College Essays

Common Application

Prompt: Please tell us more about your cultural background and identity in the space below (100 word limit). If you need more than 100 words, please use the Optional section on Part 2.

Tamil, my mother tongue, is Dravidian, not Indo-European. It is far from English: geographically and temporally. 

When I moved to the US from India, I nearly forgot Tamil in my haste to learn English. Myths that illuminated my heritage clashed with my love for science, and I spurned the culture that was once my life. 
Ironically, it was the linguistic differences between the languages that drew me back to Tamil, to the richness of the myths I forgot. 
My tongue feels stiff when I speak Tamil’s retroflex consonants, but their beauty is my birthright. I am determined to reclaim it.

Tips For Writing:
The most important piece of advice that I used during the college application process is to be authentic. There is a reason why it is so difficult to be a good writer of fiction: life is so full of specificity and nuance that replicating it through fiction is extremely hard. Authenticity leads to easier, clearer writing. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your life is not an interesting enough story to tell: every single person can tell a meaningful story about themselves without exaggerating. The second most important piece of advice I received is to remember the purpose of the college essay. It is a gentle persuasion of you as a person in the form of stories that reveal your personality. There are two, opposite sides of the spectrum to be wary of here. The first, and the more obviously wrong side of the spectrum, is to use your college essay as an extension of your resume. This is obviously incorrect, as it presents a person who is so insecure about their accomplishments that they need to brag about it at every chance they get. The second, and the trap that I fell into, is writing your essay purely as a story. It is important to remember, as obvious as it seems, that the goal of the essay is to tell admissions counselors about who you are and how you think, and not to write a strong creative writing assignment. Finally, try to have fun with it! You don’t often get the chance to just sit and be introspective, and you should take advantage of that.

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