College Essays

Common Application

I watched my constant stream of bubbles slowly rise as I sunk deeper into the ocean. A school of fish swam above my head, queuing me to look down and gain control of my buoyancy. Then I began my dive. I  moved my legs up and down while my curious eyes darted side to side to take in the streaks of orange, blue, and the occasional red flying underneath me. I was gliding through the coral reef just like its other aquatic residents.

However, this dive would prove different. It wouldn’t be this seamless underwater spacewalk where, after playing with turtles and anxiously watching sharks, I would slowly rise to the surface. I approached a trench that looked about two hundred feet deep and gracefully swam over at about eighty feet when suddenly my breathing became increasingly laborious. I sucked hard, but my lungs weren’t satisfied. I turned my focus to my pressure gauge and saw that my tank had run out of air. My mind flashed back to my descent, and  I realized my bubbles did not stop when I inhaled —a bad sign. I was eighty feet under the Atlantic Ocean with no air, but I didn’t accept defeat.

The most apparent solution would be a rapid rise to the surface where life-giving air could fill my lungs. However, this is an untrained solution. Unfortunately, it is akin to pulling a knife from a stab victim’s chest—a death sentence. 

In this situation, the blade causes the injury; however, afterward, the blade is the only thing keeping the person alive. A rapid ascent follows a similar logic: it may remove my hunger for air, but it would likely cause decompression sickness and possibly result in a rapidly expanding bubble of nitrogen in my blood vessels to fly up to my brain and cause stroke-like symptoms.

So, instead of dying, I quickly swam to my dive buddy, where I signed that I had run out of air. She looked panicked, but I remained calm. I motioned for her to give me her spare breathing apparatus; She obliged, and I placed the device in my mouth and sucked in. However, upon inhaling, it began to free flow (expelling the tank’s air). I quickly removed the regulator from my mouth and stuck it back in her pocket, as at this point, the air was precious. My dive buddy and I exchanged her main apparatus until we could reach the surface, taking careful attention not to come up too quickly to prevent medical emergencies.

My head breached the surface, and I breathed, swam over to the boat, and informed the captain of my situation. A woman on the boat looked at me and exclaimed that I must have been terrified, and I calmly said no. 

The impending doom I faced had no sway on my emotions. I thought logically, clearly, and simply. This way of thinking comes entirely naturally to me. I wasn’t only an experienced and therefore comfortable diver, but have always also been a problem solver: In 10th grade, when I moved, I adapted to increased academic rigor by researching new study strategies and asking peers for advice; in 11th grade, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world, my drama club hosted outdoor performances where I created a clear and organized seating system for patrons’ safety; and in 12th grade, when my friend group faced interpersonal issues, I maintained a strong sense of integrity holding to principles of honesty and transparency in hopes that mutual understanding would help my friends gain empathy…it worked. 

My scuba diving mishap may be an extreme example but not an out-of-character one. I reduce situations to straightforward questions that, once answered, will allow for seamless solutions.

Tips for Writing:
Written above is my heavily picked over and intensely scrutinized college essay. I spent hours upon hours of editing and choosing the topic. Over the summer before my senior year, I just drafted, and I mean drafted anything. I have written dozens of common app essays ranging from childhood bullying to, as seen above, near-death experiences. Something would come to mind, and I’d sit down and write. Then, I leave them. Leave them for months. Write them and then leave them. I cannot stress this enough. Do not touch them. Leave your unfiltered voice. After about a month, take the pin out of the essays and read them. All of them. This is when you do not edit but narrow. Listen to them as stories. Ask yourself which is interesting? Which is fun to read? Which do I like? Revise those. Then reread them and keep choosing. Let others read them and give advice. Now pick two that are your favorite and heavily edit those. Make those two essays perfect. Then select which is the best. Now, leave it for a month. You may think it is perfect…you are wrong. Don’t worry, you’ll understand. Now that it has been a month, read it over and make it even more perfect. Have your family read it over, but more importantly, objective people. Not necessarily super qualified people, but just random acquaintances. Ask them what impression they got of you? Was it enjoyable to read? Did you learn something? Is it interesting? Consider their answers as these superficial impressions are critical. The people who read these will do so quickly unless you drag them in. Make them interested. Make them want to reread. This is how to write a college essay. Go with your gut and do your thing and if it is a supplement just read the college mission statement and get it over with.

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