Columbia essay revised again-- if it's still crappy I'm not

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Discus: College Admissions: 2002 - 2003 Archive: November 2003 Archive: Columbia essay revised again-- if it's still crappy I'm not
By Jennyzsong (Jennyzsong) on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 05:51 pm: Edit

I'm getting tired of correcting this essay :( it doesn't seem to be getting any clearer :( ... bah.

My friend laughs at the faded black marker X’s on my hands. His own are safe from the heat because he wears them on his skateboard-accident-cast where he can’t sweat them off like everybody else. “Only another week now…” he counts down, wishing rid of his plaster. “Scallen won’t let me through the door,” so he wears long sleeves even in the summer. “Safety hazard.” He doesn’t care. Anything to go to shows.

Fewer than a hundred people are gathered here in this basement of some elementary school, one hour and a half away from town. It doesn’t seem to matter to them that the price of gas far exceeds the six dollar ticket for a set list of unknown locals, or to the promoters that the break-even point is not in sight. Money isn’t the issue here even for those who have none, whose arms are raised in chorus in unspoken toast: this is to music, to life, to family.

Here it is. The raw sound of screaming resonates in the air, so crucial to the people here. Guitars wail as the dancers pace through the pit, pooling energy in anticipation of the breakdown. They’re penned bulls; I can see the red of the matador’s cloth reflected in their eyes. I raise my elbow to block injury, lacking the courage to join them. This is the only dance floor in the world where kicking and punching are moves. I don’t dance. Even in this society of sorts there are norms for girls and boys, and prejudice always, always lurks beneath the skin. “Did you see Phil fly-kick that mosher in the neck?” Meanwhile, my friend rushes outside to vomit.

X’ed fists are crossed in the sign of the hardcore lifestyle. Straight edge for life. “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t ****, at least I can […] think…” goes the anthem of our scene, where you’re weak if you drink, trendy if you’re uncool, and hardcore if you dance your heart out.

Afterward I’m sitting on a battered couch when a boy notices my X’ed hands, asks me how long I’ve been straight edge. My whole life, really… He’s impressed. He has wispy black hair and a straight edge tattoo (sXe4life) on his calf, and I can see through the one-inch gauge plug in his ears. He wonders why I don’t dance, but the answer is I’m scared, conditioned to watching the ritual from the sideline. He thinks girls are silly, and maybe too timid to be useful after all. They’ll only hurt themselves.

The hardcore scene is narrow here and the patriarchy runs deep. Too often it is exhausting to be a lone girl among a band of brothers, whose doubtful glances will always, always stalk you no matter how tough you prove you are. “How are you going to dance if you can’t even resist Advil?” The mirror is cold on my forehead and the songs in the background carry on about unity and brotherhood. Gulp. Swallow. I close the cabinet door and look into the glass: my X’s bleed ink still and I am every bit as valid as they are. Tomorrow the dance is mine.

By Abyss (Abyss) on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 06:11 pm: Edit

i like it

By Jennyzsong (Jennyzsong) on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 06:25 pm: Edit

abyss, tell me how to fix it!! lol :)

By Jennyzsong (Jennyzsong) on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 07:37 pm: Edit

lol please?

By Mjl86 (Mjl86) on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 08:23 pm: Edit

Jenny, you know what i did? I gave my teachers my essays maybe 8-10 times.... lol, it was quite annoying but in the long run, it is worth it. I don't know how many students are in your class but there is about 160 in mine so it was possible to meet with the teacher 20-30 mins 1-2 times a week to perfect it. It is totally free and English teachers know a lot about writing. I would advise you to maybe write a thank you note to them after and if you do this, because it takes a lot of time.

One advice for you essay, my teach told me to choose one metaphor extended metaphor to unify the whole essay. It makes an impression whe adcoms read it.

By Jennyzsong (Jennyzsong) on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 08:56 pm: Edit

what kind of metaphor? my X's are a metaphor in my essay, sort of. They represent strength but they also DO represent strength. hmm does that make sense? crap i just suck.

By Jennyzsong (Jennyzsong) on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 10:25 pm: Edit

another bump

By Sac (Sac) on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 10:48 pm: Edit

Ok, I'll take a crack at this, because I am a parent and I've never heard of straight edge. I asked my son (who's also applying to Columbia, by the way) and he's never heard of it. So what strikes me right away is that the essay assumes some knowledge of this on the part of adcoms. And just because Columbia is in NYC and there may be many people involved with straight edge in NYC, you cannot assume that the people reading your essay know anything more about this than I do.

So, you sort of define straight edge in passing pretty far down in the essay and, just as I'm trying to absorb that, you seem to go off on a riff about how misogynist it is. The essay seems to jump into the middle of something. What do the Xs symbolize?

So, what I get out of this is that you are involved in some kind of dance scene which is really important to you but at the same time you really resent it because you're female and most of the people involved are male. Pardon me if I got this wrong.

Don't get hung up right now with how you wrote this. What I'd suggest is to go back to the first step when writing a college essay: what do you want them to know about you that's not apparent in your transcript and recommendations. Once you've answered that for yourself, then take a new look at this essay and see whether it does the job. If you want them to know that you're involved in a scene that abhors drugs etc, then explain what drew you to it, and keeps you involved in it even though it's predominantly male. If you want them to know something about being female and fighting for recognition, then explain why you as opposed to your female friends think it's important to be in this scene etc. Why are you writing about this, other than that you spend time at it? Clearly it's important to you, but I don't get why.

Hope this helps you.

By Jennyzsong (Jennyzsong) on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 11:09 pm: Edit


You're right. I'm going to have to put this aside for now and start over because it's just not going to work clearly if I use what I have. It's quite discouraging but has to be done.

Columbia is my dream school...

By Sac (Sac) on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 11:14 pm: Edit

That's the writing process. Putting it aside for awhile is a good step. So often, people get involved in tinkering with sentences when what they really need to do is give the topic more deep thought. I'm interested in this. Keep thinking. Talk about it or show it to other people who don't know anything about it to start with. Don't be discouraged. What you come up with will be stronger, I'm sure.

By Momcat (Momcat) on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 11:24 pm: Edit

I second Sac's good advice. I thought the essay was interesting, but I was reading to try and figure out what the heck the X's were all about. I've never heard of straight edge either, but perhaps that culture doesn't exist in this part of the midwest. I like your writing style, I just think a little earlier clarification of what you are talking about would be helpful.

By Jennyzsong (Jennyzsong) on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 11:52 pm: Edit

Just so you guys are in the know :)

X's are a symbol of straight edge. it's derived from how underrage people, when going into clubs, used to get X'ed by bouncers so they couldn't drink. Straight edgers adopted this as a symbol of the lifestyle. People usually "X up" for hardcore shows to show that they're straight edge, with black marker. A lot of people then started getting X tattoos on the back of their hands to show their commitment, and then just straight edge tattoos in general. sXe is a shortform for straight edge.

If you have ever seen any videos by Bif Naked, or The Leaving Song video by AFI, you might notice people who are X'ed up. Especially in the AFI people, where you can also see them hardcore dancing aka throwing down. AFI and Bif Naked are not hardcore bands however. Straight edge has just become more trendy lately (but obviously not trendy enough.)

By Sac (Sac) on Wednesday, November 19, 2003 - 02:33 pm: Edit

That was a good explanation. Put it in your essay.

Here are some questions that occur to me, being totally ignorant of either the bands or the lifestyle: Beyond not drinking, what else is it about? Is it a way to be cool while being what we used to call straight? A way to identify other people who like to have the kind of fun you like to have? An attempt to turn a negative reaction to another part of youth culture into a positive movement? Or is it all positive? Why does it attract you, especially since you leave the impression it's more of a guy thing.

By Northstarmom (Northstarmom) on Wednesday, November 19, 2003 - 02:44 pm: Edit

I don't get it. I have no clue what straight edge is. It's important to remember that many of the admissions officers who'll read your essay will not know about things like straight edge. If you plan to write about something like that, do it in a way so that anyone -- not just your peers -- can understand the subject.

I also found myself confused in that it was hard to find you and your perspective in the essay. At first, the essay seems to be about your friend. It's not until paragraph 3 that you become part of the essay, and even then, you don't include yourself in a way that I understand what this experience is or what being there says about you.

By Jennyzsong (Jennyzsong) on Wednesday, November 19, 2003 - 04:21 pm: Edit

the first two paragraphs are supposed to represent all our attitudes about the scene and straight edge. basically, the scene is our life. we live for the music and the shows. and if that means dying of heat exhaustion because you have to wear a sweater to go to shows, so be it. if it means paying a ridiculous amount for gas, it's worth it. even if you're broke.

By Kinshasa (Kinshasa) on Wednesday, November 19, 2003 - 11:30 pm: Edit

I live in California and I had never heard of straight edge until a few months ago when I took my daughter to Evergreen State for her freshman year. One of several articles in the unofficial "disorientation manual" was an essay by a student who was straight edge. When I asked her, my daughter said of course she knew what straight edge meant. I guess it's a generational thing, and I'm now of the other generation.

By Jennyzsong (Jennyzsong) on Wednesday, November 19, 2003 - 11:32 pm: Edit

Heheh Evergreen Terrace is a hardcore band. (sorry it similar to Evergreen State lol)

Anyhow, I'm rewriting and clarifying, thanks to everybody for their suggestions.

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