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"We the People" - Undergrad Admissions Essay for Ivies? Critique =)


zam614 2 / 20  
Jul 13, 2009   #1
Common App: Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

For Harvard, Yale, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Brown, Duke, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Miami, and Boston College... Also, probably some version of this for Columbia, Georgetown, and University of Florida

I sat anxiously, hands folded, but my face was trained to conceal emotion. A voice to my right elaborated on John Locke's natural rights philosophy and other topics I had heard time and time again, only to be eclipsed by my throbbing heartbeat which intensified by the second. My brow perspired and my frigid palms were trembling, yet I knew better than to let them distract me. I had to maintain the rehearsed procedure. I waited for my teammate to stop speaking, and, on cue, it was my turn; then I opened my mouth and spoke. In the mere minutes that followed, months of research and anguished preparation burst forth. Adrenaline rushed through my veins as my lips pronounced the words that I had studied countless times, each word deliberate and precise. The world was consumed by my voice. Later, when it was all over, our incessant practice finally rewarded us as we were ultimately named the state champions of the "We the People: the Citizen and the Constitution" competition and represented the state of Florida at the National Finals in Washington, D.C. that May. Participating in the "We the People" competition was irrefutably the highlight of my high school career and permanently transformed the way I viewed myself and the world.

I was not always as confident or passionate as I am today. Rather, until the beginning of high school, I felt out of place. I was always the archetypal shy student, taunted by my peers with barely a word in retort. At times it seems surreal, in retrospect, that I have changed so much, and I take pride in knowing that I am not the same person anymore. I would be remiss to consider the fact that my experiences in "We the People" taught me simply about American government and our Constitution. My stalwart determination to succeed in this competition instilled the sense of courage and confidence in me I had always lacked, which will further prepare me for the challenges of a collegiate life in the near future. I found that I didn't tremble at the knees anymore when I had to speak in front of a group of people. I found that I could communicate a well-planned and persuasive argument with conviction and passion. Most noticeably, I found that I could surpass the superficiality of my peers and be more extroverted. I became someone who wouldn't back down to an obstacle, someone who wasn't afraid of failure and who would fight to avoid it.

Before my sophomore year, I had some interest in the field of law; however, my interest was essentially transitory. I vacillated between law, medicine, and architecture; but "We the People" solidified my intent to pursue a legal career. I was enthralled by the complexity yet efficiency of our nation's judicial system and knew that it was something I wanted to partake in for the rest of my life. My experience in "We the People" has fueled my desire and resolve to immerse myself in this field as much as possible. In the two years that followed, I continued to involve myself in "We the People" by mentoring the new teams, and I have felt fortunate to be able to watch the students follow in my footsteps.

In "We the People", I learned that every American has a civic duty. I exercised mine assiduously and encouraged others to do so as well. Consequently, I sought out an internship with my State Representative to contribute to the legislative system and learn from experience. In order to disseminate the importance of civic engagement to my peers, I founded the Junior State of America chapter at my school. My primary goal as President of the Junior State of America is, above all, combating apathy and fostering a free exchange of ideas.

Thanks all!

EF_Simone 2 / 1,986  
Jul 13, 2009   #2
Hmmm... This starts very strong but kind of fizzles at the end. Your writing is vivid and engaging through the first paragraph. The second paragraph doesn't tell enough about your sixth-grade state or about how and why you made a change. The final paragraph is flat because it stays with "We the People" even though you've already gotten all of the drama out of that you're going to get. I know that it is you "eternal flame" but we need to read more, perhaps about your experiences at your internship or some incident illustrating how you put your commitment to civic engagement into action. If you're going for the Ivies -- you've got a shot -- you've got to do more than describe one high school highlight, however powerful that achievement was for you.

Good luck, and let's see a revision.
OP zam614 2 / 20  
Jul 13, 2009   #3
Thanks a lot Simone!

How's this? (fyi, the first paragraph is the same)

Thanks again...

um, also a few questions:

1)

My experience in "We the People" was the eternal flame that has fueled my desire and resolve to immerse myself in it as much as possible.

2)

but "We the People" truly confirmed (?) my innate passion for law studies.

How could I rewrite these? They seem like they could use some work...

3) How do you think I can tie all the different activities I threw in the last paragraph? One is directly related to WTP (my mentoring) and the other two stem from what I learned from WTP (internship & JSA)

Thanks so much!
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Jul 14, 2009   #4
Mine would be to remind everyone of theirs.

You need a stronger concluding sentence. The word we use for someone whose only idea of civic duty is reminding others of theirs is "hypocrite." This is not the impression you want to convey of yourself. Perhaps you could tie together your activities by explaining in more detail how they have given you a broader view of the meaning of civic duty.
OP zam614 2 / 20  
Jul 14, 2009   #5
Hmm... I see how it can be misinterpreted.

How about something like

"I took it upon myself to encourage others to exercise theirs."
To replace the last sentence?

For some reason, this one seems weaker...
OP zam614 2 / 20  
Jul 14, 2009   #6
Also, would it really be better to add a lot of other activities I participated in? I don't want to make it seem like a laundry list of activities and I want to try to stick to the main idea as much as possible: "We the People" transformed who I was and my future decisions.
EF_Simone 2 / 1,986  
Jul 14, 2009   #7
Again, it's up to you. You are applying to the Ivies, where all of your competitors will be listing at least one similar achievement. If it were me, I would find a way, while sticking with the main theme, of mentioning other achievements or activities. Since you speak of reminding people of their civic duty, that offers a perfect opening to briefly note some of the ways that you do yours. As Sean said, people who spend their time telling other people about their civic duty are an awful lot more credible when they are engaged in civic activities themselves.
OP zam614 2 / 20  
Jul 15, 2009   #8
That sounds like a good idea. Could you comment on my questions please or help me rewrite those couple of sentences? Or do they seem fine they way they are? Thanks. :)
EF_Simone 2 / 1,986  
Jul 15, 2009   #9
Could you comment on my questions please or help me rewrite those couple of sentences? Or do they seem fine they way they are?

What questions? We can't help you rewrite those sentences because only you know what civic activities you can include in them. Once you've drafted the revised sentences, we can help you correct or improve them.
OP zam614 2 / 20  
Jul 15, 2009   #10
also a few questions:

1)
zam614:
My experience in "We the People" was the eternal flame that has fueled my desire and resolve to immerse myself in it as much as possible.

2)
zam614:
but "We the People" truly confirmed (?) my innate passion for law studies.

How could I rewrite these? They seem like they could use some work...

For the first one, is the "eternal flame" metaphor too hackneyed? For the second, does the word "confirmed" seem like the best diction? I want to portray that my experience solidified my intent to pursue that specific career path.. I just can't seem to find the right word "/.
EF_Simone 2 / 1,986  
Jul 15, 2009   #11
For the first one, is the "eternal flame" metaphor too hackneyed?

Yes!

For the second, does the word "confirmed" seem like the best diction? I want to portray that my experience solidified my intent to pursue that specific career path.

Well, it didn't confirm your passion. It did confirm your sense that this is the work for you and, as you just said, solidified your intent to pursue that path.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Jul 16, 2009   #12
Not only is the metaphor hackneyed, it is unnecessary:

"My experience in "We the People" was the eternal flame that has fueled my desire and resolve to immerse myself in it as much as possible."

Metaphors work best when used to conjure up mental images of abstract ideas. This one doesn't really do that. Also, it sounds hyperbolic. What exactly, is eternal? Your desire to participate in "We the People?" But aren't you going to move on to other things at some point?
OP zam614 2 / 20  
Jul 16, 2009   #13
Great, thanks for your feedback. I agree.

I know I need to improve the ending, but I just blanked... Any suggestions much appreciated! Thanks again =)
OP zam614 2 / 20  
Jul 16, 2009   #14
I was re-reading the new revision, and I thought of maybe starting a fourth paragraph starting here (the third would end at "...in my footsteps" before the red section):

In "We the People", I learned that every American has a civic duty. I would exercised mine assiduously and encouraged others to do so as well. Consequently, I sought out an internship with my State Representative to contribute to the legislative system and learn from experience.; andI n order to disseminate the importance of civic engagement to my peers, I founded the Junior State of America chapter at my school. My primary goal as President of the Junior State of America is, above all, combating apathy and fostering a free exchange of ideas.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Jul 18, 2009   #15
Your conclusion is much better. Now, what do you mean by civic duty, exactly? And how did you contribute to it?
EF_Simone 2 / 1,986  
Jul 18, 2009   #16
A quick note: Look up the meaning of surreal. Is that really what you mean? I suspect that, like many people, you mean "unreal" but are saying "surreal" because it sounds cooler. But doing so flags you as somebody who doesn't know what the word really means -- not a good impression to make in an admissions essay.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Jul 18, 2009   #17
I suspect that, like many people, you mean "unreal" but are saying "surreal" because it sounds cooler.

Actually, "surreal" and "unreal" are synonyms, unless you are using "surreal" in a specifically artistic sense. This isn't even a matter of language changing over time -- to the best of my knowledge, the word has long meant "dreamlike," "unbelievable," "unreal."
nike 1 / 6  
Jul 18, 2009   #18
I like your essay. Especially the beginning. Its very strong. Nice.
OP zam614 2 / 20  
Jul 18, 2009   #19
Thanks nike. And thanks so much Sean and Simone! I'm still trying to see how I can conclude the essay because it seems so abrupt right now. Maybe tying it all back to "We the People", so it doesn't seem like I'm going off track. Then again, if I do, it seems like it'll be redundant...

Also, should I take out this part:

I was always the archetypal shy student, taunted by my peers with barely a word in retort.

It seems self-deprecating for some reason lol.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Jul 20, 2009   #20
I think you are getting to the point where you have a finished product. You can keep revising of course (you can always keep revising) but you are making increasingly minor changes now.
EF_Simone 2 / 1,986  
Jul 21, 2009   #21
I second that emotion.
OP zam614 2 / 20  
Jul 22, 2009   #22
Also, should I take out this part:

zam614:
I was always the archetypal shy student, taunted by my peers with barely a word in retort.

It seems self-deprecating for some reason lol.
EF_Simone 2 / 1,986  
Jul 23, 2009   #23
No, I like that sentence, and so will admissions officers. Keep it.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Jul 30, 2009   #24
It's a great sentence, one that shows your mastery of vocabulary, grammar, and style. Keep it.
OP zam614 2 / 20  
Aug 2, 2009   #25
Ok thanks :)
OP zam614 2 / 20  
Aug 13, 2009   #26
Hello again everyone. I've been making a lot of revisions on the essay on the side, and I decided to post the more current version. Comments welcome and encouraged :D.

I sat anxiously, hands folded, but my face was trained to conceal emotion.

My stalwart determination to succeed in this competition instilled the courage and confidence in me (that) I had always lacked.

P.S. I'm sorry, but there were way too many revisions, in my opinion, to manually show the corrections. Hopefully you can see the difference. :)

Oh, I'm also about 100 or so words over the limit (>.<), so I'd appreciate it if you could point out some superfluous words/phrases. Thanks again :)
EF_Simone 2 / 1,986  
Aug 13, 2009   #27
I exercised mine assiduously and encouraged others to do so as well . In order to contribute to our legislative system and learn from experience, I sought an internship with my State Representative andConversely, in order to disseminate the importance of civic engagement to my peers, I founded the Junior State of America chapter at my school.

The rest of this paragraph is not only wordy but confusing. I'm not at all sure what you mean by your last line.
OP zam614 2 / 20  
Aug 14, 2009   #28
I knew that last sentence was pretty ambiguous. Basically, what I mean to say is that perhaps civic engagement is really important to me because it was basically the focus of something that meant a lot to me, something that really changed who I was. Does that make a bit more sense or clarify that just a bit?

Also, What about putting (WTP) in parentheses after the first mention of WTP and just substitute all the following "We the People" 's with WTP? and the same with JSA (junior state of america).
OP zam614 2 / 20  
Aug 15, 2009   #29
How are the other paragraphs? Do I focus too much on the setting of the competition (in the first paragraph) or is there a good balance?


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