Looking back at my college essay

You find the most random items when procrastinating. 

I was avoiding another essay by cleaning up my Google Drive when I came across my college application. Inside was an overly complicated chart to track all my applications, 26 lines of “ejaldjifealfkdja” from a particularly stressful night thinking about the future, and my college essay.

The former two items weren’t surprising. I have a history of crazy organization documents and abusing my computer in the late hours of the night. However, the college essay interested me. 

It was complete nonsense. 

Seriously, believe me when I tell you that my essay was baloney.

I responded to the Common Application prompt: “Some students have a background, identity, interest or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.”

I wrote about how I was adopted from China and grew up surrounded by questions like “what about your ‘real’ family?” and how that affected me. 

It would have been a great topic if it wasn’t mostly made up. While I did encounter all the badly worded questions whenever my adoption was brought up, I didn’t find it insulting or hurtful that people didn’t realize how rude they were being when saying “real.”

A person writing in front of their computer. Thalia writes about the strangeness of writing about oneself for college applications. COURTESY OF J. KELLY BRITO VIA UNSPLASH

My sibling — who is also adopted — and I knew that it came with the territory. We’d quickly correct or joke about how our “real” parents were at home, which confused people 

In my essay, though, I emphasized feeling there was something wrong or different about me when I was younger because of people’s questions. In truth, I liked answering questions about being adopted because it isn’t something you see every day. 

Looking back, it seems foolish and ignorant to create a hardship that wasn’t really there, but I felt like I had to. I was told for years that college essays had to be revealing, interesting and unique in 650 words. It was even better if it was about overcoming hardship to become a greater self.

But, from my perspective, it didn’t take a cool idea or a big struggle to find my identity. I was just me, a person who wanted to get accepted into college and not fail my calculus test the next day. I had a pretty standard life that wasn’t exciting. 

I felt like I had nothing to write about, and I tried so many random ideas that didn’t work. 

I attempted to talk about running the yearbook, but that took 600 words to only explain Barrington High School’s yearbook system. I tried a weird topic about loving soup, which turned out to be a rant about the best soup.

The struggle was real. 

Writing about yourself is strange, and I wanted to avoid it at all costs.

I finally forced myself to do it in a 5:00 a.m. haze. Looking back, it was a terrible decision, but I learned to appreciate autocorrect and Grammarly. It was the only time of the day I could get over cringing at the personal pronouns and manufactured importance of my story. 

In the end, I gave up. I finished the essay and decided not to look for any better options. In my haze, I was 95% sure I wasn’t getting into any college with my poorly written essay. 

My confidence levels lowered even more when I heard other people’s ideas. Someone told me they were writing about how they connected to “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and why they’d be in the Water Tribe. Another person told me they were writing about going to different international camps every year to learn a new language. 

Hearing these great ideas for essays — before and after I wrote mine — put pressure on me. I became paranoid about college and how my essay was not attention-grabbing or interesting. 

Even now, I still can’t believe they let me into Boston University, but I’m extremely grateful. 

I understand how helpful college essays can be to a university’s application process, but all I can say is that they gave me extreme amounts of stress and paranoia. I thought I had to be something I wasn’t and over exaggerate a problem I never really saw as one. 

One thing is for certain, though: applying for college is so much worse than being in college. 

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