with all classmates, and never got into a fight with anybody. Would it be worth it to wage one on Minh because of someone I'd barely known about one month ago?

I wish I could have said yes.

For the first time, I seriously began to question the tight-knit 12A1 community that I've been cherishing. Here I have met my best friends and lived the best time of my life. Yet the same community reveres homogeneity of style and consensus of opinion that would outcast anyone who fails or refuses to accept it.

But I know this must get done ultimately. That afternoon in front of Minh, I was a coward, and it's a shame that today I still lack the courage to say it, to stand for what I believe in. But now I look and realize that we're in our senior year, and there's not much time left. Six months from Graduation Day, I promise to myself that I shall no longer allow that to continue - to let a friend come and pass by as though he's never been a part of our community, so that 12A1 would live up to the inclusive and accepting reputation that we've been proud of.
nevabressler - / 20  
Nov 30, 2008   #2
...an irritating "scratching" noise, ...

Whenever the other boys sat together to make fun of him, ...

As the soccer team captain, I was used to being popular among my classmates.

Ever since, I had persuaded myself to assist him with his homework, call him at night to ask what he had in mind for the weekend, and wish him good luck before exams.

I wish I could have said yes.

For the first time, I seriously began to question the tight-knit 12A1 community that I've been cherishing.

I thought the essay was pretty much perfect. You did not seem to focus too much on your friend, and I enjoyed reading this. Very thought provoking. You're a very good writer, I especially liked your description of Hoang.

Neva
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Dec 1, 2008   #3
Sorry I missed the opportunity to comment last night. About the contractions, the thing to think of is that some readers believe that you shouldn't use them. I would refer for everyone to just keep it real, and write like they talk, but college is sometimes about appeasing people and conforming to their expectations.

:)
OP batdoi 2 / 5  
Dec 2, 2008   #4
thanks, I'd better do it the safe way then. And EF_Kevin, can you give me some comments on my essay?
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Dec 2, 2008   #5
We called Hoang the Headless Chicken. He was a tiny boy with piggy eyes, thick blackish lips, a potato-shaped head that was disproportionately big compared to the rest of his body. He had a pale countenance from which it was impossible to tell when he was happy or sad. And yes, he was socially inept.

For this paragraph below, maybe you do not need to keep starting with the word "but." However, it is up to you. If you want you ccan just take out the word but, and it will be more powerful--

But I know this must get done ultimately. That afternoon in front of Minh, I was a coward, and it's a shame that today I still lack the courage to say it, to stand for what I believe in. But now I look and realize that we're in our senior year, and there's not much time left. Six months from Graduation Day, I promise to myself that I shall no longer allow that to continue - to let a friend come and pass by as though he's never been a part of our community, so that 12A1 would live up to the inclusive and accepting reputation that we've been proud of.

Good luck!!

Kevin
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Dec 3, 2008   #6
Well, unlike some student essays, this really is interesting and a good read. I really like the content, and the only thing to do is make it more efficient -- saying the same things in fewer words... but the presentation is great already!
OP batdoi 2 / 5  
Dec 6, 2008   #7
thanks Kevin!


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