0351e. Preparing Essays for U.S. applications

Tuesday 6 May 2014
by  G. West

Writing essays for U.S. applications


When applying to U.S. colleges, you are often asked to answer of variety of complicated questions to see how well you can think, write, defend a viewpoint or use language in an imaginative manner. Below are a few examples of questions and how students answered. But you must NOT copy them. Plagiary checkers on internet will ensure that all such students are refused entry. Simply list things you have to say about the topic, organize them into a good outline, use words creatively and wisely to create an atmosphere and go for it.

1. Hobbies: You have accomplished a great deal in your high school career and received honors, awards and recognition. Congratulations ! Now we’re interested in knowing something else about you - what do you do just for fun ?

My hobbies and interests include a wide variety of areas : first of all, I am very fond of reading about a host of subjects, such as history (of humanities as well as sciences), literature, ethnology and anthropology, earth and life sciences, and geography. My insatiable curiosity pushes me to explore different fields, and this is also true regarding other arts. For example, music is very important to me, and my register of listening to and playing (the clarinet, piano and guitar) includes rock as well as classical music, along with Celtic, Hispanic, and other countries’ specific styles, jazz and blues.

I am also fond of visual arts such as photography and painting. The historical periods of which my tastes are characteristic are extremely varied, but there are some that stand out, such as the Romantic era, including British, French, and German art. In addition, I like writing, and the language in which I choose to write depends on the dominant mood and feeling I want to convey, and on the style I want to use. I write not only stories and poems, but also many letters. This is not an inconsiderable aspect of my hobbies, as I like keeping in touch with people, and exchanging ideas.

Moreover I find it an interesting occasion to practice my style and vocabulary in different languages. Foreign languages are a domain to which I devote much time and interest. It is a good way to learn about other cultures and it is also very helpful in traveling, one of my favorite activities. Many find that learning foreign languages at school is too bookish and repetitive, but I managed to make it fascinating by adapting it to my centers of interest : I practice through reading books about attractive subjects, listening to music, watching movies, and corresponding with people.

In a less academic area, I am fond of nature, and I enjoy rowing in the wild or going on a hike in the mountains or in the forest where I take photos and pick up mushrooms, berries or other plants. It is always a pleasure to come back from a delightful walk and cook something too since cooking is another hobby of mine, through which I can discover different tastes and flavors, or simply stick to the specialties of the country where I am at the moment. In both cases I strive to make the result a delight for others and for myself.

To sum it up, my hobbies extend across a very wide range of interests, and I am glad it is so, because I know that I can find an enjoyable occupation for any occasion and any circumstances. It brings particular pungency and dynamism into my life.

2. How have you taken advantage of the educational opportunities you have had to prepare for college?

Propelled forward on the daunting boat of the "Club Subaquatique de Marseille" by my enthusiastic instructor, the harsh reality of my first scuba-diving experience finally hit me in the face. As we drifted away from the secure coast, I began to feel sea-sick and longed to return to firm ground. I stared, mesmerized, at all the disconcerting equipment before me as the instructor tried to prepare me for what I feared might be the first and last scuba-diving experience of my life. Grabbing on tightly to his hand, I slowly sank underwater and was astonished to find I mastered all the communication signs of diving even though I was feeling incompetent and clumsy. As I gazed admiringly at the serene surroundings, I felt relieved by this peaceful underwater world and my panic rapidly turned into amazement. Moreover, I felt dragged towards this mysterious and captivating immensity and the lives it supports. That moment sparked my intense passion for the ocean and its hidden wonders as well as my interest for marine sciences.

As a first step towards my goal to investigate the marine sciences domain, I decided to gather as much knowledge on the subject as I could. First, I perused many articles, websites, books, and encyclopedias which could enlighten me on the living conditions of marine species. This research bolstered my interest for scientific study of oceanic organisms. Additional information on the ocean’s vital role in sustaining all life forms as well as its dazzling power further stimulated my desire to explore this entrancing environment as it heightened my initial inquisitiveness. I realized that the ocean, in addition to being a source of mystery, wonder and excitement, provides us with half our oxygen and regulates global temperature and thus is essential for all creatures’ survival. Therefore, I was startled by the dramatic number of endangered species due to water pollution, which is a real threat to the ocean, its marine creatures and, on a wider scale to all species. Even though the rebellious oceans might seem unconquerable,they are one of the environmental realms which is most vulnerable to harm by human activities.

This motivated me to contribute to marine conservation efforts to preserve the ocean by studying marine biology. I eventually realized that although books could give me a solid foundation of knowledge, I needed more experience. In order to take my personal investigation further, I joined a scuba-diving club in Grenoble to develop my first-hand experience of scuba-diving, even though the practice lessons took place in pools. I see scuba-diving as a sport that calls for commitment and which opened a new horizon. Even though exploring pool bottoms can seem tedious, this forced me to concentrate on the basic learning steps of scuba-diving and to adopt the right attitude as a responsible diver. I am nonetheless looking forward to putting all my training into real practice on the evaluation date which takes place at the Mediterranean sea.

I also enjoy overcoming the dangerous aspects of scuba-diving. Indeed, by learning the regular breathing pattern, I have learned to overcome physical infirmities such as hyper-ventilation which leads to panic. I therefore increase my resilience through hard work and control over myself. By trying to apply these abilities to my individual studies, I realize that I am taking a large step in my education by confirming my interests for the marine world and by gaining control over my fears. All these experiences have contributed to the transformation of my latent interest for marine sciences into a lively passion. My growing curiosity and enthusiasm to discover marine environments have prepared me for my next challenge, college, as I now know that I truly want to study marine environments and species.

I intend to apply all the abilities I will gain to my personal growth as well as to the enrichment of the University community.

3. What has been your most profound or surprising intellectual experience, or when did you come of age intellectually ? (no more than 2 pages)

I came of age intellectually thanks to my friend Diane at the beginning of my 9th year in school, when I was almost 13. Until then I had been mostly influenced by my stepsisters, adepts of the consumer society, and I hardly knew any other world, as there had been no one nor any occasion to open my young-and-easily-influenced eyes. But as I found myself sitting next to Diane for a year, I saw that there were, indeed, people who dared to be different, and, even better, who were so particular merely by being natural. This event made something go click in me, and I suddenly had a multitude of perspectives opening before me. Diane was well-cultivated and fairly interesting ; this enticed me to discover new styles of music, literature (I was already fond of reading but did not read serious books), and cinema.

Writing this, I can recall the sudden and powerful surge of interest that overcame me, and I still wonder at such a marvelous feeling. It was as if a tree outgrew the walls that contained it and restrained its capacities. I then felt truly free to try different things and choose what I like - this is a particularly important point, I felt liberated from the trend of dictated tastes, it was something new - and from these various experiences I gained the ability to compose my own judgment upon events, people, and my surroundings in general. I could, at last, enjoy the world in my own way. [ Being natural and letting go my passions after years of constraint was thrilling.]

This obviously opened my eyes to the hollowness of my former values, tastes and behavior. I did not entirely cross this life out of my mind, though ; I kept it as an object of study. Coexisting with such different values at home, I began to to try to better understand their way of life, while enjoying my own very different life. I cannot help thanking Diane and laughing when I find myself taking all their habits seriously. All in all I cannot be grateful enough to her for helping me cross the line and gain access to genuine thought and existence. The switch from conformism - taken in its deepest meaning, development or formation with, according to a certain pattern - to the freedom of formation as a unique individual is a significant experience. I am glad that there was this switch, because it offers me a broader overview of the world, including the ability to understand different points of view and how people came to think the way they do. This was a truly enriching event in my life , and I wish everyone could have the oppportunity to live such an experience.

4. What is the best advice you ever received ? Did you follow it ?

Judging retrospectively, I can assert that the best advice I ever received was when my friend encouraged me to move to the higher level of English. There are three levels in my school : I had spent the first year (9th grade) in level 2, at the top of the class, envious of the levels 3 and 4 who studied English literature. The beginning of 11th grade was the last chance we had to move from one level to another, because the OIB pupils (levels 3 and 4 mixed) would start studying the program for the exams. I did not dare to ask, because I was not sure if I would be able to make it, but my friend, considering my keen interest, encouraged me to do it. I am very grateful to her, because it allowed me to follow courses that truly fascinate me, and my passion for English increased. It even led me to choose it as my main subject of study at university. What was at first a simple piece of advice opened many possibilities of development to me. For instance, I learned to look at literature and analysis in a way other than that of the French system ; it allowed me to enjoy the depth and beauty of the English language and to improve my written style and oral ease. It has been, therefore, a very enriching experience that I value highly, and I cannot thank the person enough who helped me cross the barrier of lack of confidence in order to pursue my passion.