College Essay Examples Handout #2
Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or emotional dilemma you have faced and describe its impact on you.
“Take out your literature books class!” My second grade teacher gave the class their instructions; I knew it was time to walk the 15 torturous yards to the door to go down to Mrs. Lawrence’s room for my “Special” English class. The humiliation was unbearable as everyone watched me, knowing that I was the “stupid” kid in the class and that I couldn’t read like everyone else. Mrs. Lawrence was a teacher’s aid that helped the slow learning elementary school students at my grade school, Sacred Heart.
I would get help from her every day when the rest of my class had regular English. I started to go to her when my first grade teacher began to recognize that I struggled with simple tasks such as reading and spelling. The embarrassment was relieved when I reached the hallway only for a short time, because in the back of my head I knew I would have to return at some point. As I started to care about what people thought about me, I put up barriers by making fun of myself with expressions such as, “I’m just different” or “my brain isn’t as big as everyone else’s is.” Even though I portrayed a humorous and lackadaisical attitude about my intelligence, I was really just using this to cover up my embarrassment. I spent twice the time as my friends on my homework and studies, but I could never get the results I wanted or deserved. This hard work with no results continued all through grade school and seemed as if it would never end.
In the summer of 2007 I was diagnosed with a case of dyslexia. I was both aggravated and exuberant at the same time. I asked myself with all the tutors and special classes I took over my previous scholastic years how could someone not have noticed my difficulty? I thought that by knowing why I had been “spinning my wheels” for all these years I could come up with a solution and start to turn my effort into results. For the rest of the summer and all of sophomore year I studied with a special tutor who taught me how to read all over again. I continued to complete my regular schoolwork as well. I was left struggling without any more success than in the past.
Christmas break of my junior year I went to my annual doctor appointment when I was prescribed a medication that was supposed to help me focus. I was skeptical about how a pill could help me to do better in school. Upon returning to school in January I was quick to recognize the change in my ability to succeed.
The product of my success is clearly shown through my grades second semester junior year. The misconception that I came across was, was it “me” achieving the good grades or was it the medication. I soon came to realize that the medication only helped me to make the effort to study effectively which, in turn, resulted in success. After reaching this conclusion I took a moment to reflect on my past life. The years of struggling were never due to a lack of effort; I just needed to find a way to translate that hard work into positive results. When I was able to come to this conclusion, my whole mind set changed about myself. My first report card came home and I had increased my GPA score by 1.3, I felt a sense of relief. I was eager to strive to my fullest potential and make up for lost time.
Making up for my lost time is what I strive for as I move forward. School is no longer a daunting task for me; the ability to now succeed has made school fun! I look forward to first period history class every other day, The World Wars, Great Depression, The Cold War all fascinates me because I find it very interesting and like a story. I have come to the point where I look forward to Monday morning history class as much as a San Jose Sharks game on a Saturday night!. I keep the Knowledge of the fact that I had the will and drive to succeed has left a lasting impression on myself. I know there will be few obstacles that I will come across in my lifetime that will be as hard to overcome as this obstacle I have just gotten over. A good attitude I feel is the best way to go through life. There are many different ways to overcome obstacles; some just take longer to find the way that works for them.
Comments on essay
On Lisa Simpson as role model
In the South, where I grew up, pork is a vegetable. Actually, it’s used as a “seasoning,” but so commonly that it’s almost impossible to find salad without bacon, greens without fatback, white beans free of pinkish shreds of ham. It was difficult for me, then, when I decided to become a vegetarian. The decision itself, made for the usual reasons of health, ethics and ecological conservation, was easy; putting it into practice, however, was another matter. At every restaurant, every school lunch, every church potluck, every family gathering, there was meat—in the entrée, the sides, the condiments. I suspected even innocent-seeming pie crusts of secretly harboring lard.
Eventually I worked out a system: I brought my own lunches to school, asked servers about the broth used in the soup of the day, avoided the usual suspects of beans and greens. This system worked well enough in public, but at home, I faced the challenge of respecting my parents and harmoniously sharing meals with them. They were excellent cooks, both of them, and I had always enjoyed the country-fried steaks, burgers and ribs they’d served to me for so many years—how could I now say “no” to those delicacies without angering or inconveniencing them, or, worse, hurting their feelings?
I couldn’t. And so, I backslid. I’d manage to live a pure, meatless life for a few weeks, subsisting on pasta and salads. Then, Dad would grill an especially juicy teriyaki-marinated flank steak, look at me hopefully, and offer a slice—and I would accept. I’d mend my ways, steam rice and stir-fry snow peas with mushrooms . . . and crumble at the first whiff of the Thanksgiving turkey roasting in the oven and the proud smile on my mother’s face. My noble goals, it seemed, were doomed.
But then, I found a role model, one who demonstrated to me that I could live without meat and still be a functioning member of society, eschew my parents’ pork chops and fried chicken without giving offense. I wish I could say that I was inspired by one of history’s great artists like Leonardo da Vinci, or a leader and inventor like Benjamin Franklin, but no. My inspiration was Lisa Simpson.
Let me pause here to acknowledge how absurd it is to be inspired by an animated sitcom character, albeit one as smart and together as Lisa. Yet it was the very absurdity of feeling, somehow, moved by Lisa’s resolve and strength of character, her refusal to compromise her beliefs, that convinced me I could follow her example. In the pivotal episode, Lisa is tortured by visions of the lamb whose chops provide her family’s dinner. “Please, Lisa, don’t eat me!” the imaginary lamb implores her. She is moved by ethics, yet almost breaks her resolution when Homer prepares a pig roast and is hurt by his daughter’s refusal to partake. Like me, Lisa is torn between her convictions and her fear of disappointing her father (not to mention the undeniable deliciousness of pork). But she manages to explain her beliefs to Homer and show him that her rejection of meat is not a rejection of him—that she can share his table and his love while still living according to her principles.
Again, I admit—as inspirations go, this one is a little ridiculous. No imaginary lamb-conscience spoke to me, and unlike Lisa, I was not able to celebrate my vegetarian lifestyle by triumphantly singing with Quickie-Mart manager Apu and guest stars Paul and Linda McCartney. But seeing the very obstacles that stymied me being overcome by a yellow-skinned, spiky-haired caricature was so silly that my difficulties, too, seemed silly. “Well heck,” I thought, “if Lisa Simpson—a cartoon character, for heaven’s sake— can stick to her guns, then so can I.”
So I did. I told my parents that I had decided to really commit myself to vegetarianism, that this was not a passing phase, that I was not judging or seeking to convert them, but that this was simply something I had decided for myself. They agreed, perhaps a bit patronizingly, but as the months went on and I continued to forego the chicken in my fajitas and the sausage gravy on my biscuits, they became more supportive. We worked together on compromise. I took on a larger role in preparing the meals, and reminded them to please use vegetable stock in the potato soup and to reserve a separate pot of plain spaghetti sauce before adding the ground beef. When we attended a potluck, we made sure that one of the dishes we brought was a meatless entrée, so that I would be guaranteed at least one edible dish at the pork-laden table.
I did not tell my parents, or anyone else, that Lisa Simpson had helped me say no, forever, to eating meat. Doing so would cast the decision, one that many teenagers passionately make for a few months and then abandon, in the light of well-intentioned immaturity. But Lisa did help me live a more healthy, ethical, and ecologically sound life—to say no to pork, in all its guises.
Comments on “Lisa Simpson as a Role Model”
This student’s essay showcases her creativity and excellent writing skills. In any other circumstance, acknowledging that a fictional character (especially a cartoon character from a TV show) has inspired them might seem a bit immature or unthinking; however, this student recognizes the implausibility of this role model (twice – “Let me pause here to acknowledge how absurd it is to be inspired by an animated sitcom character” and “as inspirations go, this one is a little ridiculous”) and emphasizes how the “silliness” of this role model actually helped her realize just how achievable her goal could be. By comparing herself to Lisa Simpson, this student realized that she too should have at least the strength of character that a cartoon figure displayed. This unusual comparison showcases the student’s reflective abilities – not only does the student think about big ideas in her life (like becoming a vegetarian), but she also thinks during activities that would normally not be intellectually stimulating (watching TV). This makes it clear that she is a reflective person both inside and outside of the classroom. Her grace and humor in describing the situation emphasize her intelligence and determination to overcome a cultural norm. Her well-chosen diction and her concise imagery enhance her message.