Essay introduction analysis
Tell us about your experiences as a New American. Whether as an immigrant yourself, or as a child of immigrants, how have your experiences as a New American informed and shaped who you are and your accomplishments?
Feel free to discuss how individual people (such as family or teachers), institutions, aspects of law, culture, society or American governance made an impact on your life as an immigrant or child of immigrants. The program is especially interested in understanding and contextualizing your accomplishments, be they personal, professional, or academic.
Essay prompt impressions
This prompt seems almost as vague to me now as it did when I applied back in Fall 2009. My experiences as a New American? How they shaped who I am?
Once I took a step back, I realized that the vagueness of the prompt—and this is true of almost every college and scholarship essay prompt—presented a great opportunity. I could effectively write any essay and somehow link it to being a New American.
Before I show you my essay's introduction, let's take a look at an example of how most applicants would approach the prompt above:
Typical opening paragraph
Ever since I was young, I have been fascinated by mental health difficulties. This curiosity likely developed from my own experiences with Tourette Syndrome. Around the age of 9, I exhibited facial and bodily tics that concerned my parents. These tics also made me the laughing stock of my classmates, which ultimately made me embarrassed.
This opening is very straightforward and provides information without the reader having to envision anything. It barely appeals to emotions, and it seems very robotic. Let’s compare that to what I actually wrote.
My opening paragraph
Growing up in Los Angeles, I was quite the troublemaker. My parents often recall how I used to wreak havoc in and out of the house, hiding or misplacing important bills and cookware and playing in the dirt. However, their concern peaked when I was eight years old and unable to control my facial and bodily tics. Soon thereafter, I became the target of ridicule from classmates, who would stare and laugh at me while imitating my tics. My ability to stay focused in the classroom was greatly impaired, as my struggle was not limited to the impulse to tic but also to a lack of understanding about my disorder. Even my father contended that I was exhibiting signs of “mental retardation.”
Do you think committee members would be interested in an applicant who calls himself a troublemaker in the first sentence?
Probably! A bold sentence breaks up the monotony from the many essays committee members read in one sitting.
Your child will get bonus points just for ridding them of boredom. Committee members will also be eager to find out how your child was a troublemaker.
The second sentence provides some humor with hyperbole (imagine little me "wreaking havoc") and quickly juxtaposes one form of "problem" behaviors (e.g., hiding important bills) with truly concerning symptoms of Tourette Syndrome.
I could have started the essay by writing about "receiving a Tourette Syndrome diagnosis at a young age" and how that was difficult for my parents and me. Instead, I created images in the readers' minds of my youthful misbehavior, exhibiting tics and being laughed at. These real world examples appealed to the readers' emotions instead of making them yawn.
The first paragraph also kept the focus on me. Students very often start essays talking about others because they find it difficult to talk about themselves. Remember that the reader wants to know about your child. Your child will have opportunities to focus on others elsewhere in their essays and throughout their application.
Typical second paragraph
Despite the challenges my family and I faced, I decided then that I would channel my experiences with the disorder to positively influence the world. I had no specific plan at the time and was too busy focusing on how to fit in and achieve good grades.
The first sentence of this paragraph does a decent job transitioning from the previous one. However, rather than developing thoughts, building imagery, or demonstrating any qualities, the paragraph reads like a list. Contrast this with…
My second paragraph
I clearly remember the day my mother and I finally visited a pediatric neurologist when I was 11 years old. Within minutes, I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome (TS). At the time, my parents did not fully understand the effects this uncommon disability would have on our lives. Despite my youth, I somehow knew TS would significantly shape my world and future goals.
Again, I depicted a scene of my mother and me at the doctor's office receiving news about Tourette Syndrome and my reflections. This beats saying "I was eventually diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome.
My parents had a difficult time accepting the diagnosis, but I was relieved to know that I had a diagnosable medical condition." That would have just "told" the reader what happened, rather than painting a picture and creating a cliffhanger.
Typical third paragraph
My goals of fitting in and achieving good grades reflect the ideals my parents impressed upon my brother and me. Specifically, having fled war-torn Lebanon in 1977, they sought a more stable life in the United States. They believed we could achieve this through education. My hard work resulted in admission to UCLA as a premed student, putting me on track to fulfill my parents’ wishes.
I’ll keep this short because you’re probably starting to see the trend here.
All of these typically-written examples give the reader everything upfront.
Is this how captivating books are written?
Imagine if the Hunger Games trilogy were written like this: “The rich people in the capital oppressed everyone in the outside districts. This led to resentment and eventually to Civil War. Despite the Capital’s best efforts to overpower the masses, the rebellion proved to be successful. The End.”
Would the trilogy sell more than 65 million copies in the US alone?
My third paragraph
My parents fled Lebanon in 1977 and settled outside St. Louis, Missouri. After the harrowing experience of witnessing his mother’s death during a grenade attack on their home during the Lebanese Civil War, my father decided that the country was unsafe to start a family. Unfortunately, life in the United States was not without its difficulties. Features like my parents’ dark, thick hair, characteristic of many Armenians, made them targets for racial slurs and prejudices. For these reasons, my parents hoped that my brother and I would benefit from living relatively structured, stress-free lives. Having internalized my parents’ wishes, I attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as a pre-med student.
Here, I begin to develop my story about my family background, how it influenced my parents' hopes for my brother and me in the United States, and one way in which it impacted my academic career.
This paragraph very specifically addresses the part of the prompt about "how individual people (such as family or teachers), institutions, aspects of law, culture, society or American governance made an impact on [my] life as an immigrant or child of immigrants."
The rest of my essay goes on to describe various academic and community experiences that steered me towards psychology, as well as serving underrepresented individuals.
The analyzed paragraphs provide concrete examples of how your child can write a compelling college essay by developing a story to demonstrate their positive qualities rather than listing attributes and achievements.
Many of my students feel that they don't have a good story to share or that they're not unique or special in any way.
The way I see it, every single person in this world is different from me, has experienced different things, and has interpreted these experiences in different ways.
Given how unique your child is, writing an interesting college essay has far less to do with what they've specifically experienced or accomplished. Rather, it has everything to do with how your child presents themselves.
In other words, your child is interesting, and they can write an interesting college essay.
If you found this article helpful, please share it with your friends, family members, and child's school.
Finally, please contact me if I can ever support you or give a free presentation—in person or online—at your school or organization.
This paper follows the idea that memories are usually idolized in good benefit and we seem to always neglect the bad parts about it. It tells the story of multiple events in my life that I always loved and remember and I decided to name the negative things about each situation that we all know about but never say. I am very proud of my analysis in this paper, and how I connected my stories back to my main idea. Also, I love my anecdote and how I went back to that idea in my conclusion. Some things I feel I could do better with in the future is adding dialogue into my story and let it run smoothly throughout the essay. Also, I hope my descriptive writing is good enough for the reader to feel exactly what I felt when writing this story and understand the idea of the entire paper.
I Want to be a Child Again by Tia Roberts
Running on the hard cemented ground where the pebbles felt like thousands of small hills my feet soon had to climb. Approaching the cold metal gates that were almost five times my height. Looking through the diamond shaped holes which opened a hole of happiness within my body. The sight of kids and laughter was all I needed to fill my body with a bursting dose of excitement. I loved the park, it was always my favorite place to go. But as time goes by I realize the pain I always endure; from the leaking blood streams of my knee or the plumping purple blisters that covered my fingers. I remember crying about every little scrape and always needing a person right by my side to take care of it. This made me question my constant need to be in this situation again. As we get older our memories of childhood all seem to be happy and something we wish we could relive, but we tend to forget all the negative aspects of our memories. When we think of the park we focus on the fun of it, like all the games and friends we made during each visit. We forget to mention the times when everything wasn’t so perfect at the park. Like that time when I lost my favorite toy, or all the red swollen hands I would take home just to ice because of the monkey bars. Not only did these constant bumps and bruises affect my cry baby childhood, but also my now partially adult life. The whole scenery of parks no longer resembled fun for me. Just many dull swing sets empty of life with all it’s tears in it’s hard black material. No hope for the slides filled with unrepairable marks and uncleansed kids. Childhood must have just sounded better in my mind.
Crawling on the warm fuzzy carpet from the playroom to my bedroom. The lights in the living room always had a gloomy look to them. Constantly observing the world around me was something like a habit. Having nothing to worry about but your own actions was one of the best features of childhood. Not a care in the world. Crawling up the steps felt like rock climbing because if I went too fast I would tumble and fall. But the fall was not my biggest fear. The fear of not reaching my destination was the biggest one. It crossed my mind more times then my body hitting the ground after missing my next step. Having the freedom to make my own moves was a good thing; until you realize that there was always a larger restriction. My imagination ran wild only to soon be caught by the ones who always towered me. Shadows of figures grew bigger and bigger, it seemed as if my day of play soon turned for the worst. No more running, no more toys, just lay in the bed and make no noise. But I loved playing with my toys from the play room and making a scene. Naming them and dressing them up how ever I wanted. Discovering that this feeling doesn’t last was like thousands of knives stabbing me in my chest. My idea of childhood has abandoned me and left me with unpleasant memories. This has now helped me escape this imaginary world of where everything is all fun and games to open my eyes to reality. The reality that not everything is good. Life when we were younger always seemed to backfire on us yet we praise it as a time we wish we could have back. No reliving, we continue on.
Daddy’s little girl sounds like the perfect title as it left the lips of the over towering stranger. Proud to be called that name, which left smiles on so many faces. Everything about it seemed perfect until I realized the importance of the title and all the actions that came with it. Always wanting my father and hugging him until my face loses most of it’s oxygen. Calling for him day and night and always wanting the comfort of him near me. “Daddy!” Sadly this wasn’t particularly my reality. Hugs went to the bear that was fluffier than a bed of marshmallows. Taller than a child like me and sweeter than a sweet tooth. I was a mommy’s girl which you don’t hear often but even so, as the years went on the bond slowly faded. The child that always wanted her parents became a child who could now explore an undiscovered world without them. The idea of the towering strangers became stranger than the idea of no comments at all. I realized maybe I like being the age I am.
Loud alarm clocks became smoothing beeps. Swaying side to side as I awoke from my sleep. Starting my day of a newly found adventure, now seemed like the greatest thing in my life. So yes I sat through my tedious classes and never ending periods, but it all came with my freedom of life and freedom of expression. Yes being young may have its ups and fun moments but it can also bring you down. Childhood is not always as amazing as it sounds. BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! I’m ready.