What do you think of this essay?

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Discus: College Admissions: 2002 - 2003 Archive: August 2003 Archive: What do you think of this essay?
By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Friday, August 29, 2003 - 02:02 pm: Edit

Follow the Leader

Her spry, Timberland-clad foot planted itself upon a jagged boulder, motionless, until her calf muscles tightened and catapulted her small frame into the next stride. Then Sara's dance continued, her feet playing effortlessly with the difficult terrain. As her foot lifted from the ground, compressed mint-colored lichen would spring back into position, only to be crushed by my immense boot, struggling to step where hers had been. My eyes fixated on the forest floor, as fallen trees, swollen roots, and unsteady rocks posed constant threats for my exhausted body. Without glancing up I knew what was ahead: the same dense, impenetrable green that had surrounded us for hours. My throat prickled with unfathomable thirst, as my long-empty Nalgene bottle slapped mockingly at my side. Gnarled branches snared at my clothes and tore at my hair, and I blindly hurled myself after Sara. The portage had become a battle, and the ominously darkening sky raised the potential for casualties. Gritting my teeth with gumption, I refused to stop; I would march on until I could no longer stand.

Suddenly, Sara's light step halted and she turned to face me. From her hazel eyes blazed an intensity of exhilaration and courage, which mingled with pride and concern as she surveyed my resolute expression. I watched longingly as Sara unfastened the Nalgene bottle from her side; one sip of water sloshed tantalizingly at the bottom of the bottle, heightening my senses into acute desire. Sweat poured down from my face, biting at my eyes, and after I dabbed at them with my shirt, I saw Sara was presenting the water bottle to me. Both anticipating and squelching my refusing, Sara said simply, "Drink, Stacy. You cannot help the group when there is nothing left of yourself to give." For a moment we grinned at each other, as gratitude and wonder for her selflessness coursed in my veins. The cool water instantly revived my strength and love for the trail. Then Sara removed the rustic compass from around her neck and slid it over my own. She swung her arm around my shoulder and raised an eyebrow, inviting me to lead.

Euphorically, I grasped the smooth plastic, flushed with pride that Sara believed I could lead the group to safety. Then ruthless doubt sliced through my enthusiasm as I realized that I completely lacked a sense of direction. Frantically, I tried to remember the idiotic mnemonic device for the compass we had learned prior to the trip: was it "red shed over Fred?" or simply, "Fred's red shed?" What came after I put "Red Fred in the shed?" How could "Fred" possibly make sense of this green abyss? I turned my confused face up to Sara's and saw the confidence in her eyes reflect the possibility of my own. In her smile I saw permission to fail, in her eyes the reassurance of success. I stared pointedly at the flickering red needle, oriented Fred, and raised the compass to the green. Without hesitation I pointed the direction onward and the group advanced.

A year later I found myself again in the land of the redwood pine. Only now ten bright, excited, youthful faces believed I had all of the answers. I was to be their leader through the wilderness; their guide to a world of awe-inspiring beauty, elemental priorities, and fulfilled potential. I fervently wanted to instill a love for the trail within each of my campers; to share the overwhelming appreciation of nature, others, and self that resulted from my own experience. However, apprehension whispered self-doubt: what if I wasn't ready to lead? What if my girls hated the trail? What if I was not strong enough? Suddenly the memory of Sara flared up in my mind's eye and silenced all doubts, her examples once again blazing a trail for me to follow. With her memory as my core to security and knowledge, I packed my campers into the canoes, and we set off, a camp song on my lips and hunger for the wilderness within my heart. Whenever challenges arose, Sara stood beside me; her rational eyes scrutinized the sky for advancing storms; her inexhaustible patience built a roaring fire out of wet wood; and her deft fingers secured fishermen's knots to hold up a tarp. Because her skills had built a firm foundation for trail life within me, my confidence now positioned the girls into lightening stances; my hilarity amused the girls as we huddled under the protective tarp; my voice sang reassuringly over the pounding of the fierce rain. At last, when a fantastic rainbow fanned the brilliant blue sky, it was the love of both of us that abounded the joy and fulfillment of leadership being passed on to a new generation.

PS That is NOT my essay. Our English teacher told us to read some essays on a college website. There are about 10-12 very similar essays on that site. I am curious to see what posters think about it.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Friday, August 29, 2003 - 02:04 pm: Edit

Here is another:

The day before they were to depart Xiam for Bejing, 32 American students discovered that their reservations for the hard sleeper car (a step below first class) had been lost. It was the height of the holiday travel season, and the over-stressed Chinese transit system was pushed to the breaking point. After some harsh words and hollow threats were exchanged, the train company offered the students 16 hard sleeper tickets and 16 hard seat tickets. The students accepted the offer and divided themselves up. I was one of the 16 brave, unwitting souls who volunteered for a hard seat. The trip from Xian to Bejing takes about 27 hours. In a hard seat, 27 hours is a very long time.

"Hard seat," in theory, is a relatively comfortable and economical way to travel. A hard seat car consists of benches lined up and down both walls with a very narrow aisle in between. The benches are partitioned off into "seats," which is how the train company decides the number of tickets to sell. The business of ticket selling and collecting is where the theory of hard seats falls apart. Ticket counterfeiting is a very lucrative business, especially around the holiday season. An even cheaper, yet slightly more risky alternative to buying a real ticket is bribing the hard seat conductor just prior to departure time. Hard seat class, being the lowest class of travel in China, is more susceptible to bribery and counterfeiting than the other classes, so 90% of the illegal passengers on the train end up crowding into the last two hard seat cars. I was in the second to last car.

Upon boarding the train, I naively assumed that all of the people standing in the aisles were stretching their legs before the long trip, seeing off loved ones in the car, or just trying to put their luggage away before taking their seats. It was impossible to move from the entrance of the car into the aisle with all of those people standing there, so I didn't even bother trying. Once the train started moving and the people were still standing in the aisles, I began to realize what this trip had in store for me. I, being larger than the average Chinese, pushed and shoved my way to where I was supposed to be sitting. The 16 of us had 16 tickets for 16 consecutive seats. Unfortunately, when I arrived at my seat, I discovered that 25 people already occupied our 16 seats. It wasn't until we threatened to call the conductor that they scattered into the aisle and we were able to sit down. We had gotten our seats, but we had made 25 new enemies before the trip had even begun.

After about 45 minutes I discovered that no matter how hard I tried, it was physically impossible to get comfortable where I was seated. I noticed an elderly gentleman standing in the aisle next to me, so I offered him my seat and stretched my legs for a little while. I suppose my kind act did away with his inhibitions and curiosity got the best of him. Within minutes he began asking me who I was, why I was on a hard seat car to Bejing, where I was from, and where I had learned to speak Chinese. Before I knew it, the rest of his family had congregated around and we were exchanging names, stories, political views and anything else that came up. Before I knew it, the 27-hour trip was almost over. What I had expected to be a frustrating ordeal turned into one of the most rewarding cultural exchanges of my entire nine months abroad.

At 7:00 the next morning the train arrived in Bejing. I stepped onto the platform with a backpack full of things. Some were things I had left Bejing with a month before, and some were things that I had picked up along the way. My backpack, however, wasn't large enough to contain the memories I acquired over the month, especially the memory of my time in a hard seat. I took a moment to let the smog fill my lungs and the sounds of the city fill my ears. For the first time in my nine months abroad, I felt truly at home. My experience on the train was one of many that reminded me who I am, where I'm from, and where I'm trying to go.

By Ctrain890 (Ctrain890) on Friday, August 29, 2003 - 02:47 pm: Edit

I don't think either one is a very good college essay. I mean, both are extremely well-written, but they basically amount to stories. A college essay is supposed to be personal and tell adcoms something about yourself. Including a narrative can be helpful, but it should be much more that just that, which, in my opinion, neither of these are.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Friday, August 29, 2003 - 02:59 pm: Edit

I should have posted that the essays were posted by the College, with the title Essays that worked.

Here is an excerpt:

The admission staff at Connecticut College compiled the following collection of outstanding essays -sic- to help you approach your own personal statement with confidence and excitement. Through the range of responses these students took, you will see that the essay - as a sample of writing and a reflection of your interests and values - can take many forms. Whilethere is not any "right" or "wrong" topic, some approaches offer a bit more creativity and fluency than others. The samples we have selected reflect this idea.

Each of these essayists was offered admission to Connecticut College, and each matriculated at the College. The writing samples they submitted often played an important role in obtaining the coveted "fat letter" on April 1.

Oh well, here is the link:

Now you can judge for yourself. As far as I am concerned, my reaction to the "Follow the Leader" essay was ... pluzzzzhe, pass me the Pepto-Bismol. I could not imagine having a classmate telling ME a story and using those words:

The portage had become a battle, and the ominously darkening sky raised the potential for casualties. Gritting my teeth with gumption, I refused to stop; I would march on until I could no longer stand.

By Sac (Sac) on Friday, August 29, 2003 - 03:07 pm: Edit

When I thought the first essay was yours, I was going to advise you to cut out every adverb and at least every other adjective. Well, it's a lesson that adcoms are not made up of writers. They're made up of people desperate to read something they haven't read before.

By Y17k (Y17k) on Saturday, August 30, 2003 - 11:34 pm: Edit

omg these essays bored me to death..

i knew essays xiggi would write couldnt be this bad ><

By Valpal (Valpal) on Sunday, August 31, 2003 - 04:40 am: Edit

The first essay was, well---horrible, but I liked the "hard seat" essay quite a bit. Goes to show, you just never know what resonates with some adcoms.

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