College Essays

Common Application

Prompt (Common Application)

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.


I pick up a rock dug from sandy dirt and coarse grass and stack it up to support the 6-foot beams marked with blue paint. “Make sure you’re picking up the big rocks,” my grandfather shouts gruffly to the rest of the group. “You guys are just walking over all these rocks!” On a trail walk, I continue, and my family imitates him. I recall hours spent dragging the posts along the trail and digging them into the ground with my cousin Charlie, not understanding my grandfather’s insistence. I now understand his demand for upkeep since there is no point in creating something great unless we maintain it with diligence.

Each summer, my eighteen cousins and I have visited my grandfather’s property in the northernmost part of the pinky finger of Michigan. Trail work has dominated my two weeks there for as long as I can remember. When the process of building the trail began, it was a simple mowed path that circled the lake. However, in true Lufkin spirit (that the work is never done), we added to it, section by section. My older, predominantly male cousins ventured out to complete the tasks of the day, a battalion marching at my grandfather’s command. I cozied in the kitchen with my grandmother, baking chocolate chip cookies. Perched on stools and sticking fingers in the dough, we toddlers awaited their return.

 My grandfather never doubts the brain power of his eight granddaughters and only bolsters it. Yet his views on manual labor, revealing his age, remain traditional: Women inside, men outside. Nevertheless, as soon as I was old enough to work, I insisted on stepping outside, following Charlie and Nick’s guidance closely. I persisted each day, even when I struggled to keep up. The more others suggested I opt out, the more I threw myself into the work. When I turned twelve, I received my official Kubota tractor certification from my grandfather, meaning I could drive it alone. With my newfound power, I cleared wood and rocks considerably larger than I could carry.

In the past two summers, construction has exploded. I have earned my place on the board of trustees, helping plan where the trail will go next, and which sections require maintenance. Our trail lies in a grove of pine trees, sweeping into fields of wildflowers, tinged purple, red, and green, eventually curving where Bright Lake laps against the sand and silt soil native to the land. It just misses the tree carved with my grandparents’ names, Tom+Elaine, chiseled into the thick bark of an oak tree. The ground sinks in as it slopes down to the lake, and the growth stands thick, guarding my family’s history and legacy.

I walk and run our trail often with Ben and Liv, late into the night, and in the rain. I marvel at the work and hours I have spent on it each time.

My extended family, diverse in backgrounds, ethnicities, and ideals, contributes most to who I am. I, like the trail, am evolutionary. I am a product of the legacy I embody and my own arduous work. My time on the trail manifests in my resilience, ability to collaborate while being independent, and desire to endlessly better myself.

I have shaped my path through years of initiative, stepping out each day to help stack wood and arguing the best way to go about a task. Coming from such a large family of close to forty members working together, I have learned to advocate for and establish myself proudly as the outgoing, creative, and empathetic person I am.

 I am made of hardworking hands, compassion, and collaboration with those vastly different than myself. Knowing this, I trek on to future ventures with a deep-rooted foundation. Wherever I go, I carry the trail, and an entire life of learning from it with me. 

Tips for writing: I would say that in the process of writing, it is so important to get all your ideas down. Don’t get caught up in the perfect topic of an essay. Write about what you care about! I wrote many essays with many different topics before deciding on this one. Another suggestion is to start earlier than you think you need to. It is so much better to write in less stressful situations than while under a time crunch right before the deadline(which I found myself in for some of my essays). Start thinking about what is most important for you to convey about yourself in your essays, and keep a running document or a note in the notes app so you can jot down ideas wherever you are. Overall, don’t stress yourself out, and don’t just list off all of the things you do in your essay. Be authentic and write about what most makes you who you are. Good luck!!

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