College Essays

Common Application

Prompt: Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful? We know nobody fits neatly into 500 words or less, but you can provide us with some suggestion of the type of person you are. Anything goes! Inspire us, impress us, or just make us laugh. Think of this optional opportunity as show and tell by proxy and with an attitude.

I’m the girl my fellow classmates text at midnight, asking me to clarify the homework; the one who explains how to create a line of best fit on the calculator; the girl who reminds them the night before what’s on the test.  While this is an accurate description of me in the classroom, my classmates don’t realize I’m a thrill seeker with an adventurous side who loves the adrenaline rush that comes from being spontaneous and out of my comfort zone.  Join me at an amusement park and I’ll take you on every roller coaster.
I remember at age eleven standing at the top of Renegade, a long steep trail in the Pocono Mountains and the first black diamond I would ever attempt. As I stood at the top, heart pounding, snow shining, glinting at me in the sun, the trail dared me to ski down.  I can picture how I looked from the bottom: such a little girl at the top of this daunting slope. But I only hesitated for a second before I sped right down, smiling and screaming the whole way.
A year later, I’m on the edge of a cliff in Mexico, looking down into a hole in the earth that the ancient Mayans used as their main water supply.  The water was so blue that it was almost opaque. Our guide assured us it was safe to jump, but I imagined rocks just below the surface, waiting to crush my bones the second I landed.  The drop seemed to be fifty thousand feet, though it couldn’t have been more than fifteen. The nerves built up inside me when the guide asked for a volunteer to jump first. To everyone’s surprise, I stepped forward.  My landing was not pretty, but as the youngest one on this tour, I was proud of myself.
At age fourteen I was balancing on the side of an unsteady boat in Jamaica, waiting to launch myself into the unpredictable waves below.  I looked over, locking eyes with my dad (we were taking this first dive together) and I could see in his eyes an unspoken challenge. Without a second thought I leapt- gear, tank, and all- allowing the cold, salty water to envelope me completely.  My first breath underwater seemed like a miracle. I was a mermaid invited into a different universe, swimming with fish and eels and turtles through the multicolored coral. Each time I checked in with my dive instructor, flashing him the hand signal for “everything’s ok”, I felt my heart pound with excitement.  I was hooked after this first experience, and this summer I got certified.
Back in the classroom, my Current Issues teacher asks for a volunteer to go first in presenting our Science and Technology Projects. While everyone stares down at his or her desk, avoiding eye contact with the teacher, my hand shoots straight up.  I’ll tackle this like everything else I’ve accomplished. Head on, and without self-doubt: “I’ll do it!”

Tips for Writing:
With its 500 word limit, this prompt gave me a lot more room to play around and focus on the details than a 150 word “why x college” essay.  I wanted to stray from the typical description of my favorite club/ activity. The colleges already read lots of essays about people’s favorite sports, or the mission trip that you went on over the summer.  Trying to find something unique is what makes you stand out, and I wanted to give the readers more insight into my personality. I also tried to “show and not tell” in this essay to keep it interesting and so it would not feel overlong.  Every description that you provide adds more life to your writing.

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