The following essay was submitted to the Harvard MBA program by our client. The client was accepted to the program.
Full credit for these essays goes to the original authors and the schools that published them. We were in Laredo, having just finished our first day at a Habitat for 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.
More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked.
One was the lock on the door. I actually succeeded in springing it.
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. 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. 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. Back then, these techniques were merely reactions undertaken to ensure my survival. But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: Then, I realized I knew the answer. I knew why the coat hanger had been handed to me.
Growing up as the middle child in my family, I was a vital participant in a thing I did not govern, in the company of people I did not choose. You participate by letting go of the small stuff, not expecting order and perfection, and facing the unexpected with confidence, optimism, and preparedness.
My family experience taught me to face a serendipitous world with confidence. What Makes This Essay Tick? In just eight words, we get: Is he headed for a life of crime?
Is he about to be scared straight? Notice how whenever he can, Stephen uses a more specific, descriptive word in place of a more generic one. Details also help us visualize the emotions of the people in the scene. Finally, the detail of actual speech makes the scene pop.
Instead of writing that the other guy asked him to unlock the van, Stephen has the guy actually say his own words in a way that sounds like a teenager talking. They could also mean any number of things—violence, abandonment, poverty, mental instability. Obviously, knowing how to clean burning oil is not high on the list of things every 9-year-old needs to know.Read selected examples of essays that worked, as nominated by our admissions committee.
An effective essay can be about something as simple as a TV show or school club as long as it tells us something about the writer in a way that’s relevant to our community. But growing up, my definition of superhero shifted. My peers praised . See an example of a college application essay, with a point-by-point critique.
The Part 1 question will be an essay on a given topic. A set of notes on the topic will be provided, and will include three bullet points. Candidates will be asked to select two of the bullet points and to base their essay on those two points.
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The writer of this essay just graduated from Seattle University.
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