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"to improve my relationship with my father" - Help with Practice personal essay

UPennHopeful 3 / 7  
Feb 7, 2010   #1
I have to submit my college applications and I really want to get into an Ivy League school, so I wrote a practice essay on a Prompt:

Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

Here is my practice essay :

I remember the countless times when I was enticed into the cafeteria by the sweet smell of pork chop buns, or the magnificent thought of sugary juices flowing out of the watermelon onto my tongue, only to be melancholic at the reminder that I had forgotten my wallet at home. My friend would instantaneously realize this and pay for my food before I could even ask him. This was just another one of those days. We sat down at the table, there were some fries left behind as well as a tipped glass of apple juice. It reeked of the presence of a younger student. Normally, I would start complaining about the state of the table but the sad expression on my friend's face diverted my attention.

"Last night was terrible", he began.


"I fumbled during my performance to my guitar teacher and he told my parents. Now, they are making me join the school guitar club as well, and pay the one thousand two hundred dollar fee with my own pocket money."

His eyes welled up, and I knew I had to be there for him. I couldn't back out on him. Not this time. I owed him more than money. He was my best friend and surely this meant something. This was my chance at redemption, my opportunity to pay back the debt that friendship endowed upon me. This was the light at the end of my tunnel.

Throughout the day I pondered over a solution for the dilemma. Could I help him pay for the club? No, I barely receive two hundred dollars a week myself. Maybe I could talk to his parents? It's a personal matter and I shouldn't interfere. VOILA! The simplest answer took the longest time to disclose itself - I should start a guitar club. I was already in good light with the club co-ordinator for my creation of a revision club, an initiative she had "never seen at the school before". All I had to do was expand my already existent club to incorporate guitar as well.

I approached the co-ordinator, and presented my idea for an expansion of my club. At first she was skeptical. Who wouldn't be? I was basically asking her permission to create a club that would inevitably reduce the money made by the school-run club. I circumvented the issue by explaining that a number of students could not make it to the expensive club because of conflicting schedules. I am not sure what convinced her. It could have been the glint in my eyes or the passion in my voice. She gave me permission to start the club.

The next day, I opened up my laptop to see that I had already received 25 applications from hopeful students. It was almost as if a spammer was sending the emails with different names for the text in the body of each email was exactly the same, save one. They all talked about the exorbitant prices of the rival club. I didn't bother reading the reasons in all the emails for there was only one email that I was particularly interested in. It didn't contain a reason for joining the club, or a reason for anything at that. There were just two words in the body of the email, a simple "Thank you". There I sat looking at my computer screen. Joyous would be an understatement. I was ecstatic, weightless - captured in a feeling of inertia. Indeed, at that time I related my happiness to the feeling of helping a friend. But truth be told, I was happy because I had helped out many people selflessly, possibly for the first time in my life.

When the Friday of that week arrived, once again I stepped into the cafeteria. I saw the bustling group of young students pushing and tugging to get the last boxes of nuggets. I heard the occasional sound of plastic contacting with the wooden floor followed by an almost immediate groan as a students food fell to the floor. The aroma that I experienced every time I went into the cafeteria hit me again. I almost lost my balance. Luckily there was the cold steel railing to stabilize me. It brought me back to my senses. I had forgotten my wallet, but it didn't matter for my friend had already brought me food, and it tasted better than it had ever done before.

The experience I gained during that week will last me a lifetime. I knew the consideration and selflessness I displayed that week would be reciprocated on everyone I came to know and indeed it did. For it was that week that I decided to improve my relationship with my father and helped him realize his dream of seeing me playing in a golf tournament.

Could you guys please help me improve this with your comments. One specific aspect that it asks to emphasize is the impact on me, so could you explain whether I have explained the impact sufficiently.
srandhawa 10 / 157  
Feb 7, 2010   #2
Practice essay? Are you a junior right now? Wow, and I thought I started my common app essay early by doing it in October:)

anyway you take too long to tell the story in the beginning, and i know what your trying to do in the beginning, but it has absolutely nothing to do w/ the rest of the essay, just kinda seems like a forced intro and an espec forced conclusion. Why is this food so significant? Seems really choppy. And as for your last para, just completely cut it, thats even more forced and confusing, improving a relationship w/ your father playing golf? What? That's not the theme of your essay at all, how is helping kids and trying to relate to your father similar? Sure you might be trying to change your mindset and be more open and help your dad also, but meh, still really forced.

Also as a technical thing, what applications? Don't kids just show up to a club? Did you make kids fill out an application? If so, say a little about it, because frankly the application thing seems to be a significant part of your essay and theres not much background or insight about it. And I guess the food idea could fall under this subject also, if it really is significant, you really gotta give more background on this? Because again, it makes absolutely nosense to me.

But the biggest thing here is this isn't reflective at all, this is purely a narrative, you tell one event, then the next, then do a little of cliched analysis of how this changed you. Your just reciting a story, barely showing any of your personality and how you think and your mindset. And as for the cliched ending, the "thank you" idea which is the big thing you gained, is really really cliched, really? Think of something much deeper than that, show our satisfaction w/ a far more in depth idea. I think you might try w/ the food idea, but again, i dont get how all those ideas of the aromas in the cafeteria relate to anything. So while we can tell this prob had a impact on you, the essay itself, doesnt leave much to any impact on the reader, its just a reciting of a story.

One last thing, your writing style is meh, I'm not a big fan of it. It's like your just directly trying to answer the question, trying to force every sentence to relate to the idea of how you were impacted. No! Use all the sentences and combine them to tell one big story, i know really old, cliched idea, but thats what an essay is. Its the type of things like in your quote at the beginning, theres no need to mention you saying "Why", I know its really small but it really disrupts the flow of the essay. There are lots of ex here I wont go into since I've already given you a novel worth of analysis to read:) But in general, there needs to be a flow to this essay, there needs to be organization, and you gotta come across w/ a greater idea than oh the "thank you" was all I was looking for. Good luck, sorry for this brutal critique, you have a lot of time if you're a junior, ivies are brutal, admisison is all a game of luck really, so keep your options open, dont be one of those idiots w/ a closed mind who applies to all eight ivies
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Feb 8, 2010   #3
This is such a strange and cool writing style! Revise to get rid of unnecessary words, trimming them away:

This was just another one of those days.

Also, let's work with this weird sentence:
I remember the countless times afternoons when I was enticed into the cafeteria by the sweet smell of pork chop buns or the magnificent thought of sugary juices flowing out of the watermelon onto my tongue, French bread pizza, only to be melancholic upon realizing at the reminder that I had forgotten my wallet at home.

Ha ha... pretty good.

captured in a feeling of inertia. -- inertia is the wrong word here. Use a different word.

Wow, so... you started a club and let your friend pay you, and then gave his money back! You are a genius!! I am so impressed, ha ha, you are a hero.

and it tasted better than it ever had before.

You should add one more reflective sentence to the end so that it does not end with an abrupt reference to your dad wanting you to play golf.


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