Overcome A Challenge College Essay

Responses to comments:

Sam said:Laura, I can't make my lab printer duplex. Can you come fix it?
No.

Anonymous said:SOMEWHERE... there's a photo of a Burton-Conner room also with an amazing beach theme (jaw-dropping in its home makeover-like looks). Do you know anything about it? (JKim didn't.)
Arg, you know, I think I actually know what you're talking about. I feel like it was used in some previous i3 publication (the handbook with photos of the various dorms distributed to incoming freshmen during the summer), but I'm not sure where I could find it...

Sean said:So..can anyone paint any dorm room any style? How far can the "decoration" go?-Custom fish tank/mini fridge/plasma screen a possibility?
Ah, so it's important to note that only some dorms, namely the East Campus (Bexley, Random, East Campus, and Senior House) dorms plus Burton Conner allow students to paint their rooms. Other modifications, such as lofts, and I suppose, custom fish tanks, are allowed in these dorms if they meet safety requirements. Other dorms would be less understanding. As for your plasma screen TV and fridge, sure- you're welcome to put whatever you'd like into your dorm room (in any residence hall), except for microwaves and hot plates, which are usually allowed to be stored in some common area.

Snively said:The beads are so confusing!!!
Ha! I wish I had a good video of Snively trying to come into my room, it's hilarious. I sometimes refer to the beads as my "Snively trap."

Anonymous said:I'm sorry but I just have to tell the truth. Your room doesn't look like a 'I could be an interior designer' person's room. It's boring and looks like very typical college dorm. What makes you so proud?
Way to be a total killjoy. *eyeroll* Obviously a college dorm room is not ideal to demonstrate interior design skills. What exactly would a future interior decorator's college dorm room look like anyway? Would it look less like a college dorm room? Equally obvious, I would think, is that I'm not even actually serious about becoming an interior designer. I'm proud because I took what most people considered to be an awful room with a bad shape, size and lighting and through a lot of hard work made it seem more spacious and livable.

Steve said:good blog,I am doing research for my Daughter,she wants to apply to MIT but I think she may be feel somewhat intiminated,she is a hs jr in a sci.math.& tech. academy in the midwest ranked 8 of 667,she didn't get much respect going in as a girl,that know has changed, it if I can get her to read your blog ,it may help her. Thanks
Oh boy, I could go on for hooours about the topic of women in engineering, and I might not have exactly the opinions that you might assume. In any case, you can read lots of other people's perspectives on the topic here.

I said:I'm off to grab some food, head to a 2.009 meeting, and then pack for a spontaneous 24 hour trip back to the greatest state ever.
sauza said: but why are you going to colorado?
Oh, haha. Now that I'm back from New Jersey, I can say it was a much-needed break to get off campus for awhile. I'm even more confident to not continue on into grad school right away, because man, living on a college campus puts you in such a bubble. I think I even forgot that suburbia existed. It was also my first time home after living in Spain, which represented not only another culture, but my first time really living on my own, outside the whole college dorm system. So I think I looked at my hometown with even more adult eyes than ever before. I don't think I've actually expressed what I mean here at all, but basically, it was interesting. I was also lucky enough to come home on the weekend when my sister had her "Baby Think it Over" doll for health class- it's basically this electronic doll that will start crying at random times and will only stop when you feed it, change its diaper, whatever. It was hilarious. =)

So, on to my real entry.

I thought about posting my college admissions essay before, but it just sort of never happened. But Cristen has just posted hers, so it seems like now is the time, since it will give our dear readers a chance to compare and contrast how two different people approached the essay situation.

I started digging through my hard drive for this essay and of course couldn't help myself: I stopped to read the whole bunch. It was pretty interesting to read them with 3 years of perspective on life, and experience talking to people about college admissions. I re-read one of the essays I wrote for Caltech and the moment I finished I said, "that was a really good essay, but no wonder they waitlisted me!" It was well-written and engaging, but really didn't give them any useful information about me, I don't think. It was also weird to be reminded of the many colleges I applied to, and the fact that almost all of them admitted me. MIT is great and all, but I am very intrigued by the mysterious thought of where I would be if I had chosen the fork in the road marked "Columbia," "University of Maryland," or "Case Western Reserve." It's actually a little creepy.

So, on to the essay. For a little backstory and explanation, the essay prompt was "Life brings many disappointments as well as satisfactions. Tell us about a time in your life when you experienced disappointment, or faced difficult or trying circumstances. How did you react?" I had a pretty rough time writing this essay, as I described in my first application advice entry. I will now blatantly plagarize myself instead of writing the exact same thing over again.

For my essay, I decided to write about problems I had to overcome on my high school field hockey team. I thought I had a great, original story to tell. So I wrote my essay about overcoming obstacles and not giving up and gave it to a friend to proofread, and he told me it was horrible. I got pretty upset with him, as you can imagine. Here I was, totally convinced that I had this edgy, original story to tell, and he went and shot me down by telling me just how unoriginal it was.

It turns out we were both right. I did have a pretty cool and original story- after all, it was a true life story. No one else has had the same experiences as me. But while writing the essay, I tried to cram 3 years of experience into 500 words, so all that came across was "I didn't give up even though I came across obstacles." Well guess what- that has happened to everybody! So I sat down and completely started over. Only this time, I chose a very specific obstacle that I was faced with- one incident that happened on one particular day- and wrote a very detailed description about that experience. I showed this new essay to my mother, who told me it made me look like I was just whining about challenges! The actual story had been lost in all my details about that one specific incident.

By now I was really frustrated with everyone who kept telling me my essays sucked, and I was determined to prove that I actually did have a good essay in there somewhere! So I sat down with the 2 completely different essays and pieced together a hybrid with the most important parts of each. By the time I was done I thought I had a pretty cool college application essay. The key is to find the right balance between giving detailed descriptions that are about you, and showing the admissions people the big picture (how your story shows something about who you are, and how it relates back to the question they actually asked you in the first place!)

And just one note, for the record: I apologize for the last couple of lines. They are a bit ridiculously heavy-handed, and I recognize that they not necessarily absolutes. So before you start arguing with me about them, please remember that this is a college admissions essay, and I tried desperately to make the last paragraph into something both with an inspiring message and not cookie-cutter beat-you-over-the-head cheesy, and if I failed I am sorry. =)

Also, if Coach Bower is out there reading this...well, too bad.

I couldn’t breathe. If there was ever a time to quit, this was it.

It was an innocent conditioning drill. Two partners raced to a ball at the fifty yard line with incentive to win: the loser ran an extra one hundred yards. My partner was Kelly, one of the fastest girls on the team. It wasn’t long before I was having an asthma attack.

I often imagined myself wearing a varsity jacket with pride, but my field hockey coaches impeded my goal. They humiliated me on the field. They promoted freshmen to varsity and made me the ball girl. They told me I’d “never be more than an okay player.” When I crossed the end line after yet another one hundred yard punishment sprint, I’d long since given up hope on my goal. The dream of a varsity jacket I could wear proudly had degraded to the dream of a varsity letter gathering dust in the attic. After years of sacrifice and hard work, I was nothing more than a senior in high school still playing junior varsity.

Coach Bower called my name. I turned to her, holding my back erect and pressing my hands to my stomach, desperately trying to control the frantic nature of my breathing. She must have noticed the wheezing. She must have seen the tears threatening to spill from my panicked eyes.

“Walk to the stroke mark.” She was giving me a six yard head start.

I forced my body forward, head to the ground to hide the tears of shame that burned my eyes. There was dead silence behind me as my teammates stood in a uniform line and stared at my back.

“Take a few more steps.”

The silence was broken by my own gasping sobs. This was more than embarrassment. This was abject humiliation.

I could see my teammates out of the corner of my eye, whispering.

Coach announced to the field: “Let’s see if we can give Kelly a challenge.”

My hands shook with rage. I narrowed my eyes, glaring at the orange ball ahead of me. It suddenly didn’t matter if it was forty-four yards or fifty yards or three miles away. I was going to get there first, or die trying. I rocked back and forth on the balls of my feet, wheezing, hiccupping, and waiting.

She blew the whistle.

I clenched my teeth through the pain in my chest and sprinted, sobbing between gasping breaths. I beat Kelly by one step.

Days later, I was finally given one chance to play varsity and prove myself to the same coaches who said I’d never be “more than okay.” It wasn’t long before I was a varsity starter.

I might have waited my whole life and never caught that lucky break necessary to capture my dreams, but it would have been impossible to succeed if I had given up before that chance came my way. There is no such thing as failure. There are only missed opportunities.

From Nowhere To Somewhere

by Miltiade Delille
(Brooklyn, NY)

Splat. I felt the spitball hit the back of my neck and I quickly used my hand to detach the slime. One would think that I would be used to the spitballs that greeted me when I walked to my English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom by now. These wet weapons paled in comparison to the insensitive comments of my new American peers, who terrorized me and warned me to go back to Haiti where I was born. Why they had such negative feelings towards me, I would never know. All I knew was that in their eyes, I would never amount to anything.


A few nights later, I pounded my hands on the table with tightly closed fists and let out sighs of frustration, as I attempted to complete my homework. This frustration was all too familiar since the English language was often a barrier to my understanding the work. The words detached themselves from the composition paper and scrambled into each other. It was up to me to unscramble those words. Occasionally, I would feel an urge to give up after hours of completing only six out of the twenty grammar problems, but as I got up to assemble my books, I visualized my classmates sneering their remarks, "Haitian, go back to your country" echoed in my mind as I once again stared at my now unscrambled puzzle. It was now nine o'clock (six hours later since I returned home from school) and my body grew sore from sitting on the wooden kitchen chair. Sitting next to me, was my twin sister struggling with her homework questions, while my exhausted mother sat in the middle of us attempting to help us but couldn’t because of the lack of sleep she had due to a day job, with only a few hours before she started a night shift as a janitor.

As I combatted to complete homework assignments, “Go hang out with your friends!” thundered in my head everyday. Despite the clamor, I always decided to stay home and continue with my studies. I gave up doing the typical teenager activities like going out with friends, going to the movies/skating rink, or getting the latest Air Jordan sneakers due to the limited amount of money my mother earned. While my friends were snacking on popcorn watching the latest movies, I was at home studying the myriad subjects that filled my school schedule. Looking back at my childhood days, one may say that I was deprived of my childhood. In retrospect, I do not regret these sacrifices, for the result of such sacrifices each day helped me matriculate into the Gateway Honors Program at Clara Barton High School. It was during high school I discovered that I wanted to pursue a career in medicine, and sought out opportunities to learn more about the medical field.

One amazing opportunity that made a tremendous impact on me was the Health Professions Recruitment & Exposure Program (HPREP) at Weill Cornell Medical College, where I gained more knowledge on the medical field and hands-on anatomy laboratory experiences. As a minority with very few opportunities due to financial needs, I was truly grateful that I had the chance to excel in such a program that gave me the inspiration needed to overcome the adversities I faced towards the path to success. One year following the HPREP program, I received my acceptance letter into the distinguished Educational Opportunities Program (EOP) at the Binghamton. This achievement was very satisfying, as I knew that I wanted to excel and return to Haiti in the future to implement what I’ve learned in the U.S. to my deprived nation, therefore I continued to work hard to stay on task.

Attempting to stay on task, one early 6:00am morning while reviewing before an 8:45am Organic Chemistry course, I had a moment to myself. Full of stress due to financial problems (student account holds/home issues), I realized that my life is literally hanging on a piece of thread, which can break loose at any moment. Being unfortunate when compared to those that are financially stable, I can not afford to make any mistakes during my undergraduate years, even though I am single, and I do not have any children to care for and being dependent under my idol, my mother. Being fatherless my entire life, and having a mother that was never able to financially support me even if it meant not being able to pay for a senior trip or to attend a high school prom, I’ve learned to find beauty in simplicity. I’ve slowly managed to take care of “me”, even if it meant living on a bi-weekly Work-Study paycheck to pay a pre-paid phone service or to buy necessities while living on campus. These financial/early academic struggles I’ve been through over the years has taught me that my life is not a punishment but simply a challenge to see how much I can push myself to allow self-growth.

One significant experience that allowed myself to grow as a student and as a person was a recent 5-week study-abroad trip at Filseccam Universite in Port-au-Prince, Haiti as a volunteer teacher. Being able to travel back to my homeland with four other SUNY Binghamton students, allowed me to give others a second chance at learning the English language, something I struggled with but conquered over the years. During these 5 weeks, I made sure that my students were my first priority. I taught a classroom of 13 students. Although it was a small class, many of my students were “above the average”. In fact, there were several times I had trouble finding work to give them. It turned out these students child were considered “dirt poor” and lived on farms. It was hard to believe because they dressed so well (business causal) and came in every morning with smiles on their faces. During a small certificate ceremony that was held, I was told that the 5 weeks I taught their class, was the most enjoyable 5 weeks of their lives. I was completely ecstatic when I learned this. Although my students came from underprivileged families (like myself) and did not attend top schools, they needed a teacher to believe in them since they did not have the financial means, and I was beyond honored to be that teacher that gave them a second chance.

Waking up the last day in Haiti feeling very nostalgic and fighting back tears, I was sad to be leaving a group of amazing students that I've spent a considerable amount of time with. This 5-week study abroad program has become a part of my lifelong learning process and each experience has incorporated the skills I will need for my educational and career-related goals. Reminiscing on my academic/financial struggles, it is clear to me that these experiences have taught me to become a dedicated student and to persevere throughout my studies. My Haitian students taught me to stop lowering myself against the racial slurs of misunderstanding students and to forget about my financial instability. Instead of allowing my painful beginnings in America as an ESL student or being unable to “rock” the latest $300 pair of shoes to thwart my opportunities, I used them to overcome obstacles. As a result, I learned that where there is pain and poverty there is also beauty and happiness, we just have to look a little harder. I am grateful for financial aid and would not be in school without it.

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Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Miltiade for for sharing your college essay From Nowhere To Somewhere. Good luck to you.



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My Struggles

by Lindan Lin
(SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, the United States)

My Struggles – College Admission Essay - I heard sounds from the conversations between Ms. Chu and the students while sitting in the Chinese classroom as a teacher aide. It may be pains to learn a language, but no gain without pains. This proverb drew fragments of memory to flash in my mind. For an instant, the time had frozen in that moment when I had just come to the United States. It resembled a dream; it felt like a fiction. I closed my eyes, and then opened them. Suddenly, I stood in the land of the United States.

The excitement of being in a new country had not faded away, but the problems had arrived. A person who has never been a foreigner in a strange country can not understand the difficulties I had. "Sorry, I do not understand," was the sentence I said most often in school. When teachers began classes, my brain filled itself with question marks and the only emotion I felt was confusion. "What are they talking about?" "What do they laugh about?" "Are they laughing at me?" This kind of thoughts began to appear in my mind. I even could not express what I thought. I lost my confidence and was upset about it. Sometimes, I thought that I became a deaf and dumb person in the United States. So the only thing I could do was copy down notes so I could translate them into Chinese at home, only to translate them back into English on my homework assignments and papers. And I guess you could say the dictionary and I were hand-in-hand.

"Please take out your homework so I can check it." The history teacher said at the beginning of the class. Did I have homework from last class? I didn’t know there was homework! I hadn’t done it! When the teacher stood next to me, I was so embarrassed and my face turned red. I could feel the temperature of my face getting higher and higher. My heart beat so quickly that it seemed to jump out of my body. I wanted to dig a hole and bury myself. The teacher looked at my desk. She did not say anything to me and but turned around to keep checking homework. After class, I asked the teacher to write down the homework for me. Oh, I just knew that homework was written on the sideboard. "It is so terrible without English." These words appeared in my mind. From then on, I did all my homework on time, and continued to study harder.

That hard work was rewarded when my ESL teacher congratulated me on my excellent grade when I received my first report card. She told me this good news with a big smile. At that moment, I felt that the sun seemed brighter. The trees seemed in high spirits. The air seemed fresher. A smile climbed up my face. And I felt a great sense of achievement from my heart. I proved to myself that I could acclimatize myself to where I lived now.

"Lindan, can you help me?" I was in a daze for a short time before recovering. "Oh, no problem." I was back in Ms. Chu's classroom, role-playing with the kids, looking at the students who were learning Chinese. In them, I seemed to see myself two years ago. I smiled proudly at just how far I've come.

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Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Lindan for sharing your college admission essay about your struggles with learning in a foreign language. Good luck to you.

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