College Essays

Common Application


The vibrant blue and red patch weighed heavily on my left shoulder. The six-pointed star distinctly outlining the caduceus, the universal symbol of healthcare practice, felt fraudulent. Why, after working tirelessly to wear this EMT patch with pride, did I feel undeserving of the distinction?

At 16 years old, I spent my summer training 32 hours each week to become an EMT, and, on the weekends, traveling two hours south to the Jersey Shore to work as an ocean lifeguard. Though I was the youngest lifeguard, I had a higher level of medical training than most, so ease and confidence came quite naturally when handling first-aids on the beach. However, when I eventually earned my EMT certification and began volunteering with my local rescue squad, this was not the case.

I was the youngest and one of the only females in a sea of men twice my age with lifelong exposure to the medical field. For the first few months on call, sweat drew at my palms as the ambulance whirled onto the scene and my hands trembled as I placed the blood pressure cuff on each patient’s arm. Since my sole responsibilities were often nothing larger than taking vitals and completing the patient care report, I felt like an imposter wearing that patch with such pride and honor as my co-volunteers.

As the months passed, I transitioned into a role of confidence and responsibility on my squad. One Tuesday night shift, my captain directed me to take lead of the scene for the first time for a patient experiencing limb pain from an attempted suicide. Though first acting with only a facade of confidence, I approached the situation with care, going through the medical checklist ingrained in my mind and retaining sensitivity when speaking to the patient about his history. After tending to his injuries, while keeping him comfortable, he expressed his gratitude towards my natural compassion and empathy. The validation of his comment immediately boosted the confidence I previously lacked. Since then, I’ve regularly volunteered to take a leadership role on each call, often communicating directly with the medical staff upon our arrival to the hospital and advocating on behalf of each patient’s concerns. Gradually, I’ve felt myself ease into the standard of care and responsibility I had chased for so long, and with each passing shift, I feel increasingly worthy of wearing that caduceus crested patch.

Tips for Writing:

The best way to get started with writing is finding something that interests or intrigues you, and going from there.  I often find it difficult to come up with creative topics, so I always choose to tell stories that are personal and unique to me. When your topic is something you are familiar with or passionate about, each sentence develops quite naturally. Something I do when searching for a topic: I set a timer for five minutes and jot down ideas that come to mind. Once time is up, I choose whichever one works best and begin to elaborate and string together more ideas. Though this technique works well for me, every writer must find their own unique style that will allow them to develop a personally riveting story.

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