College Application Essay Examples
I had never broken into a car before.
We were in Laredo, having just finished our first day at a Habitat for the Humanity work site. The Hotchkiss
volunteers had already left, off to enjoy some Texas BBQ, leaving me behind with the college kids to
clean up. Not until we were stranded did we realize we were locked out of the van.
Someone picked a coat hanger out of the dumpster, handed it to me, and took a few steps back.
“Can you do that thing with a coat hanger to unlock it?”
“Why me?” I thought.
More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window’s seal like I’d
seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame.
Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in
springing it.) The other was the realization that I’d been in this type of situation before. In fact, I’d been
born into this type of situation.
My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was
loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant
my house was functioning normally. My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was
home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine, I learned how to clear
burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my
aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed. “The water’s on fire! Clear a hole!” he shouted, tossing me in
the lake without warning. While I’m still unconvinced about that particular lesson’s practicality, my Dad’s
overarching message is unequivocally true: much of life is unexpected, and you have to deal with the
twists and turns.
Living in my family, days rarely unfolded as planned. A bit overlooked, a little pushed around, I learned
to roll with reality, negotiate a quick deal, and give the improbable a try. I don’t sweat the small stuff,
and I definitely don’t expect perfect fairness. So what if our dining room table only has six chairs for
seven people? Someone learns the importance of punctuality every night.
But more than punctuality and a special affinity for musical chairs, my family life has taught me to thrive
in situations over which I have no power. Growing up, I never controlled my older siblings, but I learned
how to thwart their attempts to control me. I forged alliances, and realigned them as necessary.
Sometimes, I was the poor, defenseless little brother; sometimes I was the omniscient elder. Different
things to different people, as the situation demanded. I learned to adapt.
College Application Essay Examples 250 Words
In most conventional classrooms, we are taught to memorize material. We study information to
regurgitate it on a test and forget it the following day. I thought this was learning. But this past summer, I
realized I was wrong.
I attended the SPK Program, a five-week enrichment program with New Jersey’s best and brightest
students. I lived on a college campus with 200 students and studied a topic. I selected Physical Science.
On the first day of class, our teacher set a box on the table and poured water into the top, and nothing
came out. Then, he poured more water in, and everything slowly came out. We were told to figure out
what had happened with no phones or textbooks, just our brains. We worked together to discover in the
box was a siphon, similar to what is used to pump gas. We spent the next weeks building solar ovens,
studying the dynamic of paper planes, diving into the content of the speed of light and space vacuums,
among other things. We did this with no textbooks, flashcards, or information to memorize.
During those five weeks, we were not taught impressive terminology or how to ace the AP Physics exam.
We were taught how to think. More importantly, we were taught how to think together. Learning is not
memorization or a competition. Learning is working together to solve the problems around us and better
our community. To me, learning is the means to a better future, and that’s exciting.
We were in Laredo, having just finished our first day at a Habitat for the Humanity work site. The Hotchkiss volunteers had already left, off to enjoy some Texas BBQ
College Application Essay Examples
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