College Application Tips: Tackling the Personal Essay

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Living in Madrid was probably one of the most culture-filled experiences of my life. I still remember most of my three years there quite clearly. Our house was in a suburb called La Moraleja. Although Spain was safe, it was still not the ideal place to live. Racism was rampant. My best friend, Pablo, was of African descent and again, people would look down upon our friendship as if it were a sin. I used to take road trips across Spain with my family to learn about ancient civilizations and how much of an issue slavery was in the olden days, and it was clear that for many, the olden days still lingered. Each of those trips was like a new chapter of a history book I wanted to devour. After Spain, at the age of nine, I moved to Miami.

Miami is definitely the most culturally diverse city I have ever lived in, but somehow, people still manage to judge. During my first year here, the kids used to make fun of me for having a British accent because of my studies in a British school in Madrid. I even got made fun of for my Spanish accent when I spoke Spanish because of the lisp the Spanish have when they speak (compared to many of the local Cubans). In the other countries, I was judged for the people I spent my time with. But in the United States, I was the source, and it felt different.

After all my travels, the only place I truly feel happy and unbothered is Brazil. Maybe it is the comfort my family provides me or perhaps I have not been around to see that racism is present there as well. Whatever it is, I wish I could spread that into every country I have lived in and show people that, at the root, everybody actually is the same.

Norman's Critique:

The final draft is easier and more interesting to follow.

The "message" of the essay is clear from the start, but it doesn't read like the thesis in a five paragraph essay for English class.

The final draft reads like a story he would be telling you and is more clearly a reflection of this student's world view, based on the people he's met and the specific experiences he's had. One thing seems to naturally flow from the next.

The final draft really allows us to peek into his world and the depths of his experiences. His world view (not to mention his essay) is more believable after he's shared with us where he comes from, philosophically and literally. The essay works because he really lets us into his world by lifting the veil on the rich details of his beliefs and his life experiences.

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