College Admission Essays

College Admission Essays :

Alyssa Hochman - Virginia Beach – Virginia

A typical day for Alyssa began before 4 a.m., when she would rise to make it to the pool for swim practice. Her motivation for rising soon after other students went to bed? Simply put, she loves swimming, and in this essay, she explains her love. At Cape Henry Collegiate School, she also participated in student government. About writing her essay, she says, “I took personal events from my life and portrayed myself through the stories.”

The Morning Ritual - Dartmouth College

Bewildered, I wake to the deafening sound of the latest pop song playing on my alarm-clock radio. I have learned that this is the only way to wake up at 3:57 in the morning. Quickly, I feel for the oval-shaped button, ending the music that I am sure will wake up my sister, fast asleep in the next room. I go through my early-morning ritual and quietly creep down the stairs, aided by the light of the moon. I grab my bag, packed the night before, and quietly shut the door behind me. I step outside and breathe in the salty morning air. I turn the key in the ignition, knowing that this is my last chance to run back to the comfort of my bed. Instead, I carefully drive the 21 miles to practice, forcing myself to keep my eyes open. The parking lot contains the cars of my fellow teammates. I pull in and am relieved to see that my coach has not yet arrived. I can enjoy a few precious minutes of sleep. Every morning we take part in the same unspoken ritual: arriving to practice early and sleeping in the warmth of our cars. The headlights of a small red car shine on my face as it pulls into the parking lot—the sign that my day has truly begun.

I walk onto the pool deck. The lights are just beginning to come on and the water is still. The powerful yet comforting smell of chlorine fi lls the air. Wearing our pajamas and parkas, we sleepily walk into our respective locker rooms. The floor is cold against my bare feet. I pull on my size 28 swimsuit—the same size suit I wore when I was 10. It is not that I haven’t grown since then—quite the contrary; I am now 5 foot 10. A swimmer’s body becomes accustomed to the tight lycra, which has now become my second skin. I step out onto the silent pool deck, water bottle in hand, and tell myself I can conquer any challenge my coach has contrived. He loves to try and defeat us mentally before we even take a stroke in the water, but I do not let him have that satisfaction. My cap is on, my goggles are tight, as I dive into the pool, breaking the calmness of the water.

One of my best friends wrote in my yearbook, “I can’t believe you get up at 4 in the morning to swim. You’re a nut.” I am often asked why I swim. My answer is simple. I swim because I love it; it is who I am. I love being faced with a challenge and enjoy the satisfaction I feel when I have conquered my goal. Perhaps my friend is right. Maybe I am “a nut,” but I am not alone; I have my teammates. When I enter the pool deck, I enter a place where I am content and fulfilled. There is no need to explain why I am at practice; my teammates and I share a bond, an understanding. It takes hard work and dedication, but as Jimmy Dugon said in A League of Their Own, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

Why This Essay Succeeded

Alyssa answers one of the most important questions that admission officers ask when reading any essay: “Why?” Why would she wake up at such an ungodly hour to swim? Why is swimming so important to her? By describing her morning ritual, the admission officers begin to understand the value of early-morning camaraderie, the dread and excitement felt at the fi rst sight of her coach and the satisfaction of having accomplished so much before most other students have even awoken.

Obviously, Alyssa could have written about actual swim competitions or medals that she has won. But this would not be original. Think of the thousands of other athletes applying to college who will be writing about the “big game” and how after courageous effort they overcame the odds and won. Instead, Alyssa focuses on something far more important and significant, her motivation for swimming. We learn much more about Alyssa as a person (and are totally impressed by her commitment) than if she had just described which races she won. And even if we would not do so ourselves we can certainly understand why she gets up so early in the morning.

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