Admission Essays :
Evelyn Thai - Van Nuys - California
Two things that are important to Evelyn are passion and honesty. As
a student at Van Nuys High School, she participated in the things that
satisfied those needs: political activism, community service and student
government. As she was writing her admission essays, she adhered
to her belief in the honest approach. She says, “I knew that as long
as I was honest and was just being myself, I would get into the right
school for me. And I was right. I love Princeton.” She hopes to work
in international relations or neurology.
A Fall from Grace - Princeton University
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the
Republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty
and justice all.
Even though we don’t even say it in school anymore, every morning I say
this pledge to myself. Ever since I was little, I thought that the United States
of America was the best place in the world—hey we had TWO Disneylands
and don’t forget that it was an American that had invented the Happy
Meal. As I turned the path from scratch-kneed toddler into know-it-all seventh
grader, being an American took on more meaning. My parents were
refugees during the Vietnam War and it had been America that had saved
them. For me, America stood for life, liberty, freedom, equality—all those
characteristics Rousseau had once imagined possible in a country, all those
characteristics America proudly touted in every children’s history book.
When the US went to war against Iraq, I didn’t see it as an economically
driven crusade, I thought that Saddam Hussein was really threatening my
way of life and I hated him for being audacious enough to invade Kuwait.
My perspective of the world fell roughly into two categories, good countries
who agreed with the US and bad countries who didn’t. The world
worked like this and made sense because everything around me reinforced
these ideas—from my elementary school teachers to our history books to
everything on the nightly news.
Then I met Mister Pilloud. You have to spell it out, Mister Pilloud, because
somehow Mister is more precise than Mr. If I close my eyes I can still remember
every detail of Mister Pilloud’s face. He had wrinkles at the corners
of his eyes—little creases that angled upward, not from old age but smiles.
What I remember most distinctly about the man is that he always smelled
like day-old coffee. He had coffee every day—two, three, ten cups were
never too many. This coffee addict wasn’t even really my teacher. A student
teacher would teach us while he supervised.
Yet the best times were when the student teacher was absent. Mister Pilloud
would begin by recounting to us what he called a horrible story. The
horrible story would then turn out to be something in the news that was
going on while we spoke. The classroom was never more alive, my peers
never as thoughtful and as enraptured as in those 52 minutes when Mister
Pilloud spoke. At first, when he told me that our government was dumping
millions of gallons of milk away so that the milk industry wouldn’t suffer
losses, I didn’t believe him. I refused to believe that my country, such a
great and caring country, could be so wasteful while there were all these
people starving in countries around the world. So I looked it up and saw
that he was not lying.
Thus it went for over a year, and when he was no longer my teacher, I
would go talk to him at lunch. Hussein didn’t turn into an angel, but the
United States of America began to fall from grace. My whole ideal system
began to crumble and I learned that the world is not black and white. Mister
Pilloud taught me that you can’t always believe what you read and that
the truth is out there for me to discover. He made me realize that it was
not our country that I love. I love everything that our country is supposed
to stand for.
Why This Essay Succeeded
Evelyn’s essay illustrates her perceptiveness and thoughtfulness. Instead
of simply describing Mister Pilloud, she shows us how she has
changed from this experience. We learn how naive she was—which in
itself is a very mature observation. Then we meet Mister Pilloud and we can actually see what he looks (and smells) like. All of this helps us
to develop a mental image of this person.
While describing Mister Pilloud’s lessons of questioning the conventional
wisdom, what really makes an impact is the end of the essay
when we get to see an “after” view of Evelyn. No longer naive and
unquestioning, she is now a sophisticated and critical thinker. By the
end of the essay we have a much better idea of one aspect of Evelyn’s
personality and we can see how she has become the person she is.
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