College Essays

Common Application

Home is a place where you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.
I wanted to leave.
Forgotten in the corner of Shanghai resided a four-story building attached to my grandpa’s air compressor factory. For five years, my childhood revolved around the dusty warehouses and bug-infested rooms. For five years, I watched the polluted sky chase after the seasons: the scorching summer, the abundant autumn, the windy winter, and the sun-kissed spring.
I slept with mosquitoes during the summer. The sticky heat beckoned those mischievous insects to bite through the sheer net. My eyes would blink each time I felt the itch crawl up my ankle and tickle my knees, scrunching up a bit when I resisted the urge to scratch the swollen bite. Shanghai was a city of glistening buildings and insect-free apartments: it was unfair that I had to curl up under a mosquito net to avoid swarms of my unpleasant enemy. But this factory was all my family could afford, and even though I was young, I understood. I curled my fingers and pressed my ears into the pillow, the itch still crawling up my leg and the buzz still swimming around my ears. I learned to be patient and bear with the pain. It will pass.
Summer passed, and soon it was the prettiest time of the year: autumn. The grime-covered leaves of our Chinese Pistache trees had adopted a new, warmer look. Today was my favorite holiday: the Mid-Autumn Festival. I raced my brother down to the factory’s cafeteria under the full moon, but unfortunately, the race was lost. Waiting for us on the oily table were plates of authentic Chinese food (mapo tofu, tomato soup, moon cakes). Mmm, moon cakes. I thought about Chang E and her legend. I thought about how she protected her family by drinking the cursed elixir, and I thought about how her husband left moon cakes in hopes of seeing his wife again. I thought about my family, and the sacrifices they made to bring me up in a private school. I learned to appreciate what I have and to appreciate what my culture has taught me.
I didn’t mind once the air chilled and flutters of dirt-speckled snow danced around our home. Chinese New Year loomed before us, threatening our mucky factory with a year of misfortune if we didn’t begin to clean. I reluctantly picked up a broom, stole a look at my DS, and began to sweep. Playing the new Pokémon game could wait; keeping my home safe and comfortable was my priority—so I could bloom like a flower struggling in an industrial waste dumping site. I learned that cleaning loosened my body, helped me control my stress, and was an overall fun activity.
It was not fun when the spring wind blew me off my skateboard and pushed me into the coarse cement. OUCH! I grimaced, pulling my elbow towards me to inspect where the sharp pain pulsed. Staring back into my wide eyes was a deep cut cluttered with debris. I looked towards my occupied mother, ultimately deciding to head inside for a band-aid as thoughts of independence raced through my mind. For the next few days, I anticipated the moment I rip it off and display my efforts in healing. And I did. I yanked it off, only to witness the slimy infection dancing around the cut. My mom gasped, shook her head in worry, and rushed to find some Chinese medicine. She cooed, “Why didn’t you tell me?” I learned that reliance was not a weakness, but rather a display of affection and trust.
When our family moved back to the United States, we settled down in a pristine, clean townhouse. No mosquitoes, no dust, no oil.
I wanted to go back.

Tips for Writing:
When I decided to start my common application, I didn’t know what to write about. I think what helped me when I decided to rewrite my first draft was looking back at my life and trying to find something so meaningful and unique only to me. It doesn’t have to be anything big, or anything “college worthy,” it just has to be about you and your personality, because that’s what’s most important. Don’t choose something that’s already on another part of your application, choose something that is essential to you. Something you can’t live without, or something you can’t stop thinking about. And lastly, don’t write it like it’s a formal essay!!! Let your words flow the way it wants to, and make edits after you write down every single thought. Have fun with it and good luck!

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