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A mix between a "central identity" story and "challenging an idea" - Common Application Essay

Th25cc 2 / 90 26  
Aug 16, 2014   #1
I wrote this essay back in June for a class assignment, although the topic is definitely something I'd consider writing about when I go to submit the common application in a few months. My safety school (UW-Madison) is not on the common application, so I can afford to be bold with this essay in an attempt to gain admission into low match/stretch schools.

Usually politics is considered off limits for admissions essays, but politics is a large part of my identity. I don't need any feedback in terms of grammar; rather, I'm interested in what you guys think about the idea in general.

Here's the list of schools my common app essay will go to: Cornell, Pennsylvania, Princeton, Washington in St. Louis, Northwestern, and Georgetown (so far).

The essay:

Far too many young adults these days reject political and philosophical ideologies. They simply accept the world as it is and have no desire to change things. I personally, however, cannot be separated from political and philosophical ideology - I constantly seek the truth. In the last few years of my life, I have spent a great deal of time defining, establishing, and arguing for my political and moral values. I constantly challenge ideas, and as a result, I am at the ideological point I'm at today.

I first became interested in the political arena during Wisconsin's Act 10 chaos of 2011. I remember watching "The Ed Show" every evening during the thick of the action and agreeing wholeheartedly with the host's views. I was essentially an MSNBC liberal, and a rather ignorant one.

That's okay though. There's nothing wrong with being "wrong", as long as you continue to challenge your ideas and seek the truth. Obviously, the "truth" I speak of is immensely subjective, but I personally believe that everyone can and should be able to realize the truth that I have. The intellectual journey begins.

I don't remember why, but I began to challenge my narrow-sighted liberal beliefs by watching Paul Ryan videos on YouTube. I can still picture Ryan arguing for a tax code that is "fair, simple, and competitive". I don't think Ryan's ideas enthralled me, but they served as a means of reaching the ideas of Ron Paul, which I found to be really exciting.

I'm so deep in the ideology that I'm not sure what set me off in terms of adopting values similar to those of Ron Paul. Perhaps it was his passion or his impeccable voting record, but I suspect that it was the simplicity and coherence of his libertarian values. The idea that people should be able to do whatever they'd like as long as they don't infringe on the rights of others resonated with me. Paul's exposure of the failures of the monetary system also intrigued me. I was shocked at how we could allow a central bank to dictate the economy and consequently our fate. His "blowback" theory of foreign policy made perfect sense. I now considered myself a "libertarian", but definitely not an anarchist... How things would change.

I then stumbled upon the works of Adam Kokesh. He takes libertarianism to an extreme, arguing that as a result of the non-aggression principle, government can't legitimately exist. One of his favorite things to do is interview people and question them until they realize taxation is theft unless the government owns us. I remember trying to reject this notion as much as I could, but it just wasn't possible. There is no way to argue against complete voluntarism since anything else advocates violence, and violence is something that we universally reject. Looking back now, I realize that I held on to statism simply out of the fears I had with the connotations of being an anarchist, anarcho-capitalist, or full out libertarian. As a society, we associate these terms with lunacy, and as a result, I was a bit reluctant to accept them.

I'm at the point now where I believe government cannot morally exist since it isn't a voluntary agreement between people. If we have the right to be free from violence, government automatically breaks that right by claiming the ability to initiate force on us, even if that use of force is decided by a majority vote. I don't claim to know exactly how a truly free society would work, but I am convinced as far as the moral logic goes.

It's been a quick few years, and I've gone from being a liberal to being a libertarian or anarcho-capitalist. In college, I will enjoy challenging my ideas, both introspectively, and also through engaging with my peers and professors.

End Essay

Thanks for reading. I'll be glad to help out all of you with your essays as well!
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Aug 18, 2014   #2
I personally, however, cannot be separated from

This part seems a little bit self-aggrandizing. But it's so hard to avoid that in essays like this! Interviewing for a job, applying for college, going on a date, these situations where we are supposed to be trying to make a good impression I situations where it is so hard to balance modesty with persuasiveness.

After reading the first paragraph, I think it is one of those first paragraph that can be removed entirely. Sometimes it's difficult to just get rid of an entire paragraph that you, but really this is how to prune the bonsai tree like Mr. Miagi. Trim away the excess. That first paragraph is making an unsubstantiated claim, and Newsweek. I bet when I get to the second paragraph it will actually show the reader the truth that was claimed in the first paragraph, and that will make the first paragraph and unnecessary obstacle for their mind to pass. I say kill the first paragraph. :-)

I first became interested in the political arena during Wisconsin's Act 10 chaos of 2011.

This is so much more interesting as the start of an essay. In fact, it might even be personally interesting to the reader. So, this reinforces my idea the first paragraph should be deleted.

Your discussion about how Ryan lead you to consider Ron Paul and libertarianism is very impressive! I think you might enjoy reading Emerson and a Thoreau if you have not already, because their work helps people to see how American democracy really is supposed to be the way you described: maximizing freedom while preventing people from interfering with anybody else's freedom.

You might sound wiser if you talk about viewpoints with which you agree or disagree rather than talking about, "I am a liberal" or "I am a libertarian"... It is the tendency to reach out for an identity to construct for oneself that makes us sometimes seem naïve. Also, it's that same tendency that so often causes politicians to become unable to uphold the values that you are talking about here!

I think this might be the most important suggestion: Instead of telling the reader about the conclusions at which you have arrived, emphasized the questions you are asking. There is good reason for that notion you mentioned about political topics being off-limits. It's great to talk about them as long as you take this approach that you have taken, which is to emphasize the idea of constantly questioning and seeking truth. You can deemphasize the parts where you talk about conclusions you have reached, and perhaps replace them with examples of some of the goals you would like to achieve in order to act on your values.
OP Th25cc 2 / 90 26  
Aug 19, 2014   #3
Thanks for the advice. I definitely agree with your suggestion in terms of deleting the first paragraph, as well as making it more question-oriented. I can see how focusing on the search for the answers to the questions, rather than the conclusions, would make my candidacy to a university more appealing. They want people who will do the research, interact with others, and attempt to reach a conclusion/solution. They don't want people that know all the answers coming in. I don't claim to know everything, but applying labels probably makes it seem like I think I do.

Fortunately I have until January to make this perfect...

I'll post any revisions as I complete them.

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