Admission Essay to University of California :
Daniel Heras - Los Angeles - California
When you think of East Los Angeles, you probably don’t think of surfing. But one student does. Daniel bucked convention to become one of the few in his community to take to the ocean, the topic of his essay. At Woodrow Wilson High School, he was student body president, captain of the baseball team and president of the science club. Daniel wrote this essay to counter critics who said that college would not be an option for him. “There was that one little voice that told me to keep trying and to never give up,” he says.
Surf’s Up! In East Los Angeles – University of California – Berkeley
In my family everyone grows up playing soccer. It is not a question. You just do it. Although I played soccer, it was not the same for me. Dashing back and forth on a 120-yard field, kicking a ball around and not being able to use your hands was not my idea of living. It was not until about three years ago when I found myself slipping off a seven-foot-long piece of fiberglass and Styrofoam, landing head first into the deep blue sea when it slapped me right in the face. Surfing was for me! It was not just my image of living life, but living life on the edge.
Riding waves was not an easy thing to do, and I mean that in two ways. First, surfing is a difficult task, period. Just the laborious thought of being a surfer alone was inconceivable. I had never in my life seen a surfer except on TV. None of my friends surfed, and it was unheard of in East LA to see a Hispanic surfer. At first I never told anyone that I had been surfing. I kept it to myself, though it was very hard to hide a seven-foot-long board in my sock drawer. My friends would come over to my house and say, “What the heck is that?” Of course, I had to tell them even though I knew how they would react. They would just laugh and say, “You ain’t a surfer, you’re a wannabe.” I would stay quiet. Some nights while lying in bed, I would think: Was this just a phase? Was I trying to be someone that I really was not? Was I really a “wannabe”?
At times failure would make me think that surfing would just be a small chapter in my life. I remembered the closing days of summer a few years ago. I got up early that morning to get ready for my short 20-minute trip to Venice Beach. Something seemed different that morning. I felt bold, I felt confident and I was immortal. (Not really.) The day was perfect. I did it, the first wave I saw and was up and in it. I cannot say I did not fall that day, because I did. But after eight long weeks of nothing but sand in my face, I was on top of the world. I persevered. It was not going to be just a phase.
No matter what race: Black, White, Asian, Hispanic or any other race, people living in East LA do not become surfers. But here at the Heras residence, you do fi nd the rarity. I have discovered who I am. I am courageous, unique and at times I am not always going in the same direction as everyone around me. But this is alright. Sometimes reacting unlike anyone else leads to success. No one tells me I have to play soccer, I have to tag on walls or even own a low rider bike. My family does not pressure me to get a job right out of high school or go to community college part time. Just because so many here do, that does not mean I have to do it too. Looking back, the decision to surf instead of play soccer has made me a more versatile person. It made me love life, it made me stop and think and be thankful for everything around me. I feel that if my decision to surf did this for me, then other decisions, like my decision to pursue the highest level of education, will be even better. This proves that being a little bit on one’s unique side can sometimes be the best.
There was a time in my life when I did not know who I was but as a result of surfing I now know who I really am. I also know that surfing will not just be a small chapter in my life but the recurring theme that holds the story of my life together. I am not a “wannabe.”
Why This Essay Succeeded…
Daniel uses his interest in surfing as a clever analogy to introduce his willingness to do the unexpected. Through his essay we see that he has faced many people who questioned his ability to succeed personally and professionally. His essay takes us through his thought process to show us why he’s become so motivated to overcome these naysayers and we can appreciate what he has accomplished.
As you’re writing, it’s important to always take this extra step of not just describing but explaining. Having this analysis or reflection is critical and makes the difference between a successful and unsuccessful essay. Remember, you want to impress the admission officers not only with your ability to write but also with your ability to think.
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