EssayMama writing team has collected top college essays of 2015 from students who entered the best Ivy League schools. Be inspired!
Using this theme as a starting point, write about a person, event, or experience that helped you define one of your values or in some way changed how you approach the world. Please do not repeat, in full or in part, the essay you wrote for the Common Application. “Princeton in the Nation's Service” was the title of a speech given by Woodrow Wilson on the 150th anniversary of the University. It became the unofficial Princeton motto and was expanded for the University's 250th anniversary to “Princeton in the nation's service and in the service of all nations.” Woodrow Wilson, Princeton Class of 1879, served on the faculty and was Princeton's president from 1902–1910.
As Woodrow Wilson noted in Princeton's 150th anniversary address, the university's history is a story that is still being written today through education and political service. I resonate with this on a personal level as my own story to date begins and ends with the act of public service.
There is a Quaker saying that states, "Let your life speak." If my life could speak for itself, it would speak in vehement tones and a passionate voice. It would speak about the story of a girl who was born into a dream, a dream which she took and turned into a reality through the act of service that Woodrow Wilson spoke so fondly of.
On November 15, I was sitting in the Oklahoma State Department of Education awaiting my turn to interview for the United States Senate Youth Program. Four short months later, I found myself sitting in the White House as one of the two selected delegates from Oklahoma, awaiting the arrival of President Obama. There I was, sitting in the historic home of the presidents who had worked to define the American Dream. Interestingly enough, the American Dream is the means by which I have made my own dreams come true. It's the magnetic pull that compels me to pursue public service as a career. It's the testimony that my life speaks of in abundance.
Without a doubt, being raised by immigrant parents taught me about the importance of public service. Both my parents were born into poverty, and were only given the bare necessity to make a living: an education. My grandparents told my parents not to pay them back, but to pay it forward by using their education to change the world for the goodwill of others. That's how my parents' American Dream began, and how it continues to exist through me. Despite having much more than my parents had at my age, my parents continue to instill in me this same mindset. The American Dream is about working hard to ensure not only your own prosperity, but the affluence of society as a whole. They taught me that community service - the act of making the world a better place - is the best way to utilize the skills and education that I've been given. As a result, my life now speaks to the success story of public service and says plenty about the dedicated and compassionate leader I am.
Through the dreams of my parents, I managed to find my own. Because of them, I have learned to approach the world selflessly. Largely due in part to their never-ending support, my early interest in service blossomed into a passion, that has now transformed into a calling - a calling to protect the American Dream, the one that makes individual dreams possible, for everyone. Surely this is the dream that Woodrow Wilson spoke of in Princeton's famed 150th anniversary address.
If my life could speak for itself, it would attest to the durability, longevity and reliability of hard work, the importance of service and how they all add up as a sum of my character. I share Princeton's sentiments, as I too have lived out my life story in this great nation's service, and in the service of all nations. My life has truly been an American Dream, built from the ground up, fortified through aspiration, diligence and toil. Woodrow Wilson believed that the pathway to a better world could only be found through service and I could not agree more; I can only hope that I am already well on my way down that path.
Why I Refuse to be Silent
"Wow I thought black people are supposed to be scary." This honest and uncensored statement that a little girl recanted as I recited my biographical speech on Florence Nightingale clothed in the white sheets that represented Ms. Nightingale's pure heart tore down my dignity and self-esteem to shreds like a machete chopping off the foundation of a plant. Nevertheless, these words instilled a spark in me to relentlessly stand up for others that are unjustly judged.
Many years later, I was prompted to act when my friend grumbled about how the Day of Silence for LGBTQ individuals that I and some members of the diversity club initiated was garbage. At first I ignored him, but then as I overheard him tell his likeminded friend that he would "never have a college roommate who was gay," that very spark in me was lit and I felt morally obligated to challenge this prejudiced line of thinking.
I began to ask him if he would really refuse to have a roommate who was gay. As our conversation escalated, his face turned red, my heart beat faster, and our voices grew louder. My friend felt that one couldn't be a devout Catholic like myself and yet support gay marriage. I countered by attacking his Biblical argument that gay marriage is a moral abomination with my belief that Christianity should be about love and acceptance of others. After a drawn-out argument in which I constantly refuted my friends points, I remembered that inner beat-down I had suffered many years ago that had really triggered my confrontational stance. This was about a whole lot more than a logical or ethical argument, this was about an attack on my human rights.
I don't know what it feels like to be gay, bisexual, or transgender, but I do know what it is like to have a facade of inferiority hang over me because I look "scary." I know how worthless it is to pat the victim on the back or assure him in times of privacy that "it doesn't matter what she thinks." This applies even in the most intimate of settings as I find my friend is not the only one I must confront on such issues but also my own personal heroes. "But granny regardless of what the bible says isn't the struggle for gay rights just like the struggle for racial equality?" I know that it may seem wrong to challenge those that have unconditionally loved and taken care of you, but I must do so in order to ensure that others can feel this same love from all people.
I speak up because when one sees an injustice and just shrugs one's shoulder it is just like promoting it. We live in a society of interdependence in which we must be allies for each other in all social spheres for the continual progress of society as a whole. If one analyzes any prolonged societal injustice against any social group in history, one will see that a critical component in its persistence was the silent approval of the unaffected. I will admit that it can be very confusing at times to stand up for others, especially when it involves challenging ideal systems I've always considered absolute or people I look up to. But in order to reap the vast benefits of the great diversity around us we must take to heart the sorrows of our fellow human-being and make them our own.
A wrong decision can be the beginning or end to a lifestyle. In the seventh grade, I nearly ended my music career by opting to select a simple course - Music In Our Lives - that met the state music requirement. But this decision would have left me empty. With the help of Mrs. Brown, my then orchestra teacher, I was able to not only meet the basic requirement, but also continue the beginning of my musical journey. I am now a violist who has joyously played for nine years. I also continue the beginning of my musical journey. I am now a violist who has joyously played for nin years. I also now take music in my life. It is the first self-taught and the longest course I have ever taken.
Music has become the spark of my intellectual curiosity. I directly developed my capacity to think creatively around problems due to the infinite possibilities in music. There are millions of combinations of key signatures, chords, melodies, and rhythms in the world of music that wait to become attached to a sheet of staff lines and spaces. As I began to explore a minute fraction of these combinations from the third grade onwards, my mind began to formulate roundabout methods to solve any mathematical problem, address any literature prompt, and discover any exit in an undesirable situation. In middle school, my mind also started to become adept in the language of music. Playing the works of different composers, such as Kol Nidrei by Max Bruch and Coriolan Overture by Ludwig Van Beethoven, expands my diverse musical vocabulary, my breadth of techniques and my ability to practice in order to succeed in solo performances.
Music has also become the medium for my roles in the community. While onstage as Big Jule of Guys and Dolls during my favorite musical, I helped create a wonderful atmosphere in the school auditorium by singing and dancing. Whenever I perform, whether as a bassist in Men's Doo Wop Group or as a violist in Chamber Ensemble, I become immersed in the conversations between performers and the audience. As I become lost in these conversations, I create blissful memories in which I am truly part of my community's culture and eventually its history. I would not have the admiration of my teachers and friends if I had not let the charisma of music persuade me to become a performer in my school, town, and state.
Lastly, music has become the educator that has taught me the importance of leadership, teamwork and friendship. It has taught me the importance of order and balance. When I lead a group, I know how strong that group can be if every member puts one hundred percent effort into our task. Leadership is not always about directing others. The most important task of a leader is to create harmony between each member of the group, which reveals the group's maximum potential. With improvement and balance comes success, and music taught me all of these virtues. The bonds I have made throughout my school years endure though stress. These powerful bonds came to be because my friends and I endured against the adversity found in high level pieces of musical literature. I thank my teachers, viola and voice for creating the environments that nurtured these friendships and learning experiences.
My haven for solace in and away from home is in the world of composers, harmonies and possibilities. My musical haven has shaped my character and without it, my life would not be half as wonderful as it is today. It was a wise decision to turn down the course Music in Our Lives. The self-guided journey known as music in my life excites my mind every day. My heart sings every day because the journey is already wonderful. Although I hope that my future career is in medicine, I love that I still have much to learn about and from the world of music.
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