Here are some sample Common App essays of students who have worked with SCS. All of these students are currently, or will be, attending one of their top choice schools!
Oyster. Not the seafood; the travel pass. At age 12, I woke up to the most liberating day of my life. My newfound freedom and the entire city of London lay bound in that tiny blue travel card. It was proof of my independence to view world class architectural sights, shop the European fashion that dominated Oxford Street, and join the diverse crowd of tourists and residents scuttling their way through the London rush.
At age 14, my Oyster was suddenly upgraded: from blue to green, and from the boundaries of London city to the borders of the United States of America. Never having felt more mature, I excitedly held the green card while my parents packed our life into 8 suitcases. This new travel card was heavy with opportunities and freedom my young, myopic vision could not yet see. Fearless, I envisioned nothing less of a magnificent world, a land of novelty and diversity: America.
I was surprised, then, to land in an extremely monocultural destination. Nicknamed “Little India”, here in Edison, NJ, South Asian culture beams through the colorful, intricate clothes on store windows and the pungent restaurants that remind locals of home. The town is soaked with the hybridization of American and Indian culture, the latter my family’s origins. However, raised in England, I stood puzzled by the exceptionally carefree culture buzzing all around me. The ever-present “thank you” and “sorry” that so effortlessly slipped through my mouth were now strange sounds among the various Indian languages resonating across streets. Inexperience immobilized me in the hustle of a society homogenous in color, but diverse in its mannerisms and mentalities brought along from India.
Furthermore, my scholastic experience abruptly transitioned from the full cooperation of teachers in England’s top third grammar school, to a classroom where students had engulfed the entire course through private tutoring; from a friendly, competitive environment, to the silence of students striving only to out-compete each other. Accustomed to receiving guidance as needed, I began to make many uninformed decisions. Clueless, I stumbled my way through the new educational system.
Seeking shelter, I returned home from school to join my family in the desperate wait for my father to obtain a residency and continue his medical practice in this country. Social, academic and financial frustration squeezed the tears out of me, begging only one question: was this green travel card a ticket to a retrogression of my life’s progress? No, I reflected. I was travelling toward personal growth.
Surrounded by an immigrant society, I gained the opportunity to work with a range of personalities and seek others’ admirable characteristics that I could incorporate into my own. My family’s changed financial situation drove instability into my future, but became the best teacher on how to work calmly toward goals in unstable situations. As a witness to life’s unpredictability, I am now mindful and prepared to deal with the unanticipated.
After all, it was exposure to new situations that spurred my growth as an independent student. Enclosed in exhaustive competition, I strived to improve myself. To avoid missing out on events and extracurriculars, I spent countless hours on the internet and skipped many lunches while chasing teachers and counselors for information. I pored over course materials when self-studying for exams, from AP to the SAT. I discovered that the only limit to using my full potential is one I set myself. Since then, I have acquired an uncontrollable zeal to strive beyond boundaries, and eagerly await to challenge myself further.
As a 12-year-old, I would leap with excitement at the vast borders of this land that I had yet to explore. However, now a 17-year-old accompanies, with an expanded perspective on freedom and diversity, and a desire to submerge myself into the overflowing academic and social opportunities offered in America.
As I stood there panting, I could feel the seemingly innocent cheese fries I had at work catch up to me in the form of an eye-wincing cramp. My breathing steadied as I inhaled the muggy New Jersey air. In just half an hour, the sun would sink past the horizon. The clouds in the sky began to cluster like pieces of cotton candy. Breezes routinely meandered through the trees, brushing my face with refreshment. A sudden buzz from my phone interrupted the serenity, reminding me of all the concerns I just released . Thoughts of the paper due tonight, the jazz band audition in a week, and countless other responsibilities flooded my mind. The wispy clusters of clouds morphed into dark billows.
I regained my sense of purpose when another jogger on the trail passed by me. I quickly typed the password into my phone, switched it to silent mode, and tuned in some music through my earbuds. Placing one foot in front of the other, I began my run. The canopy of trees enveloped me, tuning out the noises of rushing cars. My worries slipped through the soles of my Nikes.
I’ve been outside most of my life. During the summers of my childhood, my parents would ship me off to a sleep-away camp for two weeks where I basically lived outside. We would camp out in tents, hike along the Appalachian trail, and canoe through the Delaware River. After dinner, when the moon and twinkling stars were the only sources of light in the sky, all of us would huddle around a campfire. It was then, in the middle of the woods, where we all truly connected with one another. I returned home with mosquito-bitten legs and a face sprinkled with freckles, proudly wearing both like badges of honor.
Whether it’s a day at the beach or a trip to a nearby park, the story nature tells me is always compelling and full of vivid details. Tonight, a soft breeze breaks the humidity in the air and the sun leisurely fades into the horizon. A clean strip of cement splits the field of grass, paving the way for my run. Moments like these, on a trail where my biggest concern is returning home before it becomes dark outside, are where I feel most grounded.
It wasn’t until my freshman year biology course that I could finally connect my passion for the outdoors with school. Sitting through hours of monotonous school days, I longed for the bell to ring after each class. However, walking into last-period biology invoked the same sense of curiosity in me that the outdoors had. When we were introduced to apex predators of different biomes in the ecology unit, a smile crept across my face, remembering the time at camp when a black bear was found eating someone’s chocolate chip cookies. Even just grasping the process of photosynthesis in plants prompted fond memories of growing sunflowers as a child. I started to recognize the science in those cycles of nature I had been witnessing my entire life - and this strengthened my eagerness to learn more. Looking forward, it’s clear to me that my thirst for knowledge in biology will continue to thrive throughout college and the rest of my life.
As I made my final sprint past the “finish line” - an aged bridge blanketed by the shadow of an old oak tree - I caught a glimpse of the skyline. The sun had settled beneath the canopy of trees, illuminating the remaining clouds with a flush of amber light. The rest of the sky was dim, signaling me to return home. Admiring the serenity of the natural world at this moment provided the sense of clarity in my mind that I had desperately craved before the run.
The night of August 14th, 2015 was a restless one. Thousands of thoughts flooded my head, resulting in a wave of uneasiness. The ticking of my alarm clock emphasized the last remaining hours I had left of being an only child. As the sunrise peered through my window, my pupils began to slowly constrict- allowing a gleam of light to highlight my mother’s swollen silhouette. She grabbed my shoulder and exclaimed “We have to go to the hospital, I’m experiencing contractions!” At that moment in time, I knew my life would be drastically different from the fifteen years that I have previously been accustomed to.
I vividly recall pacing along the monochromatic blue walls and noticing how the linoleum tiles in the waiting room appeared to distort after a while. During those excruciating 28,800 seconds spent waiting for the birth of my baby sister, I found comfort in questioning myself about the nature of the world around me. I pondered everything from waiting rooms, to how the human race evolved over successive generations, and even how our perspectives are complementary to each other. There was never a dull moment in my ever-growing philosophical curiosity. I sought a logical reasoning for the questions that intrigued my hungry mind. What exactly are people waiting for? Are they waiting for the grief that lies behind the operating doors? Or are they waiting for the relief that their loved ones are okay? Am I waiting for the joy that will commence a new chapter in my life? As if my anxiousness and desperation were transmitted throughout the maternity ward into my mother’s delivery room, an angel appeared- a nurse in navy blue scrubs- to announce that my baby sister Jaslene had been born.
Within my clammy hands, laid an individual with the potential to be the next Anna Wintour or Steve Jobs. I was astounded to think that a once zygote had undergone cell division to produce the very baby that currently laid in my arms. Her piercing brown eyes impacted me in ways I could not imagine, prompting me to make it my duty to serve as the utmost inspiration and role model for her.
As time progressed, I found myself captivated by the journey of development that my sister was embarking on. It truly fascinated me to watch her blossom from a newborn into a toddler in a matter of two short years. Every new stage she experienced sparked my intellectual curiosity. When I noticed that she was drooling quite a bit and that her sobs soon turned into wails, I took my curiosity to my mother’s childcare books. Furthermore, I discovered that her teeth were erupting to the point where it is causing discomfort and excessive salivation. Who would have ever thought that such a tiny toddler could stimulate such a vast interest in an adolescent?
Henceforth, my sister ignited an awakening within myself. I came to the realization that life consists of so many questions about how the universe works, or the innate behaviors of humans, yet not many individuals are eager to search for the answers. Jaslene has demonstrated that the world around me contains an immense amount of knowledge- from Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection to George Engel’s biopsychosocial model- that can frankly change my perspective on life. Constantly wanting to fill my mind with newfound knowledge has shaped me to become the individual I am today- an individual with a high degree of ambition to become the first in my family to attend college.
Swim a routine. Get out. Do push-ups. Jump in. Repeat three times. This is just fifteen minutes of synchronized swimming practice. The hours spent in the pool are painful. I gasp for air after each routine. I’ve gone home crying and woken up aching. I have asked myself at almost every arduous practice for nine years, “Why do I do this?” I look at my team, my best friends and the young girls suffering along with me. Then I know why.
Synchronized swimming is not your average sport. When people learn I do synchro, they assume I wear flowered caps while doing side dives. On behalf of the intimate synchro community and myself: we wish it were that simple. This sport demands progressive water skills, strength, grace, endurance, creativity, flexibility, and precise timing. The effort I put into synchro is indescribable, however, I cannot imagine what my life would be like if I never took that first jump into the water.
For starters, there was a long period of time where I was on a trajectory to the U.S. Olympic team. I traveled the country competing with and without my team as a soloist. I ranked as one of the top 10 soloists in the United States before the age of 15.
My reason for joining had nothing to do with some crazy Olympic dream. After the first week, I experienced the feeling of closeness and friendship that existed between the squad of girls on deck, in the pool and the locker rooms; I knew I wanted to be part of that.
During the past nine years, I have grown and changed in incredible ways. I learned much about what it means to be a leader and a friend. At the age of 12, I was promoted to the extremely experienced 18-to-19-year-old team. The transition was rough. If it weren’t for the older girls support and encouragement, I wouldn’t still be swimming. They inspired me. I am proud to have grown into one of those older girls.
When new girls join the team, it’s now me they look up to. I enjoy fostering an exciting and healthy environment that helps the girls reach their goals and succeed. I encourage them to push through the same pain I endured in seventh grade and feel the same excitement that I have. Whatever I am feeling at practice, I put a smile on my face and guide my teammates. My positive interactions with my teammates led me to become the youngest captain of my team and recipient of the “Team Spirit” award.
I was always told as a child to treat others the way I want to be treated, but I want to take it further than that. I want to be someone who others can rely on. I have been blessed in my life with so much support by my loved ones, and I am determined to pay it forward.
Yuck! I pulled the shark out of its formaldehyde-filled bag and scrunched my nose as that familiar, putrid, odor hit me. Smack! The dead-for-who-knows-how-long shark flopped onto our dissection tray, spraying its disgusting juices all over my friend, Tom (sorry, man!). Eager to start cutting, we rushed our pins, forceps, and freshly sharpened scalpels into their places.
To begin the dissection, I meticulously sliced a large vertical incision down through the shark’s abdomen, followed by two shorter horizontal incisions on either end for better exposure. Peeling off the top layer of skin, I proceeded to unzip the underlying muscle layer, revealing its pale guts.
Many questions popped into my head as I scanned the shark’s internal organs. What is this red squishy thing? Why is it here? How does it function? The four of us pondered these questions as we began to label the organs familiar to us.
Before we knew it, our teacher informed us to start cleaning up, as the lab period was coming to an end. I felt like we barely got started. Reluctantly, I washed off the table and discarded the dissected shark, even though my hunger for knowledge had not been satisfied. It was merely an appetizer.
This feeling of slow-motion time came over me again later that day, while squatting at the gym.
Errgh! Working my body further with every rep, I clenched my core, then gasped for oxygen, breathing heavily. Pushing as hard as I could on the concentric motion, I felt the sweat drip from my forehead down my cheek, salt stinging my eyes on its way. I could see my quadriceps contract in the mirror and I found myself thinking about their function as I strained to lift the heavy load, gravity weighing me down.
Many questions popped into my head as I scanned my mirror image. Am I over-training my muscles? Am I going through the full range of motion? Can I push myself through one more rep?
I walked forward and replaced the bar back onto the rack. Sigh. A feeling of joy and relief engulfed me as I felt lactic acid rushing through my muscles while testosterone and dopamine saturated my cells. Over an hour had passed, though it felt like much less. It was time to go home; I had a different kind of hunger to satisfy this time.
Plop! I collapsed onto my couch, my muscles still burning from the lack of oxygen. I found myself pondering the Sliding Filament Model, which I had learned about earlier in the day dissecting shark muscles. I couldn’t believe that such a wide variety of organisms share such common fundamental features, yet have such different niches. I realized that the day had flown by, except for these moments in which I found myself engrossed in biology.
Inside and out of the classroom, I am constantly fascinated by Mother Nature’s creations. I consistently look to expand my knowledge on these subjects by turning to my dad or uncle, who both work in medicine, or by searching the swath of information online. I have even had the opportunity to shadow my uncle, an orthopedic surgeon, and scrub in on an Anterior Cruciate Ligament repair. I was so engrossed watching him delicately stitch back together the patient’s ligament that I didn’t even realize I had been standing next to that table for almost three hours. To this day, I still reminisce about the time I spent in that room. I cannot wait for the day I get to spend hours standing in my own practice’s operating room, with a freshly sharpened scalpel in my hand, and my future-nephew watching with equal fascination as I improve the lifestyle of my patient.