College Admission Essays

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Shashank Bengali – Cerritos - California

Shashank is the kind of person who is not afraid of standing out. So even though most of his classmates did not join the Boy Scouts, he did. Through the organization, he learned valuable lessons not only about conquering the outdoors but also about looking inside himself. At Whitney High School, Shashank was the editor of the newspaper, student mentoring program volunteer and president of the Indian student organization. He won the Knight Ridder Minority Journalism Scholarship and Trustee Scholarship, providing a full tuition scholarship to attend USC.

The Gang - University of Southern California

I’m in a gang.

We’re not a small group; this gang spans the entire nation, with offshoots in 116 countries around the world. The members of my gang are devoted and live their lives based on a code of conduct to which they are forever sworn. We will never all meet, but we all share the same beliefs and ideals. The members of this brotherhood have faced ignorant peers. We are told that our gang is just a club of immature boys whose members are weak and frail. Despite our proficiency with knives and clubs, our honed survival skills and our keen practical knowledge, we are told we can’t hold our own. Our structured lifestyle is labeled outmoded and impractical. We are the butt of jokes and taunts, of stares and pointing fingers, of relentless questions and unsatisfactory answers. Life is difficult but immeasurably rewarding.

We’ve been told to get out, to leave this gang and find a new set of friends and a new way of life. For all but a few, this pressure is too much to endure.

In six years worth a lifetime, the Boy Scouts of America has shaped my personal dogma. I have learned the value of friendship, truth, community and adherence to a moral code that I have found to be second to none.

Scouts are partners in a personal stand against the general dumping-down of moral values. “Sanctimony!” is often cried, but in truth, the fundamental tenets of truth and honor are perennially evident, and charity is never far from the hearts of members.

Cold winter mornings serving breakfast to the homeless, hot summer days repairing mountain trails in the Sierra Nevada and many an evening volunteering at local hospitals and churches have imparted to me a feeling of community, which I now fulfill as a volunteer at the local senior citizens center. Service has become an integral part of my life, and I feel greater compassion for those less fortunate, blessed as I am with such a rich environment in which to mature. I derived pleasure from working with mentally handicapped adults at the Association for Retarded Citizens and from organizing a charity drive for tenants of a local halfway house. Community service has helped me see life through different perspectives.

I have learned about leadership. I supervised 31 volunteers in the renovation of a park picnic shelter, a project I had designed myself. I was very gratified with the success of the job, but surprisingly, much more valuable than the praise I received was the heightened sense of confidence I developed. I was driven to seek more leadership roles to employ the practical skills I learned as a Boy Scout. Serving at the helm of two major campus organizations, the school newspaper and the Indian Club, could not have been possible for me had I not been somewhat seasoned as a leader and as a person. I came into these positions knowing how to deal effectively with people, how to manage crisis situations and how to work within a system to achieve the goals of an organization. I know what is required of a leader. In the past, I might have shrugged off my duties in positions of authority and thought nothing of it; now, I take my responsibilities seriously, often to the extent that they consume me.

Who I am today, the actions I take and the decisions I make all stem, whole or part, from what I have learned as a Boy Scout. Of course, I enjoy the camping, hiking and rock climbing and I am proud to be called an Eagle Scout, but these are finite destinations in a longer journey, and they pale in comparison to the lessons and the richness of the trip. I began as a wide eyed 12-year-old, both ingenuous and insensitive about the world at large. Now I am poised to enter college, confident, equipped with real-world experiences and ready to take on new challenges. Such are the perks of life in this gang.

Why This Essay Succeeded

Writing about a common extracurricular club like the Boy Scouts requires a lot of extra planning. Shashank needed to approach his involvement in a way that other students would not. He accomplishes this by using a creative introduction that grabs attention and piques interest. That done, he presents his scouting experience in a way that distinguishes him from other scout applicants. He does this by focusing on specifics. Sure, many scouts will write about learning how to be trustworthy, loyal and kind but few will take the time to focus on the details and go beyond the what they learn and try to explain why it’s important to them. Notice how Shashank provides explanations for what he gets out of community service and leading others. Even if the admission officers read 100 essays on scouting, Shashank’s essay would still stand out.

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