Prompt: Evaluate an important experience and its impact on you.
If you are ever asked to “evaluate” anything, your response must involve critical thinking and analysis. Summarization of the experience is necessary to provide context, but the meat of your essay should be your discussion on how the experience affected you for the better. Keep in mind that college essays should always be focused on positive change and self-growth, so if an experience made you cynical or pessimistic, choose another one.
Many students have difficulty coming up with a “significant” experience as they deem their high school lives too trivial. Even if you haven’t yet stepped into the “real world,” you’ve definitely had important moments. What about the first time you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone? Or an epiphany you had—perhaps realizing you need to make your own decisions, no matter how much they may defy your parents’ wishes? Even choosing an uncommon major can be an exciting risk to write about. Don’t worry if you haven’t rescued anyone or changed the world yet—you are still a teenager.
Be sure not to brag in your essay! It is glaringly obvious when students use their essays to show off about a success—be it scoring the winning goal in the soccer championships or being voted class president amongst fierce competition. These topics are fine if and only if you are very wary of your tone. In order not to come off as a self-consumed egotist, make sure to convey appreciation for the involved community, be it teammates or voters. Colleges want applicants who will play an active role in the student body, so be sure to include those who accompanied you toward success.
Lastly, show your character. This is your chance to reveal your personality, values, and possibly sense of camaraderie. While exploring an experience’s impact on you, be sure to convey a sense of self-awareness, community, and humility.
Example: Although I had never been to a soup kitchen before, I decided that I wanted to join members of my church in helping feed the community on Christmas Eve before celebrating with my family. I was the youngest volunteer to sign up, and I feared being out of my element—I cannot fathom what it must be like to go hungry and not even know when the next meal eaten would even be. My mom suggested that we prepare a big tray of baked pasta that could serve at least 20 people, and she followed my lead and also signed up to volunteer. We met other members of our congregation at 5:45 p.m. at the community outreach center, all prepared with large trays and containers covered in tin foil and ready to be served.
Upon entering, I noticed that there were long tables set up with Christmas-themed tablecloths and decorations hanging from the ceiling and on the windows along with a large Christmas tree with packages of gifts for impoverished children. I felt a lump in my throat thinking that without the good hearts and service of my fellow church members, others would have missed out on celebrating one of the most sacred holidays of the year. We quickly laid out the food and took our places.
By 6:00 p.m. the doors opened. Men, women, and children of all ages started pouring in. I didn’t know if it was appropriate to talk to them or to just serve them in silence, but nevertheless, I hoped that I could at least make a small difference in providing nourishment. After serving the first handful of people that came to me, I had a serious “a-ha” moment. What if the roles were reserved? What if my family and I were less fortunate and had to rely on others to help us merely survive? Instead of barely making eye contact and gently nodding my head when the homeless thanked me for the food I placed upon their plates, I started to look up and greet each person with a smile and ask how they were doing.
To my surprise, a simple exchange of conversation seemed to fill their spirits more than the physical food they were able to eat. By the end of the Christmas Eve dinner, we were all thanked with handshakes and hugs. Yet in that moment, I realized that I left with a spirit that was further enriched and nourished after learning that material needs pale in comparison to genuine human affection.
Quick analysis: Instead of speaking about a school activity that may be quite common for the admissions officer to read, the writer described a time he served their community through participating in a church event, which is explained to give context to the reader but more so the focus is upon the lesson learned from the experience.