College Essays

University of Pittsburg Fredrick’s Honors College Supplemental

Prompt (University of Pittsburgh — Fredrick’s Honors College)

If you had 10 minutes and the attention of a million people, what would your TED Talk be about? 



Step 1: Add cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and ginger to a mortar, and grind the mixture up with a pestle.

Step 2: Bring water to a boil and add your spiced mixture to it, along with some black tea leaves.

Step 3: Strain your mixture into a kulhar and add warm milk.


These are the steps I learned to make masala chai growing up, but following this process played a more important role in my life than just nostalgia. It gave my father, who tutored me for hours every day after work, time to unwind and listen to Bollywood music with his drink. It gave my mother, who had to commute to another state every day for work, a chance to warm her hands, colored with mehendi, around a mug. And it gave me time to reflect after a long day of school and my lengthy list of extracurriculars, from tutoring kids to shadowing doctors. After a whole day of not seeing each other, making chai allowed us to not only honor traditions, but to also come together. My father and I would leave behind any disagreements we had as we ground up spices, and my mother and I would talk about our days as we scrolled through online stores to look at bejeweled jhumka earrings and colorful lehengas while we steamed milk.


So if I had the attention of a million people for ten minutes, that’s what I would talk about: masala chai and the memories that fill each cup. But it’s not just about the chai. Making chai — or any tradition, for that matter — is more than crafting a comforting and fragrant drink. It’s an opportunity to spend time with family and come closer, something we often find ourselves losing in the rush of the contemporary world; chai allows us to come together and bond as a family, while still prioritizing the individual parts that come together to make the drink. It’s important to have moments to slow down and find solace in something comforting, like masala chai.


Tips for Writing

Remember to always be yourself. Admissions officers can tell when you’re stretching the truth and not being yourself, plus, do you really want to present a false narrative of yourself to the colleges you’re applying to? In addition, use a compelling/interesting hook, as admissions officers read hundreds of essays throughout their careers. Be the applicant that stands out, and grab their attention from the very beginning so they remember you. Finally, remember to show, don’t tell. Don’t just talk about an activity you did or an experience you had. Instead, show, through all the writing skills you’ve acquired through high school, how these moments changed your life. Remember to convey personal growth, and how you’ve changed for the better over your four years of high school.


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