“Beauty” by Anonymous - Personal Growth

50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays - Tanabe Gen, Tanabe Kelly 2009

“Beauty” by Anonymous
Personal Growth

Yale University

People say that inner beauty matters more than outer beau-ty. But when I looked into the mirror and saw my face covered with unsightly blemishes, it was hard to tell myself that and believe it. By the time I entered high school, my acne had gotten worse, and my self-esteem was at an all-time low. So in the summer of ninth grade, I embarked on an unexpectedly difficult and emotionally trying quest for clear skin, an experience that culminated in one of my proudest achievements.

My typical daily diet consisted of sugary cereal for breakfast; salty turkey sandwiches, soda, and chips for lunch; a candy bar for snack; and rice and fried noodles for dinner. I never thought that my diet would be a cause of my acne, but the possibility first came to me when I was reading a skincare article. Desperate for a cure, I searched “clear skin diet” on the Internet. The websites that turned up all echoed the same message: a balanced and healthy diet is crucial for beautiful skin.

The recommended foods listed included large portions of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and fish; 8 glasses of water daily and only small amounts of high-sodium, high-fat, and high-sugar foods. I researched further and found out that the expensive chemical cleansers that I had been using were not the answer—gentle face washes and a coat of sunblock were inexpensive products that could reduce breakouts. I knew that changing my entire diet and skincare routine would require a tremendous amount of commitment and willpower. But determined to improve my skin and my self-confidence, I began to transform my lifestyle. I started by incorporating fruits and vegetables into my meals and replacing sugary cereal with whole grains, chips with carrots, and fried noodles with salmon. For a long, painful week, I stuck to this diet and restrained myself from any junk food. My skin condition changed gradually but substantially. By the end of the week, my skin was noticeably smoother, clearer, and brighter. Yet I found myself relapsing, unable to continue for long without indulging myself, unable to swal-low the horribly plain salads and chewy carrots. Every time I stopped, the acne came back. It came to the point where I despised the acne and coveted the clear skin enough to force myself back on track. It became an excruciating pattern of cravings and self-restraint. I struggled with these two impulses until I became used to healthy eating, even enjoying it. now, two years later, my skin is better than ever and I have never gone back to eating the way I had before.

I have no awards or medals to show for my particular achievement.

But no academic distinction in the world can match what I gained from my experience with changing my diet: healthier skin, self-confidence, and newfound mental strength. Above all, I realized that by improving my outer appearance, I had enriched my inner appearance.


“Beauty” provides an intimate portrayal of the author’s struggle against acne. Most admissions essays tend to focus on resume-worthy activities. As the author admits, “I have no awards or medals to show for my particular achievement.” But this essay shows that accomplishments in one’s personal life can also be just as successful as essays focused on more prominent or recognizable activities. Other essays in this book also use personal topics not obviously related to academics or typical extracurriculars to give us a stronger sense of the author’s personality, such as Alex’s “Box of Chocolates” (Chapter 9).

This essay stands out for its candor about the author’s feelings of low self-esteem when she saw the “unsightly blemishes” she faced each time that she looked in the mirror. The exacting details of the essay help show us the ups and downs in the author’s “unexpectedly difficult and emotionally trying quest for clear skin.” After sharing the results of her extensive research, the author concludes, “I knew that changing my entire diet and skincare routine would require a tremendous amount of commitment and willpower.” The essay then goes on to show the waxing and waning of the strength of this commitment. Like other essays that share about weaknesses and strengths, this account humanizes the experience, allowing us as readers to relate to the process. For instance, we can admire the author for her restraint during “a long, painful week” of a completely different diet. Anyone who has ever failed to keep a New Year’s Resolution or other lifestyle transformation vow can sympathize with the statement, “I found myself relapsing, unable to continue for long without indulging myself.” The author’s un-savory descriptions of “horribly plain salads and chewy carrots” add a humorous touch of detail to the essay while also underscoring the difficulty the author experienced in changing her diet. Rather than present an easy problem-solution setup, the author frankly shows us the cyclical nature of this journey by sharing such statements as this one: “It became an excruciating pattern of cravings and self-restraint.” This essay shows that essays need not describe rapid changes and eureka moments; stories about gradual transformations and processes with many setbacks or retrogressions can also be quite compelling. In the case of this author, she struggled with cravings and self-restraint until she “became used to healthy eating, even enjoying it.”

The conclusion nicely sums up the key lessons found in this essay.

Besides the obvious benefit of healthy skin, the author also gained “self-confidence, and newfound mental strength.” The reference to the classic expression about inner and outer beauty helps introduce and conclude the essay. This creates a nice wrapped-up effect. The author’s changing attitudes towards the belief that “inner beauty matters more than outer beauty” shows her transformation. At first, she doubted both her outer and inner beauty; but after her two years of determined lifestyle modification, she found her inner life enriched by her improved outer appearance.