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A Teen's View

College application essays

April Hildebrand

November, 2009

So I'm sure you're all wondering- what's the excuse for me not having an article last month? Two words- college applications. What a never ending process! Every extra hour I had in my day for the last month was spent producing, revising, and editing college essays. I never really considered that the process was so detailed and that my response to the essay questions would make or break my application.

I started my application to the University of Maryland College Park in September, fully aware of the November 1st deadline. I wrote two essays and sent them to my coach via email. His response- "Call me." So I called and fortunately for me he was brutally honest, "They're trash and make you sound like you are five years old." So it was only my first shot, no need to get angry just try again. He made some suggestions and I wrote two entirely different essays, reflecting on two separate topics.

The first one was relatively well written, and I only spent about another two hours total revising it until I was completely finished. About a week later I tackled the second essay. I spent five consecutive hours in front of a computer typing, backspacing, and typing some more until I was fully confident the 300-or-less word essay would be up to the college's standards and expectations.

I forwarded it on to my coach and received another "call me" in response. I didn't call for a few days; I dreaded hearing his "it doesn't make sense" speech. However, I eventually edited it again until I thought it was wonderful, yet again and sent it to him. "You need to start from scratch; your ideas do not make sense." "But I spent five hours…" "Start over!"

That essay truly got the best of me. I spent many stressful hours staring at the computer screen clueless on what to write about, plus another hour full of anger, anger at the world for not understanding my thought process. For the next two weeks, I didn't even look at the Maryland application. I eventually trashed that essay completely and wrote about an entirely different topic and ironically, it received my coach's immediate approval, only taking about forty-five minutes to construct.

As I reflected upon his approval, it occurred to me that when I try to force ideas into my head, rather than letting my thoughts flow into words, it takes much more time and the product isn't as great. When I just wrote what was on my mind, it was a masterpiece!

In mid-October I decide I wanted to apply to North Carolina State. I went through the standard college application pages and entered all of the basic information that every college application requires. As I get to the last page, the essay/personal statement page, I see the deadline- November 1st. WHAT!

I had spent hours upon hours for Maryland and I wasn't even finished and NC State's deadline is in less than fifteen days! Taking a deep breath, I decided to check into Florida State and see if I could perhaps use the same essay that Florida requires for my North Carolina State application. That night, I called out of work, because not only was it time to finally prioritize, but I saw Florida's essay question and my brain stopped functioning.

"For almost one hundred years, the Latin words, "Vires, Artes, Mores" have been the guiding philosophy behind Florida State University. Vires signifies strength of all kinds - moral, physical, and intellectual; Artes alludes to the beauty of intellectual pursuits as exemplified in skill, craft, or art; and Mores refers to character, custom, or tradition. Describe how one or more of the values embodied in these concepts are reflected in your life."

My coach suggested using Eventing, the Olympic equestrian sport I compete in as my guide to answer this question. As a bastion of old English tradition and culture, it was a logical choice and something I could write about easily. So I did and e-mailed it to him with my fingers crossed. His e-mail reply? One word - "Excellent!"

Hooray! I wouldn't have to spend another five hours revising and stressing over an essay that didn't make any sense! After this essay, I sent them on to my English teacher for final suggestions and/or corrections to complete the college essay process.

In the short time I was forced to write the several essays, I learned to value the opinions of the two people I asked to edit my essays, my coach and English teacher. After getting angry, refusing to write, pretending I didn't care, and finally reconsidering, I truly appreciate the time and effort they both put into assisting me with my essays.

Without their guidance and demand for excellence from me, I would have submitted poorly written essays that would have done nothing to help me win admission to Maryland, let alone any other collage. With the strong essays I now have, I anticipate my essays will indeed make my application.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Read other articles by April Hildebrand