College Essays

Common Application – Applied to Emory University

Prompt: Applied to Emory University

I had never built a chair before; so, I dedicated one day to researching, designing, and picking up various materials. The second day was for construction. I measured and cut each piece of wood–a much more tedious task than I anticipated. Then I glued and drilled all of those pieces together, and on the third day, I sanded and painted. By the time I finished sanding, I had an impressive pile of sawdust at my feet. Like the previous steps, painting took longer than I thought, and the sun set as I finished the second coat. After a third coat and quick final sand the next day, the author’s chair was finally ready for delivery to Oliver Street Elementary School.
For the third consecutive year, my friends and I visited Mrs. Herrera’s second grade class in Newark, New Jersey. This year, we wanted to excite the students about writing, as many of them had below average writing skills or simply disliked writing in general. We brainstormed ideas and ultimately decided on building an author’s chair–a special chair in which students could sit and read aloud the stories they had written. I gladly volunteered to build the chair, even knowing it was going to be an ambitious and time-consuming project. When it was finally finished, I felt exhausted yet accomplished.
There was no question in my mind as to whether or not I had put my best effort into making that chair. Determined, focused, and productive, I worked for what I knew to be a great cause. However, despite that, I had doubts about my finished product. Due to the chair’s imperfections and simple design, I was nervous that Mrs. Herrera’s second grade class would dislike the gift I had made for them. But, I could not have been more wrong. When I presented the chair and watched the faces of those second graders light up, I was far from disappointed in what I had made. Instead, I was disappointed in myself–I had put little faith in something that reflected my best efforts. This sobering realization prompted me to look at my creation, as well as past achievements, in a completely different way.
For example, during last spring’s track season, I helped my 4×800 meter relay team win first place in the New Jersey State meet. However, I was the slowest runner on that relay, and because of this, I felt that I did not contribute as much as my faster teammates–even though without me the win would have been impossible. Additionally, I am an older brother to a three year old and six year old. I love spending time with them and teaching them new skills, but again, despite my efforts, I constantly felt like I could be doing more to be a better big brother. In both of these cases, I struggled to acknowledge what I had accomplished, and this is why the lesson I learned from building the author’s chair is so important to me.
Now when I think of the chair, I no longer criticize my effort or the finished product. Instead, I remember the faces of those second graders and find a sense of satisfaction that had too often eluded me. The fact that I am hard on myself has consistently pushed me to do my best; however, I no longer allow it to diminish my appreciation for my accomplishments, big or small.

Tips for Writing:
Write about a particularly small moment in your life. Try to show a lesson that you learned as a result of the event/experience. Connect your learnings to other events in your life where you have changed/are changing. Be as unique as possible. Be a little vulnerable so long as the main message of your essay pertains to your own personal growth. When you are finished with your essay, make sure that you are truly happy with it and that it reflects parts of your personality.

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