Jaya Patel — Common Application

Essay:

My reflexes are the quickest when a three-year-old says she has to go potty. We sprinted down the hallway pushing other camp counselors out of the way screaming, “It’s an emergency!” because I did not want Mae to be embarrassed by an accident. “Hey Mae, are you okay in there?” 

“I’m done.” Her sweet little voice sang and we celebrated. 

“Awesome! Come on out.” 

“I can’t. I’m not wiped.” 

“Alright so wipe and then come on out.”

“I can’t,” Mae responded. “I don’t know how to wipe.” 

It had never occurred to me that this was a taught skill. My fifteen-year-old self did not know what action to take next, all I knew was the camp’s protocol stated never touch a child. However, the protocol failed to give instructions on how to potty train a child. I heard Mae whimper, “Mommy always wipes. I don’t know how to. Can you please help me? ” 

“Mae, I can’t wipe for you but I can teach you how to do it.” To a three-year-old that did not make any sense. I could relate to Mae’s crying and panicking because this was as new to her as it was to me. I handed her some toilet paper which she handed right back begging me to do it for her. As much as I wanted to pretend she wiped so she would be able to rejoin the other campers, I could not send her home like that. Inclined to call for backup, I realized that I could not give up so easily, saying, “Mae, you can do it. All you have to do is wipe and drop.”  I put the toilet paper back in her hand and assured her that only the toilet paper needed to touch her bottom. Crying, Mae found strength in the midst of fear, realizing it was not so bad. After that day, watching Mae confidently use the bathroom made me proud. Reflecting upon those ten minutes of panic, I realized that I had grown not only as a junior camp counselor, but as a person. I learned that when faced with a new challenge, I am eager to find a solution and embrace the opportunity to gain more experience. 

Realizing this about myself at such a young age helped me persist through many other challenges. The following year, I started working with kids with special needs. My first day with the program, the director warned me: “the work is not for everyone and most people don’t come back after the first day.” I accepted the challenge and found creative ways to communicate with my kids to help to instill confidence in their abilities. Connecting with each of the kids, I adapted to their strengths and weaknesses, creating instructions based on the individual. Throughout the year, new mentors would come and go, making my part in the program even more significant. The overwhelming happiness in the community made me appreciate the struggle in return for a fulfilling experience. 

This past summer, as Head Counselor, while training my future counselors, Mae’s story became the proper potty protocol. Although some were a bit grossed out by the story initially, quite a few of my trainees told me later that it actually helped them in difficult situations. I am glad my mini panic attack paid off not only for myself, but for my team. Even though I had many more years of experience than this three-year-old, I grew as much as she did that day. I guess the potty incident that I had not anticipated shaped Mae and I to be stronger, more resilient, and more smell tolerant. 

My reflexes are the quickest when a challenge is present and it is my responsibility to find a solution. 

 

Tips for Writing:

To start, you want to understand what the purpose of your college essay for admission counselors. First, that you can write. They are looking for your sheer ability to write a cohesive essay in English. Second, your personality. You could have stellar grades, and a perfect SAT score but they want to get to know you as a person. They want to get a sense of your writing style and voice, something that your application does not display. That being stated, coming up with an essay topic can be fairly difficult. Think about things that set you apart from other people. Reflect on your past three years of high school and the experiences you gained, people you’ve met and things you’ve learned. Avoid reiterating parts of your application because, simply stated, those essays are boring. Avoid writing about something sad, controversial, or generic. My recommendation would be to write about something that captures your essence. You are going to have multiple essays with different topics and that’s completely okay. The other ones could be used for potential supplements or as a scholarship essay so don’t think it will be a waste to write more than one. After you write your essays, get as many people to read them as possible to help you identify which one is best to send as your essay. Outside opinions are always helpful in constantly making your essay better. Maintain your style and voice while taking in others’ suggestions and comments. The last part of the essay process is checking for typos. There is nothing worse than writing an amazing essay that has a typo or the name of the wrong school. After all of the hard work you put into your essay, you will finally be done and can appreciate your work of art.