common app essay


How to Make Your Mediocre Extracurricular Essay Better (in About 30 Minutes)

Here’s how to take your essay from “mediocre” to “better” in about 30 minutes:

1. Look at your essay, identify the values you gained through your extracurricular activity, and highlight them in bold.

2. Ask yourself: are these values predictable? Could someone who hasn’t read my essay, in other words, guess what lessons I learned from this activity without reading it?

• Example of predictable values for violin: discipline, commitment, hard work
• Example of unpredictable values for violin: privacy, risk, personal integrity

Isn’t that second set of values already a more interesting essay?

(Bonus tip: make sure all your values are clearly different. In example above, how are “discipline, commitment, and hard work” different?)

So how do you turn your predictable values into unpredictable ones?

Cut the predictable values, then use your beautiful, infinite imagination to come up with new, unpredictable values. Dig deep. Think about specific moments of difficulty. How’d you work through them? If it feels tangential at first, keep digging; you might strike gold

Why will this only take you 30 minutes?

Because you are smart and original and totally competent.

Common Application Masterpost

The Basics

The Common App: What it is & How to Make Yours Amazing

- The Common Application

- Common App FAQs

- Five Things Applicants Need to Know About the 2016-2017 Common App

- Complete Guide: Which Schools Use the Common Application?

- Virtual Counselor

- How to Apply

The Essay

5 Common App Essay Tips That Will Actually Help You

The Common App Essay: What Matters and What Doesn’t

The 2016-17 Common Application Essay Prompts

Examples of the Essay

- Background and Identity

- Failure and Success

Challenging Beliefs

- Accomplishment or Event

What Matters Most To You, And Why?

Why I love the Common App Topics

K I was going through my inbox today (checking college questions and such) when it occurred to me that lo and behold I am late to the party in finding out that they have new Common App essay prompts

So I know this is quite belated but I need a moment of your time to fangirl about the potential of these new questions and hopefully in my musings, you’ll be inspired to think about your own essays in a new light. 

Who knows– maybe you’ll figure out a new way to phrase/revise something or be inspired to write another essay for a specific school or realize your essay is even more awesome than you thought it was before 

or maybe you’ll remember that you’re following a girl who is a complete nerd and fails at coolness but makes up for it in geekery 

1) Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

ok the prompt is a little condescending in it’s phrasing, that’s certainly clear. But I think this takes some of the pressure off of the traditional “essay of your choice” topic to allow students to label clearly as one of the most pivotal details that makes them who they are. You know how any good movie is comprised of a monumental moment or change in a protagonists life? 

We watch television to see the day-to-day lives of characters and to become engrossed in their every aspect of them but we watch movies to see the development and self-realization of a character one of the highest/lowest peaks of their lives? 

So picture this–you are narrating the premise of the movie of your life:

what is your movie about?

paint it, analyze it, make your reader become so attached that they want to keep reading on (or at least they’ll remember you months down the line when it matters the most)

2) Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

We can’t all be winners all the time. If we never failed at anything, we would never learn how to pick ourselves back up, adjust to the rising tide, and grow from it. The most interesting and well known people in the world were born of thousands of failures. 

I won’t get too much into it but that actor whose pictures flood your dashboard even as I write (won’t name anyone *cough*jensen*cough*) fails all the time but they’re making a name for themselves and doing great right? 


You’re exemplifying that you have some decent (albeit it probably sucked at the time) life experience and also showing that you’re a good sport who understands that the world is a series of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey events that all connect with each other and that one failure can lead to a world of new horizons which is what adults want to hear 

seriously they do, apparently employers want people who are team workers and adults tend to be impressed if you can bite the bullet and make the best of a situation w/o making a big deal of it all 

it shows you have humility, are mature enough to undertake the challenge of college, you know how to think critically (all of these prompts exemplify critical thinking skills if you write them well, which is part of the point of you writing them along with making sure you know how to write decently) 

so be interesting, have a good sense of humor and learn how to brush off mistakes and short comings while being able to move on afterwards 

people will like you more in the long run for it. show them why they should already think more of you now

3) Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

Congrats. If you’re reading this you are most likely moving forward into the realm of higher education (or are actively interested in becoming involved in it). As a full fledged college student, you will one day have the skills and opinions to challenge societal norms and do so eloquently. 

I don’t like how this one is worded either. 

You are totally capable human beings who know what you want in life. Maybe you don’t know what official job title you would like and how your resume will be formatted in five years, but those are semantics that you really can overlook for the time being. 

In this moment, you should know who you are, what you think is essential to a good life, a stable society, a better system of organizing thought and innovation and… well you get the idea. 

After 15+ years of being taught by your instructors what it meant, what it means and what it will mean someday (potentially) to be human, you’ve cultivated your own vision of the world.

You haven’t been sitting there like a lump on a log and obviously not everyone is going to agree with you all the time. Hell, some of them may even insult your intelligence or your ideals. 

If your story of standing by your integrity involves some more heated and discordant conversing than might be appropriate, then the last question on this prompt is giving you a choice: fight or flight. 

Flee and tell explain to colleges that maybe you were immature at the time or rash in your decision to speak up. Prove that you can conduct yourself professionally and will ultimately contribute to their vibrant academic discussions throughout campus. 


Fight and stand firm by your previous decision to let no one sway your logic and beliefs. WARNING: phrase this respectfully so as not to offend or antagonize any readers who may not agree with your point of view (& remember that as with life in general, you’re not going to please everyone so say what you mean, mean what you say and for god’s sake SAY IT WELL). But this option advocates for your roll as a rebel-rouser who will shake up the culture of their campus but for the better because you are learning why things are done the way they are but changing them because the system doesn’t work to the benefit of others 

Either way you take this part of the question will be fantastic for showing off your “moral fiber" 

which is a super weird term but I tend to find that most well adjusted and kick-ass independent people know not to just sit idle on the side lines when their environment is toxic to them and/or other 

4) Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

this has a ton of potential for really exposing who applicants are at their roots. most of the time people go through life keeping up facades for different people or in different circumstances and to discuss where and how a person is able to be themselves the most and be at their most vulnerable is not only poetic, it’s beautiful in its inherent nuances 

think of any fictional character you have ever loved from a fandom 

you didn’t fall in love with them because you saw them grinding their foes to a pulp while swinging their mighty battle ax 

(well maybe you did but it had a lot more to do with their majesty and less to do with the blood stains adorning their suit) i don’t even know what fandom i’m referring to now, maybe all of them at once?  

anyway you fell in love with the moments when they were alone or with the people that brought out the best in them. the people that kept them going until the end of the day in real life or in spirit with their memory. 

they stopped being powerful or clever or even atrocious and emotionally constipated and became relatable, justified and strong in their shortcomings and ideologies

You are the protagonist, this is your fandom, where do we fall in love with you and why is that?

5) Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

this one gives you an opportunity to narrate your own coming of age story as you perceive it which shows off your analytic and storytelling skills in addition to giving you more creative license with your narrative 

now I know this is the third (maybe forth?) time I’ve discussed writing your own life’s story 

which sounds pretty freaky and surreal and maybe i’m over simplifying it in a pitchy writing style that makes it sound easier than it really is

I mean you’re 18 years old, possibly younger, but assuming that you plan on dying of old age you have a long ways to go before you could write a lengthy memoir with meryl streep or morgan freeman narrating the film adaptation (patrick stewart could do it for you at any age just b/c he’s awesome) 

point being that I get it, the world has always told you that your life really begins when the "real world” does and after hearing that mantra for so long, you’ve kind of come to believe it 

and maybe if you’ve never been involved in a club or had friends, enemies, frenemies, hopes, aspirations and/or fears then maybe you could argue that you have nothing worth saying

but i assure you that if you’ve ever dreamed (more metaphorically but literally also applies too) then you’ve had life experience to base it off of 

growing up doesn’t happen instantly or over night or even in a detectable amount of time 

sometimes you wake up months later and realize that the way you think and choose has shifted and maybe it’s for the better (or worse)

but this change of state in mind is altered by many things. Maybe for the sake of time you need to focus in on one (or a few) events, but everyone has a story to tell. 

Don’t be overly dramatic about it, but there’s a lot of leeway to explore and experiment with your written voice in this topic.

OK it’s 1:30 and I probably sounded as insane as Ashton Kutcher at the TCAs (I’m just exhausted and befuddled by italian homework, I swear) but that’s all I have for you

drop me any and all questions in my inbox and yes, same as last year I am available for essay writing help and revising  

Writing the Common App Essay: Part 3

See part 1part 2, and part 4!

Once you have draft of an essay that you like, it’s time for the hard part: editing and revising. This is the part of the process where you can completely transform your essay, and it’s so important to do thoroughly.

Here are my essay editing tips:

  • Your essay should tell a story. It’s very difficult to write an interesting, engaging essay without a narrative arc of some kind. The prompts lend themselves to this kind of writing, so see what kind of story you can tell! 
  • Make sure your essay is about you. If you’re writing on prompt #4, for example, don’t write about global warming and the threat it poses to society. Instead, write about your passion for protecting the environment and the personal journey you’ve made (or want to make) to help save the world.
  • Conceal the prompt. If you’re answering prompt #2, you should avoid saying things like “I learned from my failure” or “my earlier failure helped me achieve success”. Admissions officers will read thousands of essays like this. Answer the prompt subtly; show, don’t tell.
  • Make a list of the personal qualities you want your essay to convey. Characteristics like resilience or open-mindedness won’t come across in other areas of your application, so make your best qualities known through your writing. Ask friends or family about your distinctive qualities if you’re not sure—sometimes they know you better than you do.
  • Rhetorical devices, particularly imagery and metaphor, are your friends. Look for opportunities to use them in subtle and interesting ways.
  • Make sure your own voice comes through. I found that the best way to do this is to have other people read your essay. Parents, siblings, friends, and teachers who know you well should be able to read your essay and say “yes, this sounds like you”.
  • People will have suggestions when they read your essay. Take everything with a grain of salt; this is your essay, and you don’t have to make every recommended change if you don’t want to.
  • Remember, this isn’t a formal, academic essay. You can (and should) write in the first person, use contractions, and employ everyday diction. You don’t have to use a thesaurus, have a thesis statement, or cite your sources.
  • If you do absolutely nothing else, make sure that your last sentence packs a punch. Go out with a bang and send a strong message!
  • You may end up rewriting most of your essay, and that’s okay. I kept the first two paragraphs of my first draft intact, and completely changed the rest of my essay. If you think you can tell a better, more personal, and more engaging story, by all means go for it. You’ll be much happier with your result!

Good luck, and happy editing :)

College Essay Masterpost
How to Write a Strong College Essay
The Real Topic of Your Essay is You
19 Common Application Essay Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
College Essay Style Tips
Essay Rocket Fuel - The Anecdote
25 Creative College Essay Ideas and Prompts
What Not to Write About in Your College Essay Part I & Part II
Tips for Answering Common Application Essay Prompts
The 7 Worst College Application Clichés And How To Avoid Them
How to Approach the Common Application Personal Statement Essay Prompts

Common App Question 1
How to Answer Prompt #1 of the New Common Application
Common App 1: Background and Identity

Common App Question 2
The Beauty of Failure: How to Answer Prompt 2 of The Common Application
Common App 2: Failure and Success

Common App Question 3
Should You Take the Challenge of Prompt 3 of New Common App?
Common App 3: Challenging Beliefs

Common App Question 4
The New Common Application Prompt 4 - What’s Your Problem?
Common App 4: Problem Solving

Common App Question 5
Should You Choose Prompt 5 For Your Common App Essay?
Common App 5: Accomplishment or Event

Why College X?
How to Answer the Most Common Supplement Question: Why College X?
How to Write a Perfect “Why This College” Essay
Why UPenn College Essay Example 1 – Penn Supplement
How to Write a “Why Us?” Essay Part 1 & Part 2
How to Write the “Why Us” College Essay
“Why University of X?” College Essay

Extracurricular Activities
Extracurricular Essays
How to Decided Which Extracurricular Activity to Write About
How to Handle the Common App Extracurricular Essay
How to Improve Your Mediocre Extracurricular Essay in 30 Minutes
Make the Most of Short Answer Essays about Extracurricular Activities or Work Experiences

Contribution to College X
4 Ways to Show How You’ll Contribute in the Future
Those “Potential to Contribute” Essays
The Effective Diversity Statement

Influence in Life
Sample Essays: Influential Person
Your Greatest Influence
Essay Tip #2-The “Influential Person” Essay
Model Essay on an Influential Person

Why Major X
How to Write the UC Transfer Essay - Why This Major?
Writing the “Why This Major” Essay (Video)

More Personal Statement Advice - DOs and DON'Ts

Do write about something that matters to you

Do keep things positive

Don’t write an essay you wouldn’t want to read

Don’t avoid contractions to the point of awkwardness

Do use strong imagery wherever possible

Do let your personality come through

Don’t start every sentence with “I”

Don’t think that a longer essay means a better essay

Do stay humble

Do stick to the prompt

Don’t be afraid to write unconventionally

Don’t use a thesaurus for every other word

Do stay true to your story

Do get a second (or third or fourth) opinion

Don’t try to make yourself sound impressive

Don’t use your friends as your primary editing assistance 

If I think of any more big ones I’ll stick them on here. Happy writing!

My college essay writing process

If anyone’s interested here’s what I do.
1. Look at the prompt
1a. Check if there’s any overlap with previous prompts I’ve written to before: this could mean reusing parts of or whole essays
2. If it’s a fresh prompt you gotta be a big girl. Free write. Don’t be afraid of rambling just let out all of your emotions and ideas in sentence form. Don’t pay attention to the word limit or cohesiveness just go for it.
3. At this point, you’ve probably hit writers block since all your frustration is out. Good. Now go to or whatever to see how much bs you’ve written and how much over or under you are of the limit. If you’re under, okay you have space to write more if you want. If over, time to cut it down a bit.
4. Look for any patterns or possible cohesiveness in your essay. See what ideas you can link together and which ones you can take out that are too weak, or offensive, or you just don’t like them or don’t relate to the prompt.
5. Move stuff around. Put like ideas together. Try to have some sort of order to the ideas like a flow.
6. Fix your grammar.
7. Look for an intro body and conclusion to your essay. If there isn’t throw it in.
8. Read it out loud. Does it sound strong and powerful? Does your author’s voice shine through? How do you know? Paste it to Hemingway. Do most of what Hemingway tells you; lose adverbs, more active verbs, less passive voice.
9. Send it to your guidance counselor and ask them to read it and give feedback.
10. Take feedback and fix it.
Try to get the released essays done over the summer. I hope yall get into wherever you’re applying! Let me know if this was helpful.

How to Write Your College Essay in Just One Night


This is for those of you who are experiencing extreme writer’s block, have procrastinated till the last minute, or are feeling just plain lazy. I love you and I have been you.

Oh, and this is for students who have not experienced significant challenges and do not know what they want to study in college. If you have experienced challenges or you do know, click here.

Here we go!

First, take 15 minutes to do the Objects and Values Exercises.

Next, get a blank sheet of paper, draw a vertical line down the middle, at the top of the right column write the word “My values,” and list your 3-5 most important values, with space in between. (Example: “knowledge” – skip an inch – “nature”– skip an inch – “music.”)

In the left column, beside each value, describe an image that shows how you developed that value. (Example: beside the value of “knowledge” you write “I sometimes stay up ‘til 3am surfing obscure Wikipedia articles” or beside the value of “nature” you write “when I go camping alone with just a tent, my journal and five lbs of trail mix.” You get the idea. Everything in the left column should be visual, like a snapshot or scene from a movie.

Put your little movies in order-–chronological often works-–and describe each image or movie in a brief paragraph. (Important: don’t mention your value.)

Write transitions between the ideas so there is some sense of flow. This part will take the longest. (Hint: if you write them chronologically you can use basic transitions such as “A few years later…” or “When I entered high school…” as placeholders and tweak later.)

At the end, describe some of the values that you’ll carry with you into and beyond college no matter what career you choose.

For examples, check out the Scrapbook Essay or the Five Families Essay.

And if you’re not panicked and want to do this essay thing in a more carefully thought-out way, go here.

Good luck!

Example Personal Statement: "Grandma's Kimchi"

The following is a real college application essay. We are using it with the writer’s permission.

Every Saturday morning, I’d awaken to the smell of crushed garlic and piquant pepper. I would stumble into the kitchen to find my grandma squatting over a large silver bowl, mixing fat lips of fresh cabbages with garlic, salt, and red pepper. That was how the delectable Korean dish, kimchi, was born every weekend at my home.

My grandma’s specialty always dominated the dinner table as kimchi filled every plate. And like my grandma who had always been living with us, it seemed as though the luscious smell of garlic would never leave our home. But even the prided recipe was defenseless against the ravages of Alzheimer’s that inflicted my grandma’s mind.

Dementia slowly fed on her memories until she became as blank as a brand-new notebook. The ritualistic rigor of Saturday mornings came to a pause, and during dinner, the artificial taste of vacuum-packaged factory kimchi only emphasized the absence of the family tradition. I would look at her and ask, “Grandma, what’s my name?” But she would stare back at me with a clueless expression. Within a year of diagnosis, she lived with us like a total stranger.

One day, my mom brought home fresh cabbages and red pepper sauce. She brought out the old silver bowl and poured out the cabbages, smothering them with garlic and salt and pepper. The familiar tangy smell tingled my nose. Gingerly, my grandma stood up from the couch in the living room, and as if lured by the smell, sat by the silver bowl and dug her hands into the spiced cabbages. As her bony hands shredded the green lips, a look of determination grew on her face. Though her withered hands no longer displayed the swiftness and precision they once did, her face showed the aged rigor of a professional. For the first time in years, the smell of garlic filled the air and the rattling of the silver bowl resonated throughout the house.

That night, we ate kimchi. It wasn’t perfect; the cabbages were clumsily cut and the garlic was a little too strong. But kimchi had never tasted better. I still remember my grandma putting a piece in my mouth and saying, “Here, Dong Jin. Try it, my boy.”

Seeing grandma again this summer, that moment of clarity seemed ephemeral. Her disheveled hair and expressionless face told of the aggressive development of her illness.

But holding her hands, looking into her eyes, I could still smell that garlic. The moments of Saturday mornings remain ingrained in my mind. Grandma was an artist who painted the cabbages with strokes of red pepper. Like the sweet taste of kimchi, I hope to capture those memories in my keystrokes as I type away these words.

A piece of writing is more than just a piece of writing. It evokes. It inspires. It captures what time takes away.

My grandma used to say: “Tigers leave furs when they die, humans leave their names.” Her legacy was the smell of garlic that lingered around my house. Mine will be these words.

- via collegeessayguy

Six Techniques for Writing Your 150-Word Extracurricular Essay

If you’re applying early action, you’re probably working on one (or several) short extracurricular statements. First, a quick FAQ:

Q: Why do so many schools ask for these?
A: The Common App used to require students that students write a 1,000 character (approx. 150-word) extracurricular statement. When in 2013 the Common App dropped the requirement, many colleges kept it as a supplement.

Q: Do I really have to write it?
A: When students ask me this my usual response is: “Really? You’d rather not talk about that thing you’ve devoted hundreds of hours of your life to? Okay, good idea.” (I’m not actually that sarcastic, but that’s what I’m thinking.)

Q: Which extracurricular activity should I write about?
A: I write about that here.

Q: What should I say? How should I structure it?
A: Keep it simple.

    a. What did you literally do? What were your actual tasks?
    b. What did you learn?

With 150 words, there’s not a lot of room for much more. And while your main statement is more “show” than “tell,” this one will probably be more “tell.” Value content and information over style.

Here’s a great example:

Example 1: Journalism

VIOLENCE IN EGYPT ESCALATES. FINANCIAL CRISIS LEAVES EUROPE IN TURMOIL. My quest to become a journalist began by writing for the international column of my school newspaper, The Log. My specialty is international affairs; I’m the messenger who delivers news from different continents to the doorsteps of my community. Late-night editing, researching and re-writing is customary, but seeing my articles in print makes it all worthwhile. I’m the editor for this section, responsible for brainstorming ideas and catching mistakes. Each spell-check I make, each sentence I type out, and each article I polish will remain within the pages of The Log. Leading a heated after-school brainstorming session, watching my abstract thoughts materialize onscreen, holding the freshly printed articles in my hand—I write for this joyous process of creation. One day I’ll look back, knowing this is where I began developing the scrutiny, precision and rigor necessary to become a writer.

Three techniques you should steal:

1. Use active verbs to give a clear sense of what you’ve done:
Check out his active verbs: writing, delivering, editing, researching, re-writing, brainstorming, catching, polishing, leading, holding, knowing.

2. Tell us in one good clear sentence what the activity meant to you.

“I’m the messenger who delivers news from different continents to the doorsteps of my community.”


“One day I’ll look back, knowing that this is where I began to develop the scrutiny, precision and rigor necessary to become a writer.”

Okay, that’s three sentences. But notice how all three are different. (And if you’re gonna do three, they have to be different.)

3. You can “show” a little, but not too much.

In the first line:


And later:

“Leading a heated after-school brainstorming session, watching my abstract thoughts materialize onscreen, holding the freshly printed articles in my hand…”

The first one grabs our attention; the second paints a clear and dynamic picture. Keep ‘em short!

Example 2: Hospital Internship

When I applied to West Kendall Baptist Hospital, I was told they weren’t accepting applications from high schoolers. However, with a couple teacher recommendations, the administration gave me a shot at aiding the secretaries: I delivered papers, answered phone calls, and took in patients’ packages. Sadly, inadequate funding shut down large sections of the hospital and caused hundreds of employees–myself included–to lose their jobs. But then Miami Children’s Hospital announced openings for inpatient medical volunteers. Again, I faced denial, but then I got a chance to speak to the lead inpatient medical physician and cited my previous experience. While working at MCH, I delivered samples, took down visitor information, administered questionnaires, and organized records. I helped ease the work of the nurses and doctors, while delivering medicine and smiles to dozens of patients. I may not have directly saved any lives, but I’d like to think I helped.

Three more techniques you can steal:

4. Start with a “problem to be solved.”

Did you initially face an obstacle? In the first sentence say what it was, then in another sentence say how you worked through it. That’ll show grit. Note that this essay has not one, but two obstacles. And each time the writer worked through it in just one sentence. Brevity ftw.

5. Focus on specific impact. (Say whom you helped and how.)

Read the ending again:

“I helped ease the work of the nurses and doctors, while delivering medicine and smiles to dozens of patients. I may not have directly saved any lives, but I’d like to think I helped.”

This applies to fundraisers too (say how much you raised and for whom) and sports (who’d you impact and how?).

6. Write it long first, then cut it.

Both these students started with 250-300 word statements (get all the content on the page first). Then trim ruthlessly, cutting any repetitive or unnecessary words.

Example Personal Statement: "Travel and Language"

The following is a real college application essay. I am using it with the writer’s permission.

When I was very little, I caught the travel bug. It started after my grandparents first brought me to their home in France and I have now been to twenty-nine different countries. Each has given me a unique learning experience.

At five, I marveled at the Eiffel Tower in the City of Lights. When I was eight, I stood in the heart of Piazza San Marco feeding hordes of pigeons, then glided down Venetian waterways on sleek gondolas. At thirteen, I saw the ancient, megalithic structure of Stonehenge and walked along the Great Wall of China, amazed that the thousand-year-old stones were still in place.

It was through exploring cultures around the world that I first became interested in language.

It began with French, which taught me the importance of pronunciation. I remember once asking a store owner in Paris where Rue des Pyramides was. But when I pronounced it PYR–a–mides instead of pyr–A–mides, with more accent on the A, she looked at me bewildered.

In the eighth grade, I became fascinated with Spanish and aware of its similarities with English through cognates. Baseball in Spanish, for example, is béisbol, which looks different but sounds nearly the same. This was incredible to me as it made speech and comprehension more fluid, and even today I find that cognates come to the rescue when I forget how to say something in Spanish.

Then, in high school, I developed an enthusiasm for Chinese. As I studied Chinese at my school, I marveled how if just one stroke was missing from a character, the meaning is lost. I loved how long words were formed by combining simpler characters, so Huǒ (火) meaning fire and Shān (山) meaning mountain can be joined to create Huǒshān (火山), which means volcano. I love spending hours at a time practicing the characters and I can feel the beauty and rhythm as I form them.

Interestingly, after studying foreign languages, I was further intrigued by my native tongue. Through my love of books and fascination with developing a sesquipedalian lexicon (learning big words), I began to expand my English vocabulary. Studying the definitions prompted me to inquire about their origins, and suddenly I wanted to know all about etymology, the history of words. My freshman year I took a world history class and my love for history grew exponentially. To me, history is like a great novel, and it is especially fascinating because it took place in my own world.

But the best dimension that language brought to my life is interpersonal connection. When I speak with people in their native language, I find I can connect with them on a more intimate level. I’ve connected with people in the most unlikely places, finding a Bulgarian painter to use my few Bulgarian words with in the streets of Paris, striking up a conversation in Spanish with an Indian woman who used to work at the Argentinian embassy in Mumbai, and surprising a library worker by asking her a question in her native Mandarin.

I want to study foreign language and linguistics in college because, in short, it is something that I know I will use and develop for the rest of my life. I will never stop traveling, so attaining fluency in foreign languages will only benefit me. In the future, I hope to use these skills as the foundation of my work, whether it is in international business, foreign diplomacy, or translation.

I think of my journey as best expressed through a Chinese proverb that my teacher taught me, “I am like a chicken eating at a mountain of rice.” Each grain is another word for me to learn as I strive to satisfy my unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

Today, I still have the travel bug, and now, it seems, I am addicted to language too.