College Essay: Ian Hayes to attend Harvard University

College Essay: Ian Hayes to attend Harvard University

Hailey Spaeth

This year, as they are every year, the senior class was given the task of writing an essay for their common application; many colleges use Common App to determine whether the prospective student gets in. This essay can be a deciding factor on admission to a certain university, so naturally many students spend a lot of time on it. With a generalized prompt, the essay can be a bit of a roadblock in the application process. Here is one of nine essays from Country Day Seniors that The Scroll and the college counseling felt knocked their essay out of the park.


Ian Hayes:


“What’s the price for a black man’s life?  I check the toe tag, not one zero in sight.”

—J .Cole

It’s a strange phenomenon: listening to a song repeatedly and never hearing all the words they say, never hearing the full extent of what the artist is attempting to convey.  When I really heard this particular line for the first time, all I could do was cry.  All of my pent up anger, confusion, shock, loneliness, bereavement came rushing out, packaged as tears.  

Sitting in that car on the way back from cousin’s funeral, all I could see was his body lying in that alleyway: a single bullet wound over his left eyebrow, a hoodie soaked in blood that slowly spread along the cracks in the sidewalk, groceries spread in disarray, his eyes cold and fixed, his body covered by a singular blanket.  Though I never actually saw his body in this state, this was all I could imagine.  All of this… over an iPhone. Jamie was 19.

Withholding the fact that I will never see Jamie again, I think what really gets to me about his death is that it easily could have been me in that alleyway that night. He wasn’t out there gangbanging or selling dope, more than I can say of some of my other cousins. The similarities between us are uncanny.  He was a good kid: star wrestler at his suburban high school, homecoming king, good student, loved by all.  He just happened to be black.  He just happened to be at the wrong place.  At the wrong time.  With an iPhone in his pocket.

   It’s a hard truth to bear, but as a young black man in this country I feel as if I am that J. Cole song: heard but ignored, society unwilling to hear the full extent of my value. I don’t have to look far to be reminded of such things.  Take the news for example, it seems that every week there is another young black man gunned down by police, another young black man sent to prison, another young black man dismissed by society. 

 This dismissal, this disdain, this fear of people who look like me is subsequently transferred onto me, consciously and unconsciously. To some extent, I even see this with my own friends.  It’s not that they treat me differently because of the color of my skin but it’s more so the mindsets that they have been inculcated with. With statements such as, “You’re the smartest black person I know” it’s evident that they still see black people differently.  In their minds, black people aren’t usually the class scholar, Honor Council Chair, a talented athlete, and A Capella President. In their minds black people are different.

Outside of school this is magnified: I am the one employees watch in Banana Republic. “Are you buying something today sir?”  I am the one the Indian Hill Rangers pull over on my way from school to question me about the ownership of my car. I am the one people in my own neighborhood glance at in fear as I walk by at night with a hoodie.  They think they know me, but they don’t.

So every day I fight a battle of perception, exceling in every area so the world has no choice but to see me for who I really am: a man of integrity, compassion, conviction, resolve, dreams and aspirations.