College Admission Essays

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Emanuel Pleitez - El Sereno – California

In his essay, Emanuel appreciates the view from the top of a hill, where he goes to exercise and think. He has had a lot to balance in his life. At Woodrow Wilson High School, he was the captain of five varsity athletic teams and earned 19 varsity letters. A first-generation college student, he was raised by his single mother, an immigrant from Mexico. His efforts have resulted in him not only getting into his dream college but also winning almost $30,000 in merit-based scholarships. Emanuel hopes to enter politics or return to teach at his high school.

My Hill - Stanford University

I am pumping my arms, trying to keep my legs moving. I feel lightheaded and frail needing to catch my breath, but I am only half the way up. I will not stop. I will keep going and going until I reach the top. These are some of the feelings I get as I am running up my hill. The community of El Sereno, which I live in, is full of hills. The biggest one with the antennae on top is “my hill.” I use it to work out, to reflect upon things and just to be alone. As I am running up my hill, I remember how hard my mom has worked all her life for my sister and me. I remember playing basketball as a fi fth grader amongst teenagers and grown men, learning to believe in myself and to stay on the right path. When I reach the top I look around and appreciate the beauty, tradition and all the hard workers of my community. I realize that I am part of it. I must contribute to the tradition and give back.

Sometimes I feel that I am not in tip-top shape, but I know I must be to play all my sports. At these times I say to myself, “Let’s hit the hill.” I have to work the hardest. That is just how I am. This comes from my mom. I always think of her when I am running my hill. She is the hardest worker I know. I remember the times we got off the bus at 10 o’clock at night coming from downtown L.A. after a full day of shopping for the things my mom sold throughout the week to support us. We would still have to walk about a mile as my mom carried my little sister and a bag in one arm and held me by the other hand while I carried another bag. Besides earning a living, my mom went to school to learn English. She has gone to school for as long as my sister and I to try to earn her high school diploma. Even though it has been a tough road, she has never given up. I take that feeling with me going up my hill and in life.

Another reflection I have when I am on my hill is of when I was a fifth grader playing basketball every day at my elementary school until it was too dark to see anything. All the older guys would come and play too. They tossed me around, but it made me tough. I will not be afraid of anything after playing with them. It was a great challenge, and I love challenges. They taught me to believe in myself and never let anything put me down. They were not the greatest of role models as they did drugs and basically did not have a future, but they always talked to me as if I was their little boy. I could have ended up like them as other childhood friends have, but I just took the advice and stayed on the right path. One guy told me, “Keep on practicing and one day you can make it to the NBA.” I probably will not be a professional basketball player, but just the belief that they had and actually still have in me has given me the boost to always excel. Being on my hill helps me reflect upon what has shaped me in my community.

On top of my hill I can see all of El Sereno on one side and the rest of Los Angeles on the other. I love to look at my community, especially my high school. My high school represents the place in which I live. It represents the whole community, as it holds our future. It also holds our past, as many of our teachers are Wilson alumni. It is a great tradition at our school that allows our teachers to teach with more passion since they are back to where they started. They really want to help our youth and that is what makes the place where I live special. It has shaped me to look at life as a mission to help people succeed. It has given me a positive outlook that has motivated me to give back to my community as much as I can as I get older.

My hill gives me my motivation, lets me reflect on my past and lets me see the future. It is a long journey in life as it is a long run up the hill. My hill starts off pretty easy, although I cannot see how far it is or where exactly I am headed because of the tall grass. Eventually though, I see the top and what path I have to take to get there, but I realize I still have a long way to go. I face obstacles and doubts, but I do not let them stop me. I am determined. When I get to the top, always knowing that I will, I feel unstoppable. I know the hard work will pay off.

Why This Essay Succeeded

A location can be a powerful topic for an essay because you can make connections between all of the sights, sounds and even smells and your life. Emanuel creates a touching portrait of his family and himself through the vignette of the views he sees from the top of the hill. By using the hill as an analogy, he is able to show the admission officers a number of different vistas of his life that otherwise would not ordinarily be related. Through each of the views—his family’s late-night shopping trips, playing basketball and his high school—Emanuel is able to share what is really important to him and what he has gained from each experience. And that’s really all that the admission officers are asking for in an essay.

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