College Essays

Common Application

When I entered the cat room at my local animal shelter, like I do on most Sundays, my eyes habitually skimmed over the cats of all different shapes, sizes, and colors but halted at the small female tabby cat huddled in the corner of her cage, partially tucked underneath her bed, shivering. Overcome with empathy, I immediately walked over to her and tried to ease her anxiety. She flinched away from my hand, more frightened than she was before, staring up at me warily with beautiful emerald green eyes that I immediately connected to Lily Potter’s symbolic ones in the Harry Potter series.
“She’s so little. Why is she so scared?” I asked Karen anxiously, the staff member who was in the room with me and worked with the cats on a daily basis.
“She? Oh, you must mean Lily. She’s a shy one, that’s for sure. Terrified of everything, other cats, birds, bugs, and people,” Karen replied sadly. I stared back at Lily, heart sinking as I imagined her fate if she remained like this.
“I’m going to help her. I’ll make her feel comfortable with people,” I announced, determined to help her find a wonderful home.
That first day was tough because I had to take care of all of my other responsibilities at the shelter first; so, it took a long time before I could spend some time with Lily. Unsurprisingly, all the bustle had already frightened her back underneath her bed in the corner of her cage again. I didn’t make much progress that day seeing as she would barely look at me; so, I went home, discouraged.
I returned to the shelter the next time with renewed optimism and found Lily in the same state as before. I finished my work quickly that day, excited to try and connect with her again, but initially she was unreceptive. I remember vividly how she curled herself into a little furry ball and pressed herself into the corner of her cage to protect herself from the “monster” she assumed I was. I decided to take it slow and laid my hand in the cage, to help her adjust to my smell. Unfortunately, she didn’t let me pet her that day; I could clearly see I still terrified her, but I refused to give up on her.
Over the next couple of months, I went to the shelter quite often and spent time with her at the end of my shift every time. She eventually became comfortable around me, letting me pet her head without much delay–even sticking her head out to ask for affection and putting her paw on my arm to stop me as I passed. She still refused to come out of her cage, however, until one particular day when she finally stepped out onto the cat tree in front of her cage. I clearly remember the intense feeling of pride that filled my entire body when she first stepped out. I was so happy to have played a part in her growth. I realized that I loved the feeling of deep satisfaction I got while helping her along her journey.
Lily was recently adopted and is now contently living with a wonderful family. I don’t see her anymore, but I will never forget what she taught me. She introduced me to the beautiful emotions one experiences when helping and inspired me to pursue a profession that allows me to experience those feelings every day. Now, when I go to the shelter, I seek out the most overlooked animals and dedicate myself to helping them transform into the best version of themselves and I couldn’t be more delighted.

Tips for Writing:
Don’t overanalyze your topic. I know people keep saying that the topic has to be perfect and unique, and it’s stressful because sometimes you don’t feel that way about yourself and your interests. But everyone has unique interests that they can describe; you’ve just got to find yours. Some pointers on choosing a good topic: (if it’s a hobby) make sure it’s something you love doing and that you want to continue doing; make sure you can show off your personality through whatever it is you choose to write about. Don’t get bogged down in the details, and remember: these essays are about the interests that shape you as a person. Write in a way that comes naturally to you. Initially, I thought I had to force myself into that typical formal college essay mold that everyone seems to be using. But that’s not how I think or how I talk so it was difficult and frustrating to write that way. So I decided to write informally, using idioms and slang and casual language in general. Writing the essays became so much easier and flowed better just by making that one change. As a result, the essays became a more accurate portrayal of my personality as well. Don’t leave it all until the week before the deadline. Diamonds may be made under pressure, but you can’t write several spectacular essays in such a short time. Trust me, it’s not a good idea. Space them out and plan when you’re going to write each part. It’ll relieve some of the stress and you’ll even have time to edit your essays before your deadline so you’ll have a better final product to show. Take advantage of the resources you have at your disposal. Ridge has so many resources you can use. Your parents can help you come up with topics because they know you well. Talk to the teachers you’re close with and they can help you narrow down topics if you’re struggling with choosing one. They have experience because they went through it themselves and deal with students who are going through it all the time. Teachers in the literature department would probably be more than willing to help you as well (if you ask nicely). They can help you edit, correct any grammar errors and even shorten essays down to the specific word limit. Even the alumni you were close to before they left Ridge can help, especially if they go to a college that you are applying to. They can give you some great advice on what to do to get in. In short, you are never alone in this process and if you ask for help, you will most likely receive it. It can only help.

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