College Essays

Common Application

Prompt: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

“Thank You for calling the Bernardsville Animal Hospital, this is Isabel speaking, how may I help you?” I watch the last client be pulled out the door by a fluffy white German Shepherd puppy as I schedule an appointment for the client on the phone. I then resume with my other tasks–preparing files and appointments for the next day. I have specific responsibilities that I need to know how to do automatically and according to the doctor’s preferences; the necessity of ritual in a place that constantly changes is just one of many things I have learned while working here.

Heaving up two cases of  low-fat cat food cans and a bag of  dog kibble, I gingerly walk down the steps as my fingers uncomfortably grip the edges of the metal cans. One of the office cats, Quincy, scurries past me as I open the door to the storage room. The warm humid air sticks on my skin as I rest the food on the condensation covered freezer. The inside of it describes instructions for different meats and vegetables; however, there are no instructions for what lays inside. The euthanasia from this morning awaits the cremation company to come and take him away. I was the one to give his owners a comforting knowing smile as they left; we all knew it had to be done. As I stack the cases on their proper shelf, I ponder the irony of the fuzzy memento mori. On the same day we put down a dog, we welcome a puppy for his first appointment. This is a real hospital, but we deal with both the pets and their owners, and humans act very different around their animals. I feel much older after thinking that; then I quickly pace away from the dark opening into the rest of the basement; I don’t know what’s back there, and I do not want to know. I guess some childish tendencies never leave.
Quincy comes over to me as I prepare his dinner. He meows and places his grey fur-covered paw on my arm as he looks at me with desirous turmeric eyes. Amplified purrs rumble in his body as I place him with his food in his cage.
“Quincy, honey,” I say as I stroke his fur, “you have an unhealthier relationship with food than a teenage girl.” He ignores me as he continues to wolf down the wet stew-like delicacy that sits in front of him. I then piece the clinic back together: putting new syringes and stock in their respective drawers, sanitizing the exam rooms, and acting out the part of Cinderella as I mop the floors. After I decontaminate each room and ready it for tomorrow’s new mess, I am able to go home.
“See you on Thursday, Marla!” I call out.  
I clock out and lug out two black garbage bags like Santa Claus and deliver them to their cans. I listen to the doppler effect as cars blow my hair back when passing. Crossing the street becomes easier when drivers see a teenager dressed in enchanting medical green scrubs; personally, I hate the outfit, but it makes me feel respected. Ironically, I have no interest in pursuing the medical profession.
I sit in my car, take a deep breath, and pull my hair out of its ponytail. My hands still have the powdery feel from the plastic gloves mixed with the chemical smell from cleaning supplies. I take the crumpled notepad out from my pocket and look at my completed to-do-list: laundry, cut nails, give baths, make charts and call, clean, garbage. Then, there are the additional unwritten tasks the doctors trust me to do after months of being here. Before I put my car in reverse, I call my mom and let her know that I’ll be home in time for dinner.

Tips for Writing:
‘You should get your affairs in order’–A piece of advice for people nearing the end of their lives, also provides decent advice for those who are going to begin the long process of applying to college. The largest lesson I learned through this experience is that organization is key, and that means beginning to prepare sooner rather than later. Compared to my classmates whose instagram captions jokingly recommend never filling out applications, my experience was fairly simple.
I personally never had 12 schools on my list, a large part of this was knowing what I wanted in a school. In the beginning, five art schools comprised my hopes for a future education in illustration and graphic design. My personal case was very specific, but for any college search I found that there were many moving parts regardless of the number of schools on my list. Filling out the physical application with your information is the easiest part, the essays are the most laborious task, and as colleges require more supplemental writing samples for scholarships and/or different majors, the more time that is spent writing and editing these. On top of essay writing, many teachers require questionnaires if they are writing your letter of recommendation, this also includes a lengthy packet of questions from the guidance counsellors so they are able to a letter as well. Filling these out either on time or as early as possible facilitated my application process considerably as once they are filled out, you are able to cross it off your list and leave it in their hands.
It was after the submission of my first two applications where extra complications appeared. My test scores were not being received even though they were sent about six weeks before. In this fresh bout of nervousness, I learned that pieces of applications are lost very easily as colleges receive so many components and they don’t have the time to sort them. As I was the lucky winner of this situation, I had to find a solution. That is when I discovered one of the most helpful resources, the Basking Ridge Moms Facebook page. With the advice from the greatest minds in motherhood, I was sent to retrieve the batch numbers of the test scores by calling college board itself. Even with this minor set back, it did not make my experience extremely difficult. As I already had all of the other pieces in order, this was just one I had to adjust a bit. To view this process as a puzzle made the experience much more pleasant especially when the final picture would be a note reading “submission successful” and hopefully later an acceptance letter.
And so, my largest piece of advice regarding the college application process would to begin piecing it together in junior year with standardized tests and college visits. Fill out any papers that guidance needs from you and start thinking about who you want to write your letters of recommendation. It is after that in the summer and beginning of senior year when the applications should begin being filled out. Use your resources when you get to that point, they are all around you and they all want you to succeed. It may be a lot to do, but it’s worth it when you receive an acceptance letter.

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