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College Admissions: Common Application Prompt #5

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

 

The intention of this series is to show readers a sample of a good essay in response to each of the Common Application prompts. This essay is an actual college admission essay, written and submitted by a real student. It is followed by comments from admissions professionals about what makes this personal statement effective.

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

“Ew, what stinks?” Audrey screams.

My eyes comb through the thick foliage until they fall on a decomposing deer carcass replete with maggots and eager turkey vultures. I can’t believe my luck.

“Wow! Let’s go examine it. Who remembers what we learned about decomposers?” I ask the group, excitement evident in my voice.

When the screaming starts, I realize that I should have saved the carcass exploration for my afternoon group. I look back at Audrey, a scrawny eleven-year-old with Asperger’s Syndrome. She is prone in the grass, shrieking as though she is being tortured.

I run back to her. “Hey, don’t worry, you can take a pass on the deer. I’ll draw you a cartoon mock-up so you can still learn some sweet facts and impress your classroom teacher.” The howling doesn't even waver. Okay, new strategy.

“Guess what? We’re having mac n’ cheese for lunch and chocolate chip cookies for dessert, and at soil field study this afternoon you will make some awesome face paint.” Still nothing.

“Audrey, we’re going to play a game called predator-prey right over here. Feel free to join us when you’re ready.” Ten minutes later, Audrey stumbles over to us, her tantrum finished, but our time together just beginning. She is going to be one of the ten sixth-grade girls staying in my cabin.

It’s 6:25am the next morning. Soon I will wake up my students, but for five minutes I marvel at where I am. For one week each semester, I leave my friends, family, and technology at home and travel, with my rain boots and smile in tow, to Outdoor School, home of the freshest air in the world. Every sixth grader in Oregon is gifted six days here to experience the outdoors while learning hands-on science. For these weeks, I become Piña, and my job is to be a role model, science teacher and friend to 200 sixth graders out in the forest. My alarm clock beeps; it’s 6:30.

“I’m alive, awake, alert, enthusiastic, whoo!” I sing to wake up my cabin.

Nine groggy girls zip out of sleeping bags while one remains in bed, seemingly lifeless.

“Audrey, it’s time to wake up. We are having field day this afternoon, and tonight at campfire we are performing our skit, but before we can have any of that fun I need you to get out of bed.” I know she can hear me, but she remains barricaded in her sleeping bag. I recall the conversation I had with my supervisor the night before.

(“I have a recalcitrant girl in my cabin who is impulsive and doesn’t follow instructions. Strategies like ‘I need’ statements and distractions aren’t working on her, so I would love some suggestions of new techniques.")

My supervisor suggested I try incentives, so I couple, “If you get up within five seconds, you can sleep five extra minutes tomorrow morning” with a personalized Audrey wake-up song and, to my delight, it works.  Audrey is out of bed. She refuses to get dressed, but she’s out of bed.

For the next five days, I spend all of my free time thinking up new ways to engage Audrey without triggering a melt-down. It’s a painful, yet effective trial-and-error process. Letting her draw how she’s feeling, for example, calms her down, but playing the human knot game with her cabinmates results in spinning and screaming. She drains every ounce of my energy, but I’m left feeling happily exhausted after we work through each of her lows and surprisingly refreshed after celebrating each of her highs.

Right before the students board the school bus home, Audrey runs up to me. "When I'm old like you, I'm coming back here to teach science. I think I'll be great." (Eli, Minerva Schools at KGI, Class of 2019)

Conor’s feedback: This essay shows a good deal of the author's personality and voice as she recounts her many attempts (some successful, even more unsuccessful) to be a good leader and role model for her young campers. She comes across as determined, caring, humble, and even a bit funny, all great qualities that colleges value.

Anna’s feedback: An accomplishment doesn’t need to be an award or a HUGE LIFE EVENT. We know you are just 17 or 18 years old; it’s OK that you haven’t cured cancer (yet). This essay shows an impactful moment for this student and it works. I see a young woman who loves science, is compassionate, and enjoys working with a wide variety of people.

Jodi’s feedback: Wow! This student took her grown-up role very seriously. She cared a lot about connecting with every child and rose to the formidable challenges she faced. She will adapt well to any situation, which is especially useful since she chose a college that will include living in seven countries over her four undergraduate years.

Conor O’Rourke is Senior Assistant Dean of Admission at Pomona College, which is also his alma mater. Contact Conor at: [email protected]

Anna Aegerter is the Director of West Coast Admission for Sarah Lawrence College. In her twenty year career, Anna has worked at Lewis & Clark College (her alma mater), Trinity University (TX), Lawrence University, and Pitzer College. She also was the Director of College Counseling for an independent school in Seattle before returning to Admission to work at Sarah Lawrence College. Contact her at: [email protected]

Jodi Walder-Biesanz is the founder of Portland, Oregon-based College Admission Coach LLC which helps students identify and gain admission to right-fit schools where they will thrive academically and personally. She has also worked as an application reader for Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. Contact her at: [email protected].

 

Related Slideshow: Where Do Our Colleges Rank on the Princeton Review’s Top Lists ?

So where does your college fit in on this list ?

Prev Next

Party Schools

1 Syracuse University (NY)
2 University of Iowa (IA)
3 University of California - Santa Barbara (CA)
4 West Virginia University (WV)
5 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (IL)
6 Lehigh University (PS)
7 Pennsylvania State University - University Park (PA)
8 University of Wisconsin-Madison (WI)
9 Bucknell University (PA)
10 University of Florida (FL)
11 Miami University (OH)
12 Florida State University (FL)
13 Ohio University - Athens (OH)
14 DePauw University (IN)
15 University of Georgia (GA)
16 University of Mississippi (MS)
17 Tulane University (LA)
18 University of Vermont (VT)
19 University of Oregon (OR)
20 University of Delaware (DE)

photo credits: DJ Anski - PSU Rooftop Party  Copyright 2012 to Nathaniel Young

Prev Next

Birkenstock-Wearing....

Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians

1 Skidmore College (NY)
2 Sarah Lawrence College (NY)
3 Reed College (OR)
4 Bennington College (VT)
5 Oberlin College (OH)
6 Vassar College (NY)
7 Bard College (NY)
8 Pitzer College (CA)
9 Guilford College (NC)
10 Lewis & Clark College (OR)
11 University of Puget Sound (WA)

12 Emerson College (MA)
13 New College of Florida (FL)
14 State University of New York--Purchase College (NY)
15 Warren Wilson College (NC)

photo credits: NatalieMaynor - Birks under copyright license

Prev Next

Reefer Madness

1 Skidmore College (NY)
2 Eckerd College (FL)
3 The Evergreen State College (WA)
4 University of Colorado - Boulder (CO)
5 Ithaca College (NY)
6 University of Vermont (VT)
7 University of Oregon (OR)
8 Sarah Lawrence College (NY)
9 Pitzer College (CA)
10 University of CA - Santa Cruz (CA)
11 University of CA - Santa Barbara (CA)
12 State University of NY - Purchase College (NY)
13 Colorado College (CO)
14 Guilford College (NC)
15 Lewis & Clark College (OR)
16 Emerson College (MA)
17 Reed College (OR)
18 Syracuse University (NY)
19 University of Wisconsin-Madison (WI)
20 Marlboro College (VT)

Photo Credits: Pave Espitita - Reefer Madness under copyright

Prev Next

Town Relations are Great

1 Clemson University (SC)
2 Virginia Tech (VA)
3 Saint Michael's College (VT)
4 Gordon College (MA)
5 Kansas State University (KS)
6 Loyola University New Orleans (LA)
7 Texas A&M University--College Station (TX)
8 Auburn University (AL)
9 University of Mississippi (MS)
10 Agnes Scott College (GA)
11 College of the Ozarks (MO)
12 Ripon College (WI)
13 Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (WA)
14 The University of North Carolina at Asheville (NC)
15 Brigham Young University (UT)
16 St. Anselm College (NH)
17 United States Naval Academy (MD)
18 Wheaton College (IL)
19 Westminster College (PA)
20 Washington State University (WA)

photo credits: Joshin Yamada - 20090204_MG_0120_smart under copyright license

Prev Next

Happiest Students

1 Vanderbilt University (TN)
2 Claremont McKenna College (CA)
3 Clemson University (SC)
4 Tulane University (LA)
5 Virginia Tech (VA)
6 Rice University (TX)
7 Kansas State University (KS)
8 Bowdoin College (ME)
9 Vassar College (NY)
10 Hillsdale College (MI)
11 Whitman College (WA)
12 The College of Idaho (ID)
13 University of California--Santa Barbara (CA)
14 Yale University (CT)
15 Wheaton College (IL)

photo credits: Enokson - We <3 Students Who <3 Reading  under copyright license

Prev Next

Is That a Dorm?

1 Vanderbilt University (TN)
2 Claremont McKenna College (CA)
3 Clemson University (SC)
4 Tulane University (LA)
5 Virginia Tech (VA)
6 Rice University (TX)
7 Kansas State University (KS)
8 Bowdoin College (ME)
9 Vassar College (NY)
10 Hillsdale College (MI)
11 Whitman College (WA)
12 The College of Idaho (ID)
13 University of California--Santa Barbara (CA)
14 Yale University (CT)
15 Wheaton College (IL)

photo credit: Karan Jain - decrepit house. under copyright license

Prev Next

Most Beautiful Campus

1 Colgate University (NY)
2 Pepperdine University (CA)
3 Rhodes College (TN)
4 Sweet Briar College (VA)
5 Scripps College (CA)
6 Rollins College (FL)
7 Southern Methodist University (TX)
8 University of Mississippi (MS) 
9 Princeton University (NJ)
10 Florida Southern College (FL)
11 University of San Diego (CA)
12 Union College (NY)
13 Wellesley College (MA)
14 Hanover College (IN)
15 Vassar College (NY)
16 Kenyon College (OH)
17 Ohio University--Athens (OH)
18 Agnes Scott College (GA)
19 Lewis & Clark College (OR)
20 University of Richmond (VA)

photo credits: Jeremy McWilliams - Unicycling at Lewis & Clark College under copyright license

Prev Next

Easiest Campus

1 Wabash College (IN)
2 New College of Florida (FL)
3 Webb Institute (NY)
4 Whitman College (WA)
5 Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (MA)

photo credits: Joe Shlabotnik - Whitman College under copyright license

Prev Next

Most Liberal Students

1 Sarah Lawrence College (NY)
2 Warren Wilson College (NC)
3 Bennington College (VT)
4 Bard College (NY)
5 Marlboro College (VT)
6 College of the Atlantic (ME)
7 Beloit College (WI)
8 Reed College (OR)
9 New College of Florida (FL)
10 Smith College (MA)
11 Macalester College (MN)
12 Skidmore College (NY)
13 Grinnell College (IA)
14 Pitzer College (CA)
15 Mills College (CA)
16 Vassar College (NY)
17 Occidental College (CA)
18 The Evergreen State College (WA)
19 Lewis & Clark College (OR)

20 Swarthmore College (PA)

photo credit: Reed Magazine

Prev Next

Most Politically Active S

1 The George Washington University (DC)
2 Grinnell College (IA)
3 United States Military Academy (NY)
4 Vassar College (NY)
5 Wellesley College (MA)
6 Amherst College (MA)
7 New College of Florida (FL)
8 Claremont McKenna College (CA)
9 Georgetown University (DC)
10 American University (DC)
11 Warren Wilson College (NC)
12 University of Chicago (IL)
13 Macalester College (MN)
14 Bard College (NY)
15 Bard College at Simon's Rock (MA)
16 United States Naval Academy (MD)
17 University of Maryland, College Park (MD)
18 Hampden-Sydney College (VA)
19 Reed College (OR)
20 New York University (NY)

photo credits: Maryland GovPics - University System of Maryland Student Rally under copyright license

Prev Next

Everyone Plays Intramural

Everyone Plays Intramural Sports

1 United States Military Academy (NY)
2 Clemson University (SC)
3 Gonzaga University (WA)
4 Pennsylvania State University--University Park (PA)
5 Grove City College (PA)
6 Whitman College (WA)
7 Wabash College (IN)
8 United States Naval Academy (MD)
9 Providence College (RI)
10 Gettysburg College (PA)
11 United States Coast Guard Academy (CT)
12 Florida Southern College (FL)
13 Colorado College (CO)
14 Florida State University (FL)
15 University of Notre Dame (IN)
16 Kansas State University (KS)
17 Washington State University (WA)
18 University of Nebraska--Lincoln (NE)
19 Ripon College (WI)
20 University of Colorado--Boulder (CO)

photo credits: Beavervolleyball - OSU vs Washington under copyright license

Prev Next

Nobody Plays Intramural

Nobody Plays Intramural Sports

1 College of the Atlantic (ME)
2 Stephens College (MO)
3 Wells College (NY)
4 Prescott College (AZ)
5 New College of Florida (FL)
6 Reed College (OR)
7 Manhattanville College (NY)
8 Sarah Lawrence College (NY)
9 The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (NY)
10 Emerson College (MA)

andrechinn - Hayward Field gandstands under copyright license

Prev Next

Students Pack the Stadium

1 University of Kansas (KS)
2 Clemson University (SC)
3 Syracuse University (NY)
4 Pennsylvania State University--University Park (PA)
5 University of Arizona (AZ)
6 University of Notre Dame (IN)
7 The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (NC)
8 University of Southern California (CA)
9 Auburn University (AL)
10 University of Connecticut (CT)
11 Kansas State University (KS)
12 West Virginia University (WV)
13 University of Iowa (IA)
14 University of Oklahoma (OK)
15 Gonzaga University (WA)
16 University of Oregon (OR)
17 Florida State University (FL)
18 Texas A&M University--College Station (TX)
19 University of Louisville (KY)
20 University of Florida (FL)

photo credits:  Eric Schnedier under copyright license

Prev Next

There’s a Game?

1 Bennington College (VT)
2 College of the Atlantic (ME)
3 Prescott College (AZ)
4 Reed College (OR)
5 Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (MA)
6 Barnard College (NY)
7 St. John's College (NM)
8 Thomas Aquinas College (CA) 
9 Spelman College (GA)
10 Marlboro College (VT)
11 New College of Florida (FL)
12 Sarah Lawrence College (NY)
13 Champlain College (VT)
14 Carnegie Mellon University (PA)
15 State University of New York--Purchase College (NY)
16 The Evergreen State College (WA)
17 City University of New York--Hunter College (NY)
18 Case Western Reserve University (OH)
19 Stephens College (MO)
20 The University of Texas at Dallas (TX)

photo credits; David, Bergin, Emmett and Elliott - DSC02115 used with copyrights license 

Prev Next

Best College Radio

1 Hofstra University (NY)
2 Ithaca College (NY)
3 St. Bonaventure University (NY)
4 Emerson College (MA)
5 Syracuse University (NY)
6 Fordham University (NY)
7 DePauw University (IN)
8 Union College (NY)
9 Rochester Institute of Technology (NY)
10 The College of Wooster (OH)
11 Knox College (IL)
12 University of Puget Sound (WA)
13 Guilford College (NC)
14 Howard University (DC)
15 Manhattanville College (NY)

photo: KUPS 90.1 FM - Tacoma Radio
*the student-run radio station licensed to University of Puget Sound*

Prev Next

Professors Get High

1 Reed College (OR)
2 Bennington College (VT)
3 College of the Atlantic (ME)
4 Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (MA)
5 Swarthmore College (PA)
6 St. John's College (NM) 
7 Bard College at Simon's Rock (MA)
8 Hillsdale College (MI)
9 Bard College (NY)
10 Middlebury College (VT)
11 Sarah Lawrence College (NY)
12 Marlboro College (VT)
13 Harvey Mudd College (CA)
14 Ripon College (WI)
15 Wellesley College (MA)
16 Claremont McKenna College (CA)
17 Carleton College (MN)
18 Wabash College (IN)
19 Whitman College (WA)
20 Randolph College (VA)

photo credits: Reed College Press Release

Prev Next

Students Study the Most

1 Harvey Mudd College (CA)
2 California Institute of Technology (CA)
3 Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (MA)
4 Reed College (OR)
5 Middlebury College (VT)

photo credits: Molly Dilworth - Cooley: Crosher, Dilworth under copyright license

Prev Next

Most Accessible Professor

1 United States Military Academy (NY)
2 Claremont McKenna College (CA)
3 St. John's College (NM)
4 Webb Institute (NY)
5 Swarthmore College (PA)
6 Bennington College (VT)
7 Bard College (NY)
8 Hillsdale College (MI)
9 College of the Holy Cross (MA)
10 Grinnell College (IA)
11 Hamilton College (NY)
12 Whitman College (WA)
13 Centre College (KY)
14 Wake Forest University (NC)
15 College of the Atlantic (ME)
16 The College of Idaho (ID)
17 Scripps College (CA)
18 Sweet Briar College (VA)
19 Beloit College (WI)
20 United States Naval Academy (MD)

Photo Credits: JD Hancock - Professor John Frink Jr vs Professor Huvert J Farnsworth under copyright license, half the photo was cropped

Prev Next

Least Accessible Profess.

1 McGill University (QC)
2 United States Merchant Marine Academy (NY)
3 New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJ)
4 Howard University (DC)
5 Hampton University (VA)
6 University of Hawaii-Manoa (HI)
7 Portland State University (OR)
8 Trinity College Dublin (Dublin)
9 St. John's University (NY)
10 University of California--Los Angeles (CA)

Photo Credits: JD Hancock - Professor John Frink Jr vs Professor Huvert J Farnsworth under copyright license, half the photo was cropped

Prev Next

Best College Library

1 University of Chicago (IL)
2 Yale University (CT)
3 United States Military Academy (NY)
4 Stanford University (CA)
5 Columbia University (NY)
6 Emory University (GA)
7 Hampden-Sydney College (VA)
8 Whitman College (WA)
9 Vassar College (NY)
10 Harvard College (MA)

photo credits: official Whitman College photo from site

Prev Next

Great Financial Aid

1 Pomona College (CA)
2 Swarthmore College (PA)
3 Princeton University (NJ)
4 University of Virginia (VA)
5 Yale University (CT)
6 Vassar College (NY)
7 Rice University (TX)
8 Claremont McKenna College (CA)
9 Columbia University (NY)
10 New College of Florida (FL)
11 Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (MA)
12 Thomas Aquinas College (CA)
13 Trinity College (CT)
14 Reed College (OR)
15 Stanford University (CA)

Photo credit: Lending Memo

Prev Next

Best Science Lab

1 California Institute of Technology (CA)
2 St. Olaf College (MN)
3 University of Richmond (VA)
4 United States Naval Academy (MD)
5 Pomona College (CA)
6 Middlebury College (VT)
7 Bowdoin College (ME)
8 Harvey Mudd College (CA)
9 Grinnell College (IA)
10 Washington University in St. Louis (MO)
11 Colgate University (NY)
12 Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (MA)
13 Wheaton College (IL)
14 Lehigh University (PA)
15 Union College (NY)
16 Smith College (MA)
17 University of Chicago (IL)
18 Whitman College (WA)
19 Beloit College (WI)
20 Swarthmore College (PA)

photo credits: Whitman Science Lab credit to official site

Prev Next

Best Classroom

1 Bard College (NY)
2 Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (MA)
3 Reed College (OR)
4 Bennington College (VT)
5 Swarthmore College (PA)
6 Whitman College (WA)
7 Thomas Aquinas College (CA)
8 Grinnell College (IA)
9 Wabash College (IN)
10 Mount Holyoke College (MA)

photo credits: Tulane Public Relations - students enjoy a study break under copyright license

Prev Next

Best Health Services

Best Health Services

1 Pennsylvania State University--University Park (PA)
2 University of Central Florida (FL)
3 University of California--Davis (CA)
4 University of Wisconsin-Madison (WI)
5 United States Military Academy (NY)
6 University of Arizona (AZ)
7 University of California--Los Angeles (CA)
8 Calvin College (MI)
9 Whitman College (WA)
10 The University of Texas at Austin (TX)
11 Mills College (CA)
12 University of Pittsburgh--Pittsburgh Campus (PA)
13 Rice University (TX)
14 The College of Idaho (ID)
15 Villanova University (PA)
16 North Carolina State University (NC)
17 University of Oregon (OR)
18 University of Alabama at Birmingham (AL)
19 University of Georgia (GA)
20 University of Louisville (KY)

Photo Credit: El Alvi - Vacuna infuenza/ Flu vaccine under copyright license

Prev Next

Students Love It

1 Claremont McKenna College (CA)
2 Clemson University (SC)
3 Virginia Tech (VA)
4 Pomona College (CA)
5 Vanderbilt University (TN)
6 Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (MA)
7 Villanova University (PA)
8 Scripps College (CA)
9 Rice University (TX)
10 Washington University in St. Louis (MO)
11 College of the Atlantic (ME)
12 Bowdoin College (ME)
13 Whitman College (WA)
14 Stanford University (CA)
15 University of Wisconsin-Madison (WI)

Photo Credit: John Martinez Pavilga - IMG_8924 under copyright license

Prev Next

Least Religious Students

1 Vassar College (NY)
2 Lewis & Clark College (OR)
3 Pomona College (CA)
4 Reed College (OR)
5 Bard College (NY)
6 Bennington College (VT)
7 Sarah Lawrence College (NY)
8 Skidmore College (NY)
9 Emerson College (MA)
10 Bard College at Simon's Rock (MA)
12 Prescott College (AZ)
11 Marlboro College (VT)
13 The Evergreen State College (WA)
14 University of California--Santa Barbara (CA)
15 Beloit College (WI)

photo credits: Ms. Phoenix - Safe Zone under copyright license

Prev Next

Most Religious Students

Most Religious Students

1 Brigham Young University (UT)
2 Thomas Aquinas College (CA)
3 Wheaton College (IL)
4 Hillsdale College (MI)
5 Gordon College (WA)

photo credits: flickr commons Tim (Timothy) Pearce under copyright license

 
 

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