Admission Essays to University of California :
Daniel Heras - Los Angeles - California
When you think of East Los Angeles, you probably don’t think of
surfi ng. 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 LA? - U.C. 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 fi eld, 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 fi berglass
and Styrofoam, landing head fi rst into the deep blue sea when it slapped
me right in the face. Surfi ng 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, surfi ng is a diffi cult 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 fi rst I never told anyone that I had been surfi ng. 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 no 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 surfi ng 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 fi rst 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 lowrider 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 surfi ng I now know who I really am. I also know that surfi ng 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 surfi ng 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 refl ection is critical
and makes the difference between a successful and unsuccessful essay.
Remember, you want to impress the admission offi cers not only with
your ability to write but also with your ability to think.
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