College Essays

Common Application

Prompt: Anything you’d like to share about yourself. 


“You’re alright,” I say, patting Conner on the back while his face contorts with a wave of emotions. Turning to the other kids, I muster all the courage I have to ask them how they could treat someone in such a way. Even at the age of ten I felt I had to help this special needs boy who could not help himself. Though it ostracized me, I continued to defend him and include him in the activities—choosing him as my partner whenever I had the chance. 

Four years later, I’m sitting in the car when my cousin tells me that she’s worried about my reaction, but lesbian or straight, it doesn’t change my opinion of her. In my eyes she is the same person she was before she told me, and I tell her I am proud of who she is. My mind races, trying to comprehend the struggles she must have dealt with over these last few years. So, the first time she brought her girlfriend to Thanksgiving, I made sure she felt welcome and accepted.

Now, as a senior I have started to help my sister navigate high school. As a sophomore,  she struggles in chemistry. So, I tutor her, trying to recall the content—cations versus anions, mass number versus atomic number—and find a better way to explain it all. I have two of my own tests tomorrow, and my friends are berating me with texts to come hang out. But, I look at my sister and realize she needs my help, as much as she may not like to admit it. I patiently explain the content again, blocking out everything else because this is what matters right now.

During these moments in my life, along with countless others, I thought of the Gibbs Lighthouse in Bermuda. One hundred eighty five steps culminating in a cast-iron lighthouse that is visible forty miles away. The lighthouse, one my family has visited on multiple occasions, serves as a beacon, saving ships from disaster. Growing up, I saw the lighthouse as the perfect role model. Sturdy, strong, and a source of hope in the devastating storms that test us throughout the course of our lives. 

The lighthouse has an iron body, an indomitable will that can face any threat head on, as well as a guiding light to lead those in distress out of the darkness. It was my iron will that gave me the courage to be Conner’s lone defender, and my guiding friendship that comforted him. It was my iron love that allowed me to not waver at my cousin’s news so she felt safe, and my guiding light that helped her feel comfortable in her own skin. It was my iron loyalty that enabled me to sacrifice my studies to tutor my sister, and my guiding instruction that helped her understand the concepts. I strive to be a lighthouse—someone who leads others through the darkness. 

My lighthouse—sturdy and strong—wasn’t called Gibbs, but Dad. My dad taught me courage, as he battled through retinal detachment and shingles, he taught me compassion, as he has supported me through devastating injuries and countless failures, and he taught me selflessness, as he deployed to Korea and Bosnia as a sergeant. My father has been my lighthouse, guiding me through life, modeling how to be an effective leader. When I am confronted with challenging situations, I remind myself of the lessons he taught me by being there for everyone around him. In college, I will continue to apply these lessons, leading those around me. There will be more Conners to defend, more hope to inspire, and more people to help. With the tools my father has instilled in me through his example, I will emerge as a lighthouse to those around me, the iron body to stand strong through howling storms, and the warm light to guide those in need. 

Tips for Writing:

When I first started the process of writing a college essay, I had one fatal misconception. That misconception was that I needed to find something extraordinary that happened to me. I thought the way to make a college essay effective was to have some crazy event in my life that I could talk about. However, one of the most important things to remember is that there are tons of high school students applying for college, and most of them have not had crazy experiences. The trick is to talk about topics and events that are meaningful to you, even if they are not all that unique, and put your own personal touch on them. Admissions officers mostly want to see how you can take something about yourself and expand on it in a way that is very personal to you.(Also, don’t be afraid to brag about yourself!)

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