College Admission Essays

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Rita Hamad – Austin - Texas

What she lacks for in stature, Rita makes up for in determination. A world traveler, she writes about her shared height with Napoleon and her comparable drive. It is this resolve that enabled her to advance from English as a Second Language classes within a few months of immigrating to the United States in elementary school. She now speaks English, Arabic, Spanish and is learning Japanese. While a student at the Science Academy at LBJ High School, she was involved in the Latin Club, held an internship at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Research Division and became a National Merit Scholar. She plans a career in law or medicine.

All of 5’1” - Harvard University

As a freshman in world geography, our teacher showed us a documentary about Napoleon and his conquests of Europe and the Mediterranean region. Everyone oohed and ahhed when they heard of the general’s domination of almost an entire continent. Admittedly, I too was somewhat impressed by the performance of the little man with his hand in his coat. A few minutes into the video, the narrator announced that Napoleon stood at a height of 5’1”. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, the whole class turned around to look at me and giggle. When you’re as short as I am, you can’t help being noticed. Yet I was pleased in a way that I had something in common with such a great historic figure. I was sure that as Napoleon marched around the battle field in his doll-sized clothing, his soldiers laughed at his crackpot military ideas. He must have faced great obstacles on his road to fame and fortune. And as a 13-year-old minority female, I couldn’t help but smile at the similarities.

When I fi rst came to the United States to attend kindergarten, I was only 4 years old and still a little shaky in my English, so the elementary school I attended put me in English as a Second Language (ESL). I was only in the class for a few months, though, when my teachers realized that all I needed was a little confidence. Soon I was reading faster and at a higher level than all the children in the Aim High English classes. By the time I reached the first grade, I was making straight A’s. But after the second grade, my family moved to Bahrain, a small island in the Arabian Gulf. There I had to relearn Arabic and deal with the cultural shock of returning to a Middle Eastern country. Even this situation didn’t last very long, and I was back in Austin for sixth grade. At this point, I had learned to adapt to change very quickly, and the little girl who had taken ESL received first place in UIL Spelling in the Austin Independent School District as a seventh grader. Due to all of our traveling, however, I didn’t know that there was a magnet school for junior high school until it was too late, so I didn’t get the chance to display my full potential. In fact, my eighth grade algebra teacher tried to discourage me from challenging myself. She said that I should take my time in high school, take one math credit per year—especially if I planned to attend the Science Academy. Being as determined as I am, I rejected these notions and signed up for both Algebra II and Geometry as a freshman. Within a few months, I had proved her wrong. I quickly shot up to become valedictorian of my class, and two years later I made a 5 on the Calculus BC AP.

From that point on, nothing could stand in my way. If anybody told me I wasn’t capable of achieving something, I took it as a challenge. Against the odds again, I ran for president of the Latin Club as a junior and succeeded. Over the summer I planned several carwashes and solicited corporations for contributions to fund the upcoming trip to Italy, an event that even the sponsor doubted I could pull off. But that spring, he was happy to see that I was successful. At the end of my term last year, the club presented me with an award that I now treasure more than any of the trophies I’ve received at the various competitions I’ve attended: “Most Likely to Take Over the World: to Rita Hamad, for her Napoleonic Complex... Short on Stature, Long on Ambition.” They guessed it! Although I have no intentions of overthrowing the government, I do intend to conquer everything I set my mind to. In a sense, Napoleon will be one of my role models in school, in my career and for the rest of my life.

Why This Essay Succeeded

The essay can be an opportunity to provide context to your achievements with a level of detail that is just not possible through the application form itself. Rita does this by sharing with the admission officers the various challenges she needed to overcome. In addition, Rita reveals her sense of humor. Poking fun at her diminutive size, she contrasts it with her extraordinary determination. The admission officers probably appreciated her creative approach and the way that she carried the Napoleonic theme from start to finish. Providing additional background like Rita does helps the admission officers understand not only what you’ve done but also the conditions under which you did it.

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