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"Yellow blanket, sweet sixteen" - common application-topic of choice/feedback


treehugger77 3 / 4  
Jul 31, 2009   #1
YELLOW BLANKET, SWEET SIXTEEN, A DEFINING MOMENT

"Beneath the oppressive haze, the amber color of the morning sky begins to awaken as does my tiny NN-743962. The smells of the city are pungent and foreign compared to the crisp dew laden Puget Sound mornings. But with this daybreak, the exhilaration of the new journey begins, and Allison Milagros wrapped snuggly in her yellow blanket, opened her small eyes, looking at me with wonderment, I knew at that moment she was meant to be my daughter."

Journal Entry
Lima Peru
July 13, 1992

Sweet sixteen, often we celebrate with beautiful dresses and special gifts that mark the coming of age. Parties surrounded by our friends and families often in awe of the transition we've have made from childhood to a young woman. It is an occasion to reflect on our childhood memories and to ponder the events to come as our journey into adulthood begins. It is a defining moment for many. It was even more than that for me, a life-changing moment.

On my special day, I received a life-altering gift from my mom. She presented me with a beautiful leather bound journal, in which she had carefully, and in immense detail, chronicled her arduous journey as a single woman to adopting a baby from Peru. That baby was me. Mom explained that she had waited until this moment, my "sweet sixteen" to be confident that with her candid entries, I had the maturity to both value and comprehend the circumstances surrounding my birth, adoption, all within the context of the culture and political climate of Peru.

It was April in South America and autumn was in the air when I was born in 1992. I was "found" in the corner of a building in Comas, a district of Lima, wrapped in a yellow blanket. Nothing was known regarding my birthparents. An "aha!" moment, as I read her entry. My special yellow blanket: the one tangible item that I still have from my birthmother. I was immediately flooded with the rich memories as a child when that blanket had provided me with comfort and a sense of security. I dragged that blanket everywhere. It was clear now why of all my childhood items, mom had taken such care to preserve this now tattered piece of fabric.

No Name 743962 was my official designation on all the court and legal documents. There were so many children in need of homes; they only provided numbers to keep track of each of us at Casa Los Nińo's, a state run orphanage. How peculiar I thought to be identified only as a number. Your name gives you identity, defines where you belong within a family and a community. My mind wondered, thinking of other people in other times that were reduced to a number, without identity, to be categorized and kept track of forever. Yet strangely, I had always felt a sense of security, a sense of belonging, but always a twinge that there was and continues to be a connection to another place and to some other people. I kept turning the pages, committed to reading the journal in its entirety, on this day, my birthday.

The beauty of the city of Lima was punctuated with the Shinning Path, Guzman's terrorist group, tanks in the streets, transformers being exploded. Between these implausible entries, more mundane events were documented. There was waiting for paperwork to weave its way through the bureaucracy of two governments, trying to effectively communicate, shopping at the Mercado for the day's food, waiting always waiting. Patience and tenacity were words that echoed throughout the 50 page manuscript.

The passage through the journal's pages was surreal. With each page, I felt transported to the moment the entry reflected. Between the entries, though never written, I could feel my mom's commitment and determination. It was palpable. She was determined that the life of possibilities that were ahead were mine to be had, no matter the current obstacles she needed to navigate.

My sweet sixteen birthday was truly a "birth" day that provided transparency to the genesis of my life and the direction I am determined to pursue. It was a defining moment to understand the events of my birth, and the sacrifices that were made, both by my birthmother and my mom. My birthday epitomized my journey from a developing country steeped in ancient history and lore to the beautiful Pacific Northwest. There was a sudden spark of renewed appreciation of the history of a tangible item, a yellow blanket, and the memories and comfort it can provide a small child.

The significance of these events was defining and now an intricate part of who I am. I have a more complete understanding of myself, my inquisitive nature, my love of exploring and always learning. I have been given the gift of life literally twice. The gifts and talents I cultivate, my education and how I reach forward to honor the past will be the gifts I give in return.
Mustafa1991 8 / 373 4  
Jul 31, 2009   #2
You write well.

"Parties surrounded by our friends and families often in awe of the transition we've have made from childhood to a young woman. It is an occasion to reflect on our childhood memories and to ponder the events to come as our journey into adulthood begins. It is a defining moment for many. It was even more than that for me, a life-changing moment."

- "..and families often in awe.." You should clean this up. "..childhood to a young woman..." -- this also.

- Your second sentence is a repetition of the first. That's fine but do it under the cover of different words.

- "..defining moment.." Just so we're clear. First it's more than a defining moment, it's a life-changing one. Later on you regress, and refer to it as a defining moment, repetitively, one time very awkwardly:

"The significance of these events was defining and now an intricate part of who I am."

This sentence is in passive voice I think, and it doesn't say much.

Apart from grammar errors, there's an ambiguity which shrouds your essay, and certain inconsistencies or questions that come to mind, rather.

You need to be very crisp and know where you're going, all throughout the essay. Avoid mentioning things that aren't relevant, or require too much elaboration to be effective.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Jul 31, 2009   #3
I like the level of detail in the narrative. However, I would suggest condensing it somewhat to make room for more reflection at the end. Remember, this is an application essay. You are not just trying to recount a meaningful event; you are also try to show that you are the sort of person that would be a good candidate for admissions. So, you need to explain how this experience will make you a better student. At the moment, it does not do that as much as you probably want it to.
tal105 7 / 130  
Jul 31, 2009   #4
i have no feedback, because i feel its great the way it is.
to change much of it, is to take out your voice.
i did however see one part that was ambiguous but the person above me already said it.

this is beautiful. i really felt it. any admissions officer would be crazy not to want to get to know you. this goes deep.

I LOVE IT!!
allison fina - / 1  
Aug 1, 2009   #5
Thanks so much for the honest feedback, help me understand your comment that the essay is shrouded in ambiguity...I am not clear about your comment...

Thanks
Notoman 20 / 419  
Aug 1, 2009   #6
It is well-written and evokes a strong mental picture. I agree with Sean here--it could be condensed and the ending could be more of a transition into how you would be a good candidate for admission. Even if you were to briefly say that you are a bridge between two cultures and you are appreciative for the new lease on life your adoptive mother gave you (and won't squander those opportunities), it would tie the story to the application process.

There are a few grammar notes. I won't go over everything because of time constraints, but here are a few to get you started:

Parties surrounded by our friends and families often in awe of the transition we've have made from childhood to a young woman.

Mustafa commented on this sentence as well. The parties aren't surrounded by your friends and families. The parties aren't in awe either. You don't transition from childhood to a young woman either. You could transition from childhood to adulthood or from a child to a young woman. See the difference here? I won't rewrite these sentences because I think that you have the ability to do that on your own. Sometimes we become some familiar with our own writing that we don't see how things read to others.

It is a defining moment for many. It was even more than that for me, a life-changing moment.

You could lose these two sentences and the essay wouldn't really miss them. If you feel you need a transition here, I'd make it more brief. Something like: My sixteenth birthday was a life-changing event for me.

On my special day, I received a life-altering gift from my mom.

Take out life-altering and get right to the description of the gift. It would strengthen the flow of the essay in my opinion.

She presented me with a beautiful leather bound journal, in which she had carefully, and in immense detail, chronicled her arduous journey as a single woman to adopting a baby from Peru.

Add a hyphen between the words leather and bound. Take out the comma after the word journal. I think I'd change the word woman to parent here. We already know that she is a woman, but the telling us that she is a single parent gives more of an emotional tie. Omit the word to. It makes your verb tense incorrect.

Mom explained that she had waited until this moment, my "sweet sixteen" to be confident that with her candid entries, I had the maturity to both value and comprehend the circumstances surrounding my birth, adoption, all within the context of the culture and political climate of Peru.

Sweet sixteen doesn't need to be in quotes, but it does need to be set off by either commas or em-dashes (one of those long dashes that a lot of word-processing programs will give you when you use two hyphens in a row--I can't do one with the formatting of this website). The word culture needs to be cultural because it is acting as an adjective modifying climate. It is still a long sentence and the reader has to struggle a bit to make sense of it all. I'd omit a couple of the words to tighten it up just a bit. It would be better reading something like: Mom explained that she had waited until this moment--my sweet sixteen--to share her candid entries with me knowing that I had the maturity to comprehend the circumstances surrounding my birth within the context of the cultural climate of Peru. I know, I know. I took out some pretty important words there . . . confident, adoption, value, political . . . if you are attached to those words, you could rework this so that it was broken into two sentences that didn't lose the reader half way through.

I was immediately flooded with the rich memories as a child

of childhood would read better here.

Casa Los Nińo's, a state run orphanage.

Are you sure that this is the name of the orphanage? Could it have been La Casa de los Nińos? Spanish has a very consistent grammar structure and I can't see them leaving off the primary article (the) or the preposition (of). Nińos doesn't have an apostrophe. When you write this in your essay, italicize the Spanish words. Put a hyphen between the words state and run.

I am going to stop here and let someone else pick up on other grammar points. It is a beautiful story. With a little bit of polishing, it will be a great application essay.
tal105 7 / 130  
Aug 1, 2009   #7
treehugger77:
Parties surrounded by our friends and families often in awe of the transition we've have made from childhood to a young woman.

Mustafa commented on this sentence as well. The parties aren't surrounded by your friends and families. The parties aren't in awe either. You don't transition from childhood to a young woman either. You could transition from childhood to adulthood or from a child to a young woman. See the difference here? I won't rewrite these sentences because I think that you have the ability to do that on your own. Sometimes we become some familiar with our own writing that we don't see how things read to others.

im not sure how to quote ple on this site yet, but this is what i meant when i said some sentences are ambiguous.
im sorry for not being specific. :(
Notoman 20 / 419  
Aug 1, 2009   #8
im not sure how to quote ple on this site yet

To quote people, highlight the words in their post and then click on the "Quote" tab in the lower, right-hand corner of the post. Don't worry about not being specific. It is HARD to critique other people's writing, but all input helps!
tiantian12 8 / 47  
Aug 1, 2009   #9
I was moved by your passage! you write really well with beatiful language ^^
I just agreed with sean and the contributor. condense the story and add more about yourself that can fully show your personality to the AO!

Keep working!^^
Notoman 20 / 419  
Aug 1, 2009   #10
I was thinking more about this essay last night . . . for your conclusion, I would really like to see another mention of the yellow blanket and how that ties your two worlds together.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Aug 1, 2009   #11
Yeah, at the moment the yellow blanket seems of secondary importance to the journal, but your thread topic does make it sound as if you want to focus more on the former than on the latter, so mentioning the blanket again at the ending would be a good idea.
EF_Simone 2 / 1,986  
Aug 4, 2009   #12
You do write very well. That means you're ready to pay closer attention to style. I notice a tendency toward passive sentence construction that I presume is habitual rather than purposeful. What you want to do instead is use active voice and action verbs as often as you can. Then, when you deliberately depart from that for effect it really will have an effect. Also, make a concerted effort to excise all empty modifiers and to always use original phrases and images.

Let me know if you understand what I'm saying.
OP treehugger77 3 / 4  
Aug 4, 2009   #13
I do at one point remember learning about passive vs. active voice in writing but could you point out an example in my writing of where i show this tendency to use passive voice. I think youre saying that active words/voice creates a stronger writing style to grab the readers attention more?
EF_Simone 2 / 1,986  
Aug 4, 2009   #14
There are two issues: (1) active voice, and (2) action verbs.

In a sentence in the active voice, the subject of the sentence is the actor. In a passive voice sentence, the object of the sentence is the actor.

Active voice: Paul punched Bob.
Passive voice: Bob was punched by Paul.

Action verbs (also sometimes called active verbs, which does make things confusing) are all verbs that indicate action rather than a state of being. The verbs to be (is, was, were, etc.) and to have (had, has, have, etc.) are not active.

Contrast:
I am a person who enjoys running.
I enjoy running.

I had a bad cough.
I coughed.

Now, you look at your essay and figure out why I said what I said. (We're doing it this way because you are capable of finding the examples yourself and will learn more by doing so.)
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Aug 4, 2009   #15
Passive construction involve using forms of "to be," the weakest verb, to turn what would normally be the subject of the sentence into the object instead. This can be useful if you want to keep focus on a particular subject, or to shift emphasis about. But, if you overuse it, the essay loses power:

I was immediately flooded with the rich memories as a child when that blanket had provided me with comfort and a sense of security.

The beauty of the city of Lima was punctuated with the Shinning Path, Guzman's terrorist group, tanks in the streets, transformers being exploded

You also tend to use "to be" and other weak verbs generally in your essay, even when not using the passive voice:

It was April in South America and autumn was in the air when I was born in 1992. I was "found" in the corner of a building in Comas, a district of Lima, wrapped in a yellow blanket. Nothing was known regarding my birth parents.

No Name 743962 was my official designation on all the court and legal documents. There were so many children in need of homes;

Constructions using "It was" and "there were" most always indicate a sentence that could be better written with a bit of thought.


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