Admission Essays

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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