WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:22 PM Page 1
WESTERN RESERVE ACADEMY
College Essays 2013
WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:22 PM Page 2
Western Reserve Academy adheres to a longstanding policy of admitting students of any race, color, creed, religion, national and ethnic origin subject to all the rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national or ethnic origin, or disability in the administration of its educational policies, scholarship and loan program or other school-administered programs.
WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:22 PM Page 3
Introduction Each year high school seniors across the globe, including our own here at Western Reserve Academy, pour their hearts and souls into the writing process as they attempt to formulate the 500-word essay that best captures them as individuals for their college applications. It is a daunting task, for sure, but we in the College Counseling Office believe that we see far too many students produce excellent essays that are never shared beyond the confines of the college application. As such, we are very proud to share this, our inaugural College Essay collection. Contained herein are eight essays written by members of the Class of 2013 that were submitted as part of our essay contest. The top three essays are noted accordingly, but all submissions represent some terrific writing by our students. We hope to preserve this collection for posterity, and this exercise is one we hope to continue in years to come. I would like to thank the faculty members who served as judges for the contest: Matt Gerber (History), Matt Peterson (English), Dr. Beth Pethel (Science), Kevin O'Brien (English) and Katie Bonomo (Mathematics). Additionally, special acknowledgment should be extended to Kelly Hedgspeth and especially Anna Freeman, for directing this project from its infancy. Jeffrey R. Neill Director of College Counseling
WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:22 PM Page 4
Untitled Max Rosenwasser ’13 (First place)
y first role in a theatrical production was an understudy for a dead corpse. Not a claim to fame, but I didn’t want fame, I preferred playing dead, literally. My sophomore year, I was determined to audition for the musical, Little Shop of Horrors. But since I fled the auditorium crying before even having gone onstage, I settled on operating the man-eating plant as a stagehand. I had conquered the divide between death and life, but still lived in the shadows of plant stomachs, unable to overcome my internal anxiety. This August, two years later, I starred in a three-man show, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged). Obviously, there was nowhere to hide, nothing between me and an auditorium filled with people. In fact, several times I found myself alone on stage, performing monologues and dance routines, and making an utter fool of myself. Looking back, it’s hard to comprehend how a poor little Jewish boy who puked out his fears before his Bar-Mitzvah evolved into a comedic extrovert singing “A Whole New World” onstage. As cliché as it might be, I owe the most credit for my transformation to “finding myself.” Freshman year I wrote a note to myself pleading that I would discover who I was by senior year. I am proud to say that I’ve honoured the wishes of my younger self and unearthed my various identities. Several experiences allowed me to do this: involvement in the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), writing for the Reserve Record, and of course, the theatre. I was nervous to join GSA as a freshman, but within a few months, propelled by enthusiasm and initiative, I became co-presi1
WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:22 PM Page 5
dent of this new club. Over the past two years, I have sculpted and nurtured it into one of the most active organizations on campus, but at a price. It demanded that I make public announcements about controversial topics, frequently lead meetings, and be comfortable with my own sexuality while helping others do the same as well. But in return, I gained experience and confidence. The Reserve Record, our school newspaper, at first seemed a daunting enterprise, boasting the motto of â€œlongest-running newspaper in Hudson, Ohio.â€? Nevertheless, I signed up to write an article my freshman year, not knowing that my article about the schoolâ€™s leaders would be displayed on the front page. Receiving praise instead of shame, I decided to continue writing, eventually becoming Associate Editor. Through this medium, I discovered an outlet for my expression. All this confidence and expression translated into a progression of roles in the theatre. From stagehand, to stage manager, to actor, to lead actor, I grew more comfortable expressing myself. I had discovered Max the writer, the actor, the leader, and all my various other identities, leaving a solid nugget of self-awareness at the bottom of the sieve. My stage fright had been conquered and in conjunction, my entire personality has shifted from introvert to extrovert, from a follower to a leader, from dead corpse to Shakespeare enthusiast.
WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:22 PM Page 6
Untitled Eilidh Jenness ’13 (Second place)
egan Henderson?” “Here!” “Sarah Howard?” “Yeah?” “Matt Irving?” “Here.” I learned to anticipate the pause every substitute teacher makes before the next name on the list and fill it with my voice before awkward attempts and guilty pandemonium ensue. “It’s Eilidh,” I offer. “It’s like Hailey without the ‘H’, Bailey without the ‘B’, or Kaylee without the ‘K’.” I repeat it once more, “Eilidh,” and grin, reassuring the victim that “it’s ok, no one ever gets it right the first time.” Noting the confusion smeared across his or her face, I’ll give a phonetic spelling, too. “That’s pretty,” the instructor always replies, following with a polite question about the origin. I never know if the remark is a genuine compliment or a resurrection after the word I use to identify myself is crucified. Regardless, I smile in gratitude and recite an answer about the name’s Gaelic roots, adding that my parents discovered it in Nova Scotia if I’m feeling loquacious. By the time a judgmental Jane King mutters “here,” ten minutes have passed and I am best friends with a lovely woman sporting a perm and bifocals or a raspy man with a ketchup stain on his tie. When my Montessori kindergarten teacher sweetly explained in a hushed tone during a personal reading conference that my name “doesn’t follow the rules,” I thought it was a burden. My parents, a sensible Susan and judicious Jim, obviously intended evil. When educated adults struggled with the pronunciation, I cowered in the corner, separating the small fingers that covered my face just enough to watch the blubberers sweat and squirm 3
WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:22 PM Page 7
as they sputtered words like “Elijah” and “Alida” and even “Eyelid.” Because of my lifetime of experience with awkward exchanges, I can navigate the murky art of conversation. I sit up straight, embrace individuality, and ignore “personalized” knickknacks in gas stations. I exploit an easy way to impede potential dates, innocently agreeing to give them my phone number if they’re able to spell my name. I entertain a few guesses and then triumphantly scamper away, a modern Rumpelstiltskin. Through nervous laughs and uncertainty, I have made many friends. Ultimately, I recognize that I am capable of being unforgettable for other, better reasons that I control. “Eilidh Jenness” now correctly echoes over loudspeakers at volleyball games and podiums during awards ceremonies and appears free of typos folded between the pages of newspapers and literary publications. In many ways, my name has made all of those things possible. Its unique spelling forces me to jump to introduce myself, armed with an easy conversation starter and reassuring smile. Owning a name like “Eilidh” requires sociability and demands humorous compassion. Perhaps most importantly, my name shoved me into an identity and forced me to flourish or be called Eyelid for eternity. We go together, my name and I, defining one another as we defy contemporary phonetic standards and a society of star spellers. I am Eilidh, eloquent and enthusiastic, equipped to take on the world.
WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:23 PM Page 8
TXU001174912: The Rewards of Persistence Nick Sovich ’13 (Third place)
ncredibly, store owners had the audacity to think people would pay fifty dollars for a piece of paper, but even more remarkable was the fact that they were right. I was in third grade, and children my age were lining up to pay merchants these impossibly high prices for “rare cards” in a then popular trading card game called Pokémon. I remember asking my mom why I could not develop a game of my own. To this she humorously replied, “Why can’t you?” Although my mom viewed our conversation as nothing more than a trivial exchange, I interpreted it quite literally and set off to develop my own product. I began drafting rulebooks, designing cards, and ordering materials as my unknowing parents carried on with their lives. Determined to create something suitable for market, I personally contacted printing and packaging companies, and my mom recalls receiving strange phone calls from Hewlett Packard inquiring if Mr. Nicholas Sovich were home. She would hesitantly respond, “Yes, but he’s eight years old.” It had never occurred to me that there was anything odd about the situation. I only knew that I needed more ink. After nearly two years of work, I applied for a copyright, and later received notification that my game entitled “Ragie” was granted registration number TXU001174912 and would be under the protection of the US Copyright Office. I ran promotional advertisements in the paper, and ultimately achieved my goal by convincing local retailers to carry my product. While I did not become a millionaire as a result of my pursuit, I 5
WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:23 PM Page 9
learned a tremendous amount about the marketing process and about pursuing goals in general. As a young child I had perhaps an overly ambitious attitude and enough naiveté to ignore potential obstacles such as my age. However, while reflecting on my experiences such as this one, I am convinced that in a society full of skeptics, a certain degree of naiveté and idealism is necessary in order to overcome the doubts of others. A curious symbiont existed within me, causing me to pursue the loftiest of my ambitions, and this insatiable creature continues to thrive inside me today. When my coach congratulates me on cutting ten seconds off a personal record on the track, my automatic response is to want to shave off twenty more. When I enter speech and debate competitions, even as an underdog freshman, I always set out to challenge the four-year veterans. When teachers suggest it will be nearly impossible to place first in Ohio in the TSA TEAMS engineering competition, I simply become more motivated, and I cannot help but remember their comments when our team is later named first in the entire country. As Thomas Paine once put it, “The harder the circumstance, the more rewarding the triumph”. It is this type of statement which has guided me in my endeavors, and I have personally experienced its validity through my attempts to escape the fetters of cynicism.
WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:23 PM Page 10
Phatida Audrey Brown ’13
t age ten, I would tell you my favorite animal was a fish (I had five). I would peer through the smudged glass of my tank, watching my goldfish swim in boring ellipses, perfectly content with just looking at them. I reserved as a child; set in my ways of watching animals, but never petting or playing with them. I was admittedly a bit of a germ-a-phobe as well, which only further hindered the situation. Now if anyone asks what my favorite animal is, I spit out “elephant” before they even finish the question. Last summer, I traveled to Thailand where I was taught the art of elephant handling by “mahouts” (Thai for elephant trainer). Given my apprehension around animals, petting anything other than my family’s terrier is rare. But as I stood beneath the enormity of my elephant, Phatida (Thai for “princess”), with her sad, brown eyes, I longed to feel her trunk and pet her ears. Upon touching her, my hand was greeted by a prickly sensation; my perception that elephants were completely smooth was false; they are lightly covered with long, coarse hairs, like the bristles of a broom. As I gently stroked her side, she continued swinging her trunk and tail in a tandem, metronomic fashion, flapping her ears back and forth like two heavy, grey flags. My mahout told me those movements meant she was very happy. After much petting and picture-taking, we were told to mount our elephants. My eyes darted about wildly in search of a step ladder of some sort. Standing at a staggering five foot one, I was rather dubious of how they expected me to climb on top of an eight-foottall elephant without assistance. Fear hung across my friend’s face like 7
WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:23 PM Page 11
a banner, so I volunteered to go first. â€œTack long!â€? uttered my mahout in Thai, and suddenly the elephant knelt down and bowed its head to the ground before me. I used to be a gymnast; surely this was nothing more than a simple vault routine. So I took off at full speed towards the elephant, hopped up and over her head, and straddled her neck. Slowly, I felt myself being lifted towards the sky. I sat marveling at the creature breathing underneath me, so massive that I could lie down on top of her and stretch out, which I did. I massaged her rough skin beneath my palms, and ran my hand along the large divot in her head. Overwhelmed with amazement, the thought of germs never entered my mind even as horse flies zigzagged around my head. I was trying something incredibly unknown to my world, and I was completely captivated by it. I saw the shadow of my ten year old self standing on the ground, shaking her head in disapproval, and smiled triumphantly as I took in my surroundings once more. Before I was called to dismount, I leaned in and planted a warm kiss on top of Phatidaâ€™s head.
WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:23 PM Page 12
Untitled Molly Clark ’13
rad Pitt changed my life. As an easily influenced thirteen year old girl, I became enamored with his wind-blown hair, his welldefined jaw, and that smile. Oh, that smile. And in A River Runs Through It the boyish heart-throb from Montana, played by my beloved Brad Pitt, captured my soul. However a few short years before I discovered my fascination with Brad Pitt, I had an equally passionate dislike for fishing. Fortunately, the beautiful face of Brad Pitt enticed me to watch his fishing movie and by the first scene I fell in love with the romanticized idea of wading in a sun-drenched river catching beautiful, leaping rainbow trout. Therefore, I spent months waking up at dawn to practice the proper casting technique until I finally felt ready to attempt a fly fishing weekend in Montana. In Montana, fishing is the center of many people’s lives. They work as guides, own ranches, or are the fly expert at the bait shop. Waiters in restaurants ask “how’s the river today”, before asking what you would like to drink; state troopers are more likely to check for your fishing license than your driver’s license, and your worth is measured by your best fishing story. The enthusiasm of the people that I met quickly changed my opinion of fishing. Every evening guests at the lodge gathered together to exchange stories from the day. I quickly learned that it is always appropriate to double the length of your fish when recapping stories and then to lie about the color or size of the fly that worked so well. I learned that exaggerating is just as natural for the people I met as is casting a line. And in the end the fishermen have just as much fun telling their stories as creating them. The sport develops into a religion; one pours mind, 9
WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:23 PM Page 13
body, and soul into the river. And while I did learn to catch fish, what I really learned was to fully embrace the challenge. This mentality is contagious and seeped quickly into the rest of my life. When I am working towards a desired goal, I focus entirely on that objective until, like a fisherman, I start to pour all my energy into each activity. When I complete a task, I proudly show it off hold it up to the camera like I did with every fish I caught, my arms extended so it looks even larger. I often regret rejecting so many opportunities to fish as a child, so now I work on giving things many chances, and I never tell myself that a sport or class simply â€œisnâ€™t for me.â€? Since my trip, I have stopped waiting for Brad Pitt to convince me to try something new. I know that new experiences are worth any initial discomfort. And now as I am given opportunities to try unique activities and take on different challenges, I pledge to devote my entire soul towards the process like the fishermen in Montana.
WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:23 PM Page 14
I am Tradition Sam Clark â€™13
ppleskeevers? Ableskefers? Obolskavers? No, Ebelskivers: a fried dough concoction blanketed in powdered sugar. Hailing from the cold, desolate expanse of European soil some call Denmark, these spherical pancake creations have warmed the frozen stomachs of the Danish for centuries. As Cleveland shares the same soul-crushing winters, it seems natural that the tradition lives on here. This Christmas Eve artery blocking ritual is shared with my oldest family friends, creating a true reunion which transcends the simple feast of sugar and dough. In a scene straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting, their kindly old grandmother creates the warm dessert as we gather around the kitchen table and chat about past holidays and experiences. Once theyâ€™re served, my personal tradition is consuming my own age in ebelskivers, a habit which will ensure I never reach an age in which I must eat more than thirty in one sitting. After eating well more than my fill, I waddle home to sleep off the calories while I wait for gifts to appear under the tree and another tradition-filled day to begin. I love traditions because I love to bring people together. The greatest aspect of traditions is the shared common experience. Seven years ago my family moved halfway across town, away from the neighbors with whom we share our annual ebelskivers. Our Christmas Eve tradition kept our friendship thriving though our interactions are infrequent the rest of the year. When we do see each other, we often reminisce over the past years and look forward to the upcoming Christmas. The nostalgia of reliving past years of activities with others is almost better than the actual tradition. Traditions at 11
WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:23 PM Page 15
institutions like schools vastly expand the concept of shared experience, allowing members of my school who may have never truly met still reminisce over the common commencement experience or the collective shared suffering of Saturday classes. As the tradition lives on for future classes, the shared experience transcends generations, bringing old alumni together with new freshmen under a common bond. From the curse given from stepping on my high-schoolâ€™s seal to the lacrosse teamâ€™s signature warm-up to my familyâ€™s Jack-o-Lantern carving contest, traditions present opportunities for me to connect with my family, friends, and teachers about the past, present, and plans for the future, defining my daily life. These traditions spur conversations and bring feelings of connectedness that eclipses the activities themselves. When people can look back together on a tradition and converse about how it helped them, or how it was fun, or even how they all hated it then and they still hate it now, it creates an unbreakable bond. I want to create that bond with as many people as I can, and traditions are the path I use to achieve this. I want to embrace more traditions while continuing the ones I already cherish, and that might just mean bringing my ebleskiver pan to college.
WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:23 PM Page 16
Untitled Andrea “Andie” DiBiase ’13
y tent shakes in harmony with the claps of thunder as branches mysteriously brush against the sides of my shelter. As the darkness of the night grows, I drift into a daze somewhere between sleeping and daydreaming. Frigid liquid soaks into my many layers of clothing before I truly wake up, realizing puddles of water have formed inside my home for the next forty-eight hours. Quickly remembering my recently learned survival skills, I reach for my backpack to scavenge for something dry to contain my warmth. The simple task rapidly turns into a painful fight when I realize all feeling has been lost in my fingers. I let out a few words of frustration, attempt to wrap my hands in wool socks as a substitution for gloves, and lay back down praying the sun will soon arrive. When it finally does, my struggle for warmth has not made any progress but after a day of lying in a tent, I crave any contact with a ray of light. Poking my head out the unzipped entrance, a winter wonderland greets me with frost covering the now not so mysterious branches and a thin blanket of snow carpeting the ground. I slither back into my tent like an animal going into hibernation. My mixed emotions overwhelm my head, not knowing whether to cry in pain or laugh out of joy from being in such a beautiful place. Eventually I regain composure, hit by the reality that I am voluntarily alone in the northwoods of Wisconsin, part of my semester at Conserve School. A year prior to my solo camping experience, I would never have dreamed of traveling hundreds of miles away from home to a semester school. Leaving friends, family and all of my commitments 13
WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:23 PM Page 17
behind in the middle of my junior year would have sounded like a nightmare. I was a private school girl who worried too much about my grades and constantly obsessed over my appearance. However, I knew that underneath this seemingly materialistic girl was someone with a deep desire to see the world beyond Northeast Ohio, but it appeared that this hidden ambition would likely remain unfulfilled. My prayers had been answered after taking part in a student conservation (SCA) program in California during the summer before beginning my junior year. After a month out west, nothing felt the same anymore. I knew that by discovering my passion for nature, I had changed for the better, even if it wasnâ€™t fully understood by my friends at home. It took only a week back in my town to realize I needed to find myself another journey. Reflecting on the person I used to be, I pack up my frozen tent and compress my damp sleeping bag, remembering my frustration from yesterdayâ€™s morning. I smile to myself finally realizing how much I have to look forward to in the future. I make a promise to myself to live with joy, explore with passion and make a difference in the world.
WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:23 PM Page 18
Untitled Tzu Hsiang “Tomson” Tai ’13
slipped on my best, black v-collared shirt and smoothed off the wrinkles on my khakis, held up stylishly by my favorite belt. Stepping in front of my bedroom mirror, I ran my fingers through my slick black hair, admiring my polished look. I radiated confidence; after all, today was the day I started working as a YMCA camp counselor in a summer camp program for children in rural areas. I dared not say where my misplaced confidence came from- regrettably I disregarded the advice given by my mentor. Look, I am seventeen; they are ten. What could go wrong? Utterly defeated, I lost my composure on the first day. As a counselor, I instructed archery, but its difficulty discouraged my group. After five minutes, they were chatting among themselves, completely ignoring me. Meanwhile, some complained, some insulted me, and so naturally, I exploded. I slapped away their clinging hands around my neck and legs. My heart pounded as my lungs screamed for air. Too late. It will be easy, I had thought, but what a nightmare. As I sat there depressed, one of my kids walked over. With his cute, disarming smile, Yang asked me what’s wrong, obviously confused. But his naivety was the puzzle. When he suddenly bear-hugged me, my heart skipped a beat and butterflies flew into my throat- a high school junior, being comforted by a first grader? He then ran back to the archery range, where previously quiet, was now buzzing with activity. Silently, I cursed myself. They were burning with excitement, but it was my rigid teaching style that killed their enthusiasm. So to rekin15
WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:23 PM Page 19
dle their energy again, I prepared an archery contest between the kids and me. Fortunately, they enjoyed it. Their capacity to trust me despite my mistake forced me to see things in another perspective. Had I started off as a mentor instead of isolating myself as the instructor, the incident would not have happened. On the other hand, I learned to interact with them, not to mention earning all their hugs. Yang unsurprisingly, gave the best farewell gift by wiping all his tears and mucus onto my shirt, making me a nice souvenir. Seeing it mounted on my bedroom door, I smiled. I did it- I had touched their hearts. Undoubtedly, I will encounter challenges in the future, and I will approach it with an open mind. I reflected upon myself, realizing that true kindness lies not only in generosity but also in empathy and understanding. If nothing else, working as a camp counselor provided a valuable lesson as to what it means to be a global citizen- not only must I be able to interact with my peers, but also others, regardless of their age. I have much to learn, though I have gained much from this experience, knowing that the culturally diverse group of students in college will push me further. College is the next step, the place for me to further develop my own thinking and character.
WRA college essays 13 v4_Summer reading 04.qxd 6/5/2013 2:23 PM Page 20
Western Reserve Academy College Counseling Office 115 College Street Hudson, Ohio 44236 330.650.4400, ext. 8200 www.wra.net