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My essay about my Irish culture and interest in Irish dance


sarahmc18 1 / 6  
Nov 28, 2009   #1
Hi, this essay is a response to the CommonApp personal essay prompt number 5: A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.

Comments and critiques on my essay would be great appreciated. I have to send this in by Tuesday. Also, does this essay answer the prompt? Or should I choose the topic of choice option instead? Thanks!

We all walked onto the stage, our faces smiling widely beneath large wigs of curled hair, a parade of bright knee-length dresses lined up in a row. As I took my place in line, I reviewed my dance steps in my head. I watched the first two girls dance a successful routine, then finish. As my time grew closer, my heart started to pound in my chest. This was my first competition and nervousness accompanied my excitement. I walked to the center of the stage and counted down the beats. I pointed my toe, lifted my head, and took off as the next bar of music began. I danced across the stage to the rhythm of the music, enjoying the excitement of Irish dance

Irish culture has always been a part of my life due to my Irish heritage. I grew up listening to Irish music. Unlike my peers, who collected posters of Backstreet Boys and Brittney Spears, my childhood hero was Tommy Peoples, a master fiddler of the Donegal style of music.

I began to learn fiddle at the age of seven through the patience and instruction of the members of a local traditional Irish music band that I joined. I have many fond memories of playing with this group and attending various Irish music workshops with them. One of my favorite memories is when I had the opportunity to travel to Ireland with them and my family for three weeks of Irish music instruction. Being able to experience Irish culture first-hand was an experience I'll never forget.

Over the years I was always captivated by Irish dancers, with their quick, lively steps and the amazing choreography that matched the energy of Irish music. I thought that if there was one thing better than playing Irish music, it must be dancing to it. When I was at the age of fourteen, I began to search for local instructors to take lessons from. Unfortunately, I lived in a very small town, surrounded by other small towns. Consequently, there was not an abundance of Irish culture nearby and no dance instructors.

However, I learned some Irish dance steps from an instructional video my parents bought for me after I expressed my great desire to learn how to Irish dance. I would practice often and perform for my friends, who wanted me to teach them some steps. But when I was sixteen, my family and I moved from southern Illinois to central Kentucky, where opportunity would present itself. I had worn out my instructional dance video by then, and fortunately I heard about the Kentucky McTeggart Irish Dance School in Lexington, only forty minutes from my house. I contacted the school and talked to one of the instructors. I was afraid I was too old to start, most dancers begin at a very young age. But she was very welcoming and said my age would not be a problem, although I would be in the beginner class with five- to ten-year-olds at first. While that might have been an issue with some girls my age, I didn't mind, but gladly joined in the classes with the younger girls, eventually becoming comfortable enough in my skills to help some of the youngest with their steps. There was so much more to Irish dancing than I had realized from the video, but I knew that if I worked hard and stuck with it, I would move up in the ranks quickly. A few months after starting, that's exactly what happened and I was invited to join in the figures class with older girls. Figures are dances made up of two to eight dancers, all performing the same dance at once. Soon after that, I had the chance to perform with the figure class, and eventually moved up to intermediate class for solos as well.

A year after starting dance, I decided to compete in a Feisanna, an Irish dance competition. A lot of other girls from the McTeggart school were going and I knew it would be a great experience. I practiced my five solos vigorously in the weeks leading up to the competition. At the competition, I wasn't sure how I would perform against the more experienced dancers, but I tried my very best. Surprisingly, I came out with three medals: two first places and one second. My instructors were very pleased; I found out from them that it's rare for someone to get so many medals at a Feisanna.

I continue to enjoy Irish dance immensely and have a great time at my classes. With harder school courses during my senior year, as well as viola lessons, orchestra rehearsal, and volleyball practice, I have had to make some sacrifices and cut back my time on dance involvement to focus on grades and school. It's hard to juggle everything sometimes, but I still devote as much time as I can to dance. My experience with Irish dance is so important to me because it has really shaped me as the person I am today. After competing in the competition and winning those medals, I realized that I can accomplish what I set my mind to through determination and hard work. Dance has made me much more confident in myself and my abilities. Being a new girl to the Lexington area, it was hard at first trying to fit in and make friends. But I stayed true to myself and my interests. Through these interests, I've made many close friends and I greatly enjoy my new life here. I'm passionate about dance and that makes me want to succeed at it. I have many other interests that I'm devoted to and that passion motivates me to work hard in these areas of my life as well. I'm really looking forward to my future, attending college, pursuing my many interests, and accomplishing my dreams. Maybe I'll even teach a few dance steps along the way.

cowoverthemoon 3 / 10  
Nov 28, 2009   #2
I USED TO IRISH DANCE TOOOOOO!!! Wow!! What a coincidence!! I stopped in 10th grade though...too busy with my dance team at school...

Yay!!

haha...anyways...I thought your essay was very well written. You spent a lot of time describing the dancing and journey itself, so if you need to cut down(im not sure if you do, but if you do, its just a suggestion), I would take out some of the describing of the dancing and Irish culture and stick more to the impact it made on you. I really like the ending btw!!! The last sentence was very clever :)

Also, you mention that you had to balance your school work with dance and viola a lot. You may want to take some of this out.

Hope I helped!!!!

If you have time, please read my last thread!!!!! I cant decide which I should use for my commonapp essay. :(
OP sarahmc18 1 / 6  
Nov 28, 2009   #3
Thanks cowoverthemoon!! That did help, lots! I'll play around with it some more using your suggestions. I've considered shortening it some, it does seem kind of long. Idk, it's around 930 words, it might keep the readers' interest better if I cut out some about the journey. And I'll definitely look at your last thread! Btw, that's so awesome that you used to Irish dance!!! Yeah it takes a lot of time, but it's so fun! Thanks again!!
Mustafa1991 8 / 373 4  
Nov 28, 2009   #4
1.0 - Unreadable
10.0 - Engrossing

4.4
The prompt you provided undercuts your essay, almost to make it worthless. No matter how well a person talks, it won't matter if they're not answering the question posed to them. The work submitted merely proves that you enjoy an activity involving your culture; as the prompt hints at an experience, I'm pretty sure you are to demonstrate your capacity to tolerate or embrace differences, of course writing well at the same time. There is no consideration at all to help me determine whether or not you can contribute to an encompassing environment. Each word that does not say something to impress that you have been out of your cocoon and experienced unfamiliar or challenging circumstances and persevered, is consideration added along that you cannot address a clear prompt, or do not possess the range of experiences to do so even as you may want to.
OP sarahmc18 1 / 6  
Nov 29, 2009   #5
Thanks a lot for the advice!! So should I just choose to respond to the "topic of choice" prompt on commonapp or is my essay topic bad altogether? Shoud I just choose something else to write about and start over?

Here's my essay again after I've changed some things

Is this better? Worse? About the same? Any suggestions welcome, thanks.
yang 2 / 313  
Nov 29, 2009   #6
I agree with Mustafa, this essay does not fall in the diversity zone. I personally have experience with this topic since I immigrated twice, but simply talk about those cultures is not enough. You have to show how these changed YOU personally. In your case, talking solely about dancing might be a bit too narrow.

You could either do first topic, or the topic of your choice (probably fits better).

Actually your essay sounds more like the common app short answer: "In the space provided below, please elaborate on one of your activities"

Now, if this were the prompt:

Revise first and second paragraphs as well as conclusion - you no longer have to go back to the diversity idea. Focus on the dance alone.

"I would practice often and perform for my friends" - take out "would" makes it more powerful.

"My experience with Irish dance is so important to me because it has really shaped me as the person I am today." - Cut weak sentences like this, it tells NOTHING about you. Talk about how it shaped you instead of a generic statement like this.

'Surprisingly, I came out with three medals" - "As a fortunate surprise" perhaps?

"I was afraid I was too old to start, most dancers begin at a very young age. But she was very welcoming and said my age would not be a problem, although I would be in the beginner class with five- to ten-year-olds at first. While that might have been an issue with some girls my age, I didn't mind, but gladly joined in the classes with the younger girls, eventually becoming comfortable enough in my skills to help some of the youngest with their steps." - don't use 5 lines for this, condense. Maybe:

"Although I started late compared to my fellow dancers who range from five to ten, I didn't mind the age gap and enjoyed practicing with younger girls. Eventually, I became comfortable enough in my skills to help some of the youngest with their steps"

Overall, good detail, maybe add some psychology instead of pure facts. Talk more about how this was VERY important to you, and how dedicating yourself to this improved you as a person.

PS. Thanks for your help.
OP sarahmc18 1 / 6  
Dec 4, 2009   #7
Thanks a lot yang! I changed the essay quite a bit more and submitted it tuesday under a different category. Thank you everyone who provided comments and criticism.
yang 2 / 313  
Dec 4, 2009   #8
haha great! Hope you are successful in your "college hunt"


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