For the third and final post about the new ApplyTexas prompts, the College Readiness team has returned to tell you how they would have answered Essay C if they were still in high school!
Check out our posts for Essay A and Essay B if you haven’t seen them yet.
Essay C:You’ve got a ticket in your hand – Where will you go? What will you do? What will happen when you get there?
Kate: I might write about having to fend for myself in New York City with a MetroCard – I was incredibly proud of myself for successfully making it from one place to another without missing my stop or going the wrong way. I was also horrified by the number of passengers who squeeze onto the train, stop after stop, during rush hour. I could recount details from my New York adventure and compare my observations of life in the Big Apple to the life I’ve grown accustomed to in Houston, TX – an entirely different kind of big city.
Another idea could be having a ticket to see Queen perform live at Wembley Stadium in 1986. Obviously this would be entirely made-up and hypothetical, since time travel doesn’t exist (that I know of), and I hadn’t even been born at this time. I think by choosing this topic, I would be able to write about my favorite band ever as well as the significance of the iconic location (btw I’m into the EPL) and the pride I would feel for my motherland (England) in that moment.
Tip: This prompt is a great opportunity to talk about your interests in a creative and imaginative way. Try to think beyond a plane ticket or wristband to ACL (sorry, but writing about your love for music festivals will probably make you blend right in with all of the other 17-year-old applicants being considered). You could potentially write a narrative essay about something that has already happened – I don’t think that this prompt limits you to writing about future/hypothetical situations. Also, if you write about having a ticket to Austin to attend the University of Texas (or whatever city/college you’re hoping to be accepted to), admissions counselors’ eyes may roll into the back of their heads. Please don’t do that.
Alex: I was a giant history and literature buff in high school, so I would definitely have wanted a ticket to one or more of J. R. R. Tolkien’s 1936 lecture series Beowulf: The Monsters and Critics. (I was also a huge LOTR nerd, so this would have been right up my alley.) Because I majored in Creative Writing (and applied for admission under said major), this particular event would not only have reflected my interests at the time, but would also have been relevant to what I was planning on studying for the next four years.
And if I wanted to go the less “pretentious” route, my other choice would be a ticket to the Academy Awards. I minored in Film Studies (and knew that I wanted to do something related to film when I was applying to college), and so this is an essay idea that would once again mirror my external hobbies and interests while also having a link to my academic goals and aspirations. However, in writing this essay, I would do my best to stay away from gushing over my favourite celebrities (ideally, my seat would be right next to Ewan McGregor’s) and instead focus on networking opportunities and the possibility of discussing film and film theory with some of my favourite directors, screenwriters, and producers.
Tips: What’s cool about this essay is that it has the most room to show off your creativity as a writer. The question is open-ended enough that you can come up with a more original approach or a twist on the theme itself. Just be careful not to get too far away from the prompt itself: creativity is awesome, but not to the point where your essay scenario no longer has anything to do with the initial question. A great way to start brainstorming for this essay would be to imagine places or events that you’ve always wanted to see or attend (something along the lines of “If I won the lottery tomorrow …”), and see where your ideas take you. Another option for tying this particular prompt to your academic interests would be to consider upcoming symposiums, concerts, lecture series, or gallery openings that are directly related to what you want to study in college that you would love to attend, if you only had a ticket to do so!
Eriel: Now, high school Eriel most definitely would have said a one-way ticket to Tokyo, Japan. And you know what? Present Eriel might do the same thing. I was (still am) completely in love with anime, manga, and the Final Fantasy series (#GeekinItOver9000). I partnered with a friend of mine in high school to create a graphic novel – I provided the content, he provided the images – and that project was fueled by our mutual devotion to all things anime. So, if high school Eriel got her ticket to Tokyo, she would’ve prayed that the ticket came with a one-week stay at Square Enix HQ (a.k.a. The Final Fantasy Gods) so that she could utilize that opportunity to network, shadow the masterminds in the design, storyboarding, and music departments, learn the ins and outs of a video game development empire, study the conception, creation, and eventual publication of a video game, and hopefully test out some of those games prior to their release (#BusinessAndPleasure). I’m a complete sucker for a good story, and I will time and time again get lost in great stories. The beauty of the video game industry is that you not only witness/read the story, but you’re in it – playing it, controlling it, living it. And the greatest part? It’s usually 50+ hours of story that you can relive a number of ways. My sole disappointment with a good book, movie, or television show is that when it ends, it ends. Videogames are, in a way, neverending stories, and I dream of being a part of that creation process.
An alternative destination but similar approach: a ticket to Pixar Studio. I would have been game for any opportunity that allowed me to learn, travel, and develop my skills as an artist all at once.
Tip: This is a creative essay, so take advantage of that when you’re writing. You can stretch it in various directions. It can be a way for you to show off your personality, interests, and creativity. It can also work as a way for you to showcase your personal and/or professional goals. Take some time to outline what you want to say and how best to say it. Make a list of places you’d love to go, events you’d love to see, or people you’d love to meet. Use that list as your foundation and try to visualize an essay for each item on the list. Which one best reveals your personality and/or interests? Which one allows you the most freedom to write? Which one can you draw enough content from to write an essay? The time and effort you put into outlining and brainstorming a topic like this one will save you some major agony when it comes time to actually writing it.
In order to write this essay, it is helpful to take a step back from the sometimes panic-inducing task of focusing on your college applications and instead look around. As you go about your day, maintain awareness of things that ordinarily seem insignificant, to the point that you may be taking them for granted.
For instance, remind yourself of the neighborhood you wake up in every day, the foods available to you for breakfast, and how you feel as you pass through your community on your commute to school. Reflect upon the impact your surroundings have on your day-to-day life and the ways in which they have fostered your personal development. You are probably familiar with your surroundings, to the point where they don’t seem particularly remarkable to you, but you are trying to introduce yourself to an admissions committee that probably knows very little about your hometown.
After reflecting on this exercise, you might realize that your work ethic stems from your gratefulness for the sacrifices your immigrant parents have made in order to give you a chance to succeed, or it could take the shape of your precocious desire to study geriatric medicine and hearing-loss pathologies because you have grown up in a town where the majority of your community is of advanced age.
This thought experiment is the perfect way to start dissecting what it is about your surroundings that has shaped you into the person you are today. Most importantly, it will show your essay reader that you have matured enough to be able to speak about yourself in a frank and vulnerable way. As long as you speak your truth, there is no wrong answer.
That being said, as you tell your story, you will want to avoid clichés and stay true to the complexity of your experience. If you have struggled to overcome obstacles, you don’t need to present yourself as a heroic individual that has achieved success because of your own grit and determination. You can acknowledge the bonds of friendship or family that helped you hold yourself together during tough times. There is nothing wrong with asking for help, and indeed having the courage to reach out and the humility to acknowledge your support network is one way to demonstrate maturity.
If you needed to watch after your father while he was suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s, you might talk about how you had to work with your sister to watch him in the evening, and how sometimes you needed to get out of the house and play soccer with your friends in order to be able to come back inside and commit yourself to the work of care all over again. Maybe that experience is part of what made you want to get into nursing, not only to help patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, but also to encourage patient’s family members to take care of themselves.
If you describe poignant tales of overcoming hardship and obstacles in your response, that is fine, as long as it is the truth. Some applicants might think that exaggerating their tales will score with admissions officers, but admissions officers are not judging your essay based on the level of hardship you have overcome. Rather, the question they will ask is what you’ve learned from your experiences and what kind of person you will be when you join the Texas A&M community.
One last word: As we’re revising this guide for the 2017 application season, the rains have only just barely stopped falling after Hurricane Harvey. The environmental, economic, and political dynamics of this disaster will be thought about and debated in the coming years as people try to rebuild more resilient cities in a changing climate. The students, faculty, and staff at Texas A&M will be taking part in this conversation.
If you were affected and feel so moved, you can certainly talk about your experience of the storm in your essay, even if you think that a lot of other applicants will also be talking about the storm as well. A major disaster contains a multitude of narratives, and if you focus on the particularities of your experience — what you lost, what you saw, how you imagine going forward — you will be making a contribution to a conversation about Harvey that will continue for years to come.