50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays - Tanabe Gen, Tanabe Kelly 2009
“Moving” by Laura V. Mesa
The quick ripping of thIck tape and the heavy thuds of cardboard boxes echo throughout an empty, unfamiliar, and lonely house.
As the heavy boxes are slowly opened and their contents revealed, my young heart jumps for joy. There, within that scant and unexpectedly durable shell of cardboard, lie my invaluable possessions. After removing the bubbly layer of protection from my valuables, I begin to place them, one by one, onto my familiar, yet strangely new shelf.
I first lift out my ragged and faithful stuffed animal Mr. Teddy.
Though torn, dirty and missing his left eye, he reminds me of my youth and the one constant friendship in my life. He has traveled with me thousands upon thousands of miles to and from each of the seven vastly different living experiences that have defined my life. Mr. Teddy has been there with me throughout the difficulty of every one of the transitions in my life.
next, I pull out a small, fragile lamp decorated with blue and white pinstripes. A small yellow duck lives at the bottom of the glass com-partment. As I fumble with the rotating switch, I see that only two of the three different settings are properly working. now, after years of travel, only the nightlight and brightest setting work. I leave the light on at its brightest setting and place it on my night table. The brightness comforts me.
I return to the box to pull out my thick, denim blue journal and my favorite ink pen. I flip through the pages, pausing to glance at my informal collection of favorite pictures of friends, articles, and tidbits of memories that I have compiled through the stages in my life. I open to the last section of the book and glance at my favorite quotations al-phabetically sorted by subject and author. I look up Woody Allen and smile at his ridiculously funny honesty and place my journal on the ledge next to my window.
After refueling my ink pen I scoop up my carefully packaged rosary and Bible. As I crack open the case, the pearl white beads of my rosary glint in the sunlight and my ivory covered Bible, given to me on my First Communion, opens to the front page. There, written in my aunt’s handwriting, is a greeting written in Spanish and signed by my now deceased grandparents. These two items represent one of my only connections to my relatives and the history of my family in Colombia: a common religion and a belief in Providence.
After saying a quick prayer of thanksgiving I pull out my final and most necessary possession. The dust flies off the glass as I blow across the surface. There, under the grime of travel, lies my own face fixed in time. Enclosed within a light maple frame, a color photograph captures my eleven year old self clothed in bright purple soccer shorts and a white sleeveless uniform shirt. My hair is tightly pulled back in the quintessential ponytail, sweat dripping off my skin and dirt covering my socks. My face is frozen in an expression of relief, domination, and triumph after scoring the game-winning goal in the merciless sun of a Houston summer. I study the image and wipe a single tear from my eye. My knee aches sympathetically, and I prepare to hang the picture.
As I pick up the hammer, I realize that although soccer is no longer a part of my life, I have filled the vacancy in my heart with other challenging and significant activities that I have grown to love with the same fervor. That picture, though simple, encompasses the passion that is my life. It will forever symbolize for me the love and dedication I have for everything I do.
With a last glance, I hang the heavy frame on the wall. The box is empty, unlike the room. Although the room is only filled by a few items, it is occupied by the only items I will ever need for the rest of my life: friendship, humility, self-expression, family, god, and passion.
The framework for this essay provides a way to tie together a number of things that are important to Laura. She covers five different sets of objects; and through each of these, she reveals a part of herself.
What makes this essay especially effective is that Laura works her thoughts into the descriptions of the items. For example, she writes, “I begin to place them, one by one, onto my familiar, yet strangely new shelf.” By describing the shelf as “strangely new,” she reflects her apprehension about having her possessions in a new setting.
Through Mr. Teddy we learn that Laura has moved many times.
Relocating is always difficult and requires acclimating to new surroundings, choosing different friends, and perhaps even adjusting to an unfamiliar culture. The admissions officers can conclude that Laura is probably someone who is flexible in new situations, adept at making friends, and willing to establish roots.
Laura shows her sentimentality when describing the lamp. We can imagine that at one point, all the settings worked. Her description makes us wonder for what adventures the lamp has provided light as Laura worked to see her way through them.
As someone who keeps a journal, Laura shows that she is self reflective. She is a person who is introspective and has a sense of humor, mentioning Woody Allen. These are qualities that probably piqued the interest of the admissions officers. They like to see students who can take a step back to reflect on their actions and who can laugh about life.
Through the Rosary and Bible, Laura shows her connection to religion and her family. We learn about her family ties to Colombia.
The heart of the essay is the soccer photo. Through the photo, she introduces her background with the sport and how an injury stopped her from playing. But she also reveals that when she did play, she played hard and was good at it. Laura then shares that other activities have filled the void of soccer. What makes this part of the essay work is that she shares her feelings in an unguarded and honest way.
The flow of Laura’s writing is just right. She covers many aspects of herself and highlights her values by providing enough detail in her description of each item that it emphasizes its meaning.
Through this essay, the admissions officers learned a lot about Laura—that she has made many transitions throughout her life, she is sentimental about her past, she is introspective, she has strong connections to her family and religion, and she is a person who commits herself with passion. As you are writing your essay, keep in mind that you have a similar goal—to reveal something about yourself or your values to the admissions officers. They want to know what makes you the person who you are.