This prompt confused me a little, so I'd like to know if I'm answering the question fully. And I'd really appreciate constructive criticism on this, thank you for taking a look!
Prompt: The quality of Rice's academic life and the Residential College System are heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural traditions each student brings. What perspective do you feel that you will contribute to life at Rice? (Most applicants are able to respond successfully in two to three double-spaced pages.)
I feel trapped in a state of hazy yellow this Sunday morning. As I trail bleary-eyed behind my mother onto the tennis court, I gaze up at the clouds lethargically drifting by. The sky has a soft lemon glow to it, one that provokes an escape back under the covers, not hours of athletic exertions and sweat. Through the drowsy veil over my eyes, I peer curiously at the strangers arranged against the chain-link fence and smile to myself. Perhaps I'll get rest after all; my mother's tennis friends would seem more at home indoors playing bingo than outside on the court. The buttery morning light diffuses across their hunched figures, highlights the wrinkles in their skin, and, if anything, only adds to their gentle elderly appearance.
As we arrange ourselves for a doubles match, I relax my muscles and prepare myself for a leisurely rally. My "opponents" will surely tire soon. I only hope they will have enough energy left for their afternoon naps. Nestling into the golden embrace of the morning, I let my eyelids droop halfway back into sweet repose, but a different yellow haze soon fills my vision. It appears to be... coming closer?
Suddenly, a serve rockets past my head at an impossible speed, leaving a stream of neon tennis-ball fuzz in its wake. Eyes jolted open, I stare blankly at the culprit, a man old enough to be my grandfather. His cheeky grin seems to tell me, no, this is not a game to take lightly. We're here to play.
Every Sunday since then, I've rolled out of bed and slapped myself awake for the challenge to come. Ron's killer serve clears the net only half of the time, but even without the advantage of surprise, it requires my undivided attention. I fear my arm bones may never stop wobbling from the impact, but there's no time to recuperate. Doris slices the ball across the court, while Barry continues glaring from the net through his polarized sunglasses. He says it unnerves people. And it does.
I suppose it is a little strange seeing us tear up the court. Our multi-generational group has the upper end of the spectrum well represented, but I am the only player under fifty. Although I do have a slight advantage with sprinting, they are the clear winners in dedication and passion, playing each week despite the fact that almost all wear knee or elbow braces. These seniors continue to destroy my preconceptions of senile sexagenarians, Sunday after Sunday, and though they have certainly given me many energizing games, they've also given me something else - a perspective unclouded by a haze of set expectations, one that is instead open to all possibilities.
Throughout my life, Sunday tennis being no exception, I've found that people tend to surpass the limits we set for them in our minds. First impressions are often wrong, as Ron, Barry, and Doris have shown me. With the random distribution in Rice's Residential College System, I fully expect to be surprised by my peers, as contradictory as that may sound. I don't know who I will meet in the future, but I'm ready to receive each new person with open arms. Instead of filing people under categories based on just one aspect of their identity, whether it be age or ethnicity or major, I plan on letting my fellow students show me who they are and what they can do. My new tennis friends sure did. After all, I do like a good surprise, as long as it's not zipping past my head at eighty miles an hour.
Oh, I noticed how helpful you have been to others here and I wanted to make many corrections for you and offer advice, but seriously, this essay is awesome! I could not find one thing to suggest or correct, and you are SUCH a good writer! I was hooked by the first paragraph, and it was interesting all the way through. I had to wonder and hope that your major is in creative writing, as this may be your calling. Thank you for being so helpful to other students. Good luck in school, though I don't think you'll need it.
"His cheeky grin seems to tell me, no, this is not a game to take lightly."
The syntax is a little awkward, because it sounds like you're trying to insert a quotation, but it's not a quote, exactly... I would change this to "His cheeky grin seems to tell me that no, this is not a game to take lightly."
I wrote an essay to this same prompt not long ago, and although I focused more onthe "cultural traditions" aspect, I think your essay is just about perfect. Susan definitely nailed it- you're amazing!