Sacrificing my two weeks of winter break to spend ten hours every day working on the same 5 essays that could drastically alter the course of my life was oddly fulfilling. Applying to a university with an acceptance rate below 5 percent is usually a daunting process; applicants are forced to dig deep within themselves to answer essay prompts about who they are. 1000 words total for somebody to assess your 17 years of life on Earth in 5 minutes. Scary. But I enjoyed the experience. Having to write about who I am, what makes Camilo Camilo, and the why behind my life, made me realize a lot of things about me. I learnt through my own writing what I might be passionate about. I discovered a possible life mantra. Kitsch? Excessively so. When my admission officer holds my fate in her hands my essays aim to be a breath of fresh air after reading hundreds of identical applicants proclaiming they were the perfect student.
I based my application on the fact that I am definitely imperfect, with an appetite to grow. It’s illogical to think that any student is fully matured in high school, so I sought to reflect the most genuine version of me in my essays. When asked what was meaningful to me, I answered with honesty. The bowl of oatmeal I eat every morning is meaningful to me, which I attempted to explain in 250 words or less. When asked what made me genuinely excited about learning I answered with the concept I see in every class I’m in: culture. When asked about a distinctive element of my background that made me who I am today, I wrote 650 words about the time I brought a pigeon to school. Will any of these essays work to gain me admission to my dream school? Who knows. But I am happy I did not put up a facade. I would much rather they reject me for who I am than accepting me for someone I am not, keeping up a false image of me through four years of college would be exhausting.
Writing such important essays is not easy. Again and again, I had to delete sentences I loved and had spent hours working on. Being open to input is not easy when you’ve spent 40 hours wordsmithing a paragraph and someone tells you it needs to be deleted. But I appreciated the brutal honesty my friends provided for me; it elevated my essays ten-fold. If not for them telling me that my essays were hot garbage, I would have submitted them in early infancy. Tight word limits were not kind either. Boiling down so many thoughts and reflections to only 250 or 650 words means an inner struggle and fight every time you delete a phrase. I worried deleting so much would kill my message. Except for the more words I deleted, the better my writing became. When every word must be there for a purpose, you must choose only the most meaningful ones.
The biggest challenge was finding a balance between deep reflection, introspection and light-hearted humour. I could not write boring essays about who I was, or people would sigh as they read them. I could not write purely funny essays because people would laugh but not learn anything about me and recommend me to a comedy school instead.
Life and vividness had to be infused into my writing. I consciously thought about that objective while writing. Maybe that will be what pushes me into the pile of accepted applicants: simply being who I am. I sure hope so. April 1st we find out.