How I Took A Stab at My College Essay


Adam Peng

By Adam Peng ’17, Perspective Section Editor

“There was one day when I realized that I have no choice but to show the most vulnerable side of my life, not to just one or two people, but to the world. It is not for other people to judge me, but for them to think about it and make decisions for their own life. Sometimes it can be embarrassing, humiliating, even illegal or immoral. I have to have the courage to do it if I truly want to be a good writer, simply because that is what they do.”

I spoke out those words to my writing group without any preparation.

I didn’t know where they came from, but there they were. Perhaps they were just something that I always have felt, yet still hesitated to say.

Like most seniors, I have a tough experience dealing with college essays, even as I am writing this article. These essays usually tend to be confusing, irritating, unsettling, “keep you awake”, “one of the worst of all time” essays. I too, am involved in this huge torrent of controversy with myself about what they are supposed to look like. Should it be just about who I am? Should my article look like others? Or should I show others part of my personality that is bizarre and abnormal to my daily life?

In fact, I started to think about what I will write about pretty early– more accurately, in my sophomore year. As a typical “young man”, I didn’t know if others had the same feeling as I did, but if there would be one word that I could  have chosen to characterize my life experience, I would have chosen “legendary”.

Well, I still do now.

It is ironic that I am talking about suffering in my essay– I am not even close to those poor kids from Africa. When talking about achievements, I am not even close to those 10-year-old singers we see every day on TV, and when talking about unfortunate experiences, I’ve had few; my parents are perfectly healthy and living happily together. It looks like my experiences are just “not that a big deal”, as I have heard from other people after reading my essay.

At the time, I saw those possible “legendary topics” as something others would joke about. They are supposed to be talked about perhaps twenty years later to my kids in an informal, casual, after-dinner talk instead of in a college essay. As a result, I laughed at myself and instantly denied all these ideas when they first came to my mind. And there they slipped, under my bed, in my drawer, deep into the pile of dirt and erasers of my pencil case. There was even once, when I tried to forget about them, as if I were a new-born baby, to started to live a new life from that day on.

Apparently, I failed.

Maybe I could have abandoned these “legendary” moments, but they are what has made me a human being. It wasn’t until I was looking seriously at the prompts that they rushed back into my brain like a lost dog rushing into its owner’s arms. Then I discovered, perhaps a “tragic flaw” of mine– that I cannot betray myself to follow others. It only took me fifty minutes to finish the whole essay, an essay that I could not be more proud of.

As I expected, the essay was “attacked” and “stomped on” by a lot of people, including my parents. I am totally not embarrassed, and even glad to say that it was about my first love in middle school. Not a common choice for Chinese students, right? I spent nights and nights, trying to persuade others to make them admit that it is a good essay. It was indeed, torturing. And during this process, I started to realize the purpose of writing an essay to get into college.

It is more than an essay.

It is a unique experience, at least to me, that is helping me realize how much the experiences of my life have meant to me. I felt even a little scared– I treated it as a person, and I was literally “protecting” it. I suddenly learned how the mom felt when she hiding her daughter under her body when the earthquake came. I told myself, “You are a grown man, you are not a baby anymore. Don’t cry”.

Yet I did.

I used to think that the college essay was stupid nonsense, made up by colleges to irritate us like SATs do. But I started to appreciate this special journey that lets me try, try to embrace myself for who I am.

I still find it amusing that I start to talk about my college essay even though I haven’t been accepted by any colleges yet. I always believe that there is always something in our life more important than the result that drives us forward, even after failure.



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