College Essays

Kaitlyn Wiehe — Common Application

Prompt: 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.

Doodles, glue, or maybe even a pencil grayscale run down the side of my left hand. Today is no different. Pieces of tape stick to each of my fingers and a little stack of memories sits in front of me: pictures, drawings, movie tickets, and notes from friends old and new. I sift through the pile and linger on one of my favorite drawings. From far away, it looks like a modge-podge of blue pen, just hardly resembling the bank of a river. But, as you get closer, the intricately drawn lines slowly appear and the little details tucked inside of one another start to emerge, each one a joy-filled surprise. I carefully place tape on its corners and stick it on the vast openness of my wall. I then work the rest of the day taping my bits of memorabilia on the wall, watching as it begins to bloom around that one mess of pen into a flowering collage.

The Christmas of 2015, my aunt gave me a cork board. The fancy kind, with lattice to put pictures in and a nice wooden border. As soon as I got home, I picked a corner and let it sit there for a year, gathering dust. But all too quickly I became overwhelmed with how much stuff I had, stuff that multiplied with every experience and each person I encountered. It all needed to go somewhere. I pulled the corkboard out from under my bookshelf and filled every inch of it: flowers spilled over the edges, cartoon figures clung on for their lives, and faded pictures threatened to fly off. The things jumbled into a cluttered, chaotic mess, when really they needed a place to spread out and given the opportunity to develop into something beautiful without borders. The wall appeared as the only solution.

As time went on, more keepsakes found their way up onto my trophy case. My proudest of achievements are honorably displayed, such as my EMT certificate and my first pay stub. Each time I look at these, I’m reminded of the hard work it took to accomplish my challenges and that I should never stop striving to reach any goal I care about. As time went on, more and more paintings and doodles and watercolors found their way onto the wall, too. A small, acrylic version of one of my favorite pictures I have taken sits by the window, illuminated when the light streams in. A depiction of a girl rising from the wick of a candle and dancing, as if she is the flame itself, sits directly to the right. I painted this at a time when I didn’t know where I fit in the world, confusion ruled my life. She guided me through the darkness, and now rests at the head of my bed, eyes closed peacefully, reminding me to light the way for others.

My wall and I, we have made each other. With each piece I paste up on it, I become a little more confident, a little more open, and I smile a little more. Every addition makes me feel fuller. Now, my wall has surpassed physical boundaries. Its vibrancy colors my life with laughter and the happiness it brings me amounts to kindness I put back into the world. Brush strokes and camera shutters are how I count the days, beautifying the ordinary to persuade a giggle out of someone’s frowning face. If people are truly a product of their past, then I would be proud, proud that its beauty has reflected itself into me and highlights my personality in ways I never expected. Finally, I’m done hiding things away in corners and cracks. Instead, I’m prepared to paint the world; I’m ready for another test, for more long nights, as long as it means I’m putting more into the world than I’m taking out of it.

Tips for Writing:
There is definitely a distinction between the person you present yourself as in school, and the person you are outside of that. The experiences that really make you into the person you are today most likely are occurring outside of your academics, things you can’t necessarily put on paper or receive an award for. Those are the things you should look to first for inspiration, there you will find key personality traits and little niches that you have that no one else knows about. The goal is to stand out to colleges, you don’t want to just be another essay in the stack. Instead, give them something that stands out, something they won’t be able to forget.

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