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'I don't know.' - Common app for Princeton, Columbia, Harvey

leviator 7 / 39  
Dec 9, 2011   #1
This is my common app main essay. Since I'm not much of a writer, I've had a quite a hard time with it. Any constructive criticism would be greatly appreciated :D

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Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.

'I don't know.' This was my most commonly used phrase when I first entered high school. I knew so little, and there was so much to learn, and I had no idea where to begin. In fact, my own character was alien to me. THIS was what I feared the most. Not the fear of failure in academics, or any other activity, but being uncertain - uncertain about my preferences, my opinions, my aspirations, myself. At times, I felt different. I felt that my ideas would be rejected and I would be condemned. Not only did this uncertainty make me insecure, but it hampered my ability to make decisions, and lessened my confidence in those decisions. Not understanding a concept or action was already annoying; not understanding myself, that elevated the annoyance and fear to catastrophic levels. But just when I felt like I was bursting apart at my emotional seams, she came into my life.

Dagny Taggart, the main protagonist of Atlas Shrugged, a product of Ayn Rand's creative genius, is my mentor. In a time when women were expected to fade into oblivion, she was the strong willed vice president of her family's transcontinental railroad. As an assertive powerful business executive, and an engineer by profession, she was, I soon realized, the paragon of everything that I wished to be. She knew what was right, she knew what she wanted, and most importantly, she firmly believed that what she wanted was right. "You don't have to see through the eyes of others, hold onto yours, stand on your own judgment, you know that what is, is-say it aloud, like the holiest of prayers, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise." The aforesaid lines, as quoted by Dagny, made me realize what my problem was and gave me strength to accept myself as I was. That was the first step I took on the journey of self discovery. Sure, I encountered failures in life, but I had the courage to accept myself as a person different from the rest, and at that time, it was all that mattered. Moreover, the realization that I was a unique entity in this vast universe made me feel special.

Not only did she help me gain confidence in myself, Dagny Taggart served as an ideal role model when I was on the road to overcoming my identity crisis. Despite facing many an obstacle, be it the loss of human resources due to the prevalent brain drain, the opposition she faced from her company or the lack of public support, she remained undeterred, and with unwavering confidence, sought to win. Her calm rationality, and passion and dedication towards her work have inspired me to work to the best of my abilities, for whatever it is that I believe in and love to do.

It might seem silly and exaggerated, but Dagny has shaped me into the person that I am today. I consider myself to be a strong opinioned feminist, and have no reservations about expressing my thoughts and ideas. The timid, introverted girl has now grown into someone who loves to interact with people, and believes in herself. Because that faith, that self confidence, I've learnt, is all it takes to transform a life.
admission2012 - / 481 90  
Dec 9, 2011   #2

Your essay is great and reads rather smoothly. The only issue I see with your essay is the first sentence of the last paragraph. You mention "It might seem silly and exaggerated, but Dagny has shaped me into the person that I am today." I agree with you. Yes, it does sound silly and exaggerated. To soften the tone of that sentence and make it more believable, slip a "helped" in there right before "shape." -AAO
collegecat 2 / 19  
Dec 13, 2011   #3
I really like your essay. It shows that you have your insecurities, but that you are willing to learn and will therefore make a good student. Good luck!
wintahtimee 1 / 9  
Dec 14, 2011   #4
I don't have many corrections to make besides the ones Manar did. This essay is great and you are definitely more of a writer than you think you are. Best of all, you answer this question well. Most times, people focus too much on the character and not enough on themselves, but you do an excellent job balancing both in your essay. Well done :)
emanon 4 / 16  
Dec 15, 2011   #5
I think the essay will be better even if you add one or two concrete example(s) of yourself. Good luck with your schools!
OP leviator 7 / 39  
Dec 15, 2011   #6
Thank you all. I will definitely work on that, I have been given the same advice by a few friends as well.
Thanks again :-)
Daybreak 3 / 32  
Dec 15, 2011   #7
but it hampered my ability to make decisions , and lessened my confidence in those decisions .

It might just be me, but I find 'decisions' to be repetitive in these lines. Perhaps you should change one for 'choices'? Just a suggestion.

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