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My college essay - critique welcomed

  1. Nov 26, 2006 #1
    Hey, this is one of my college essays and I was hoping that some people wouldn't mind reading/critiquing it. If anyone doesn't mind proof reading it over for any grammatical mistakes, or simply giving their input as to what should be changed and the likes it would be greatly appreciated.

    Also please forgive me if this was posted in the wrong forum.

    Thank You,

    Essay begins below


    One of the most important influences throughout life is the influence of a hero. Through their words and actions, a hero can have an amazingly positive effect on a person’s life. A hero is someone admirable, a role model. A person may be a hero to some without ever knowing they are, or the impact their seemingly normal actions may have on others.

    One such example of this type of hero can be found in a girl in my high school class. During the summer prior to senior year she was attending a camp along with her now late brother. Due to heart complications the girl’s brother died at camp, with his sister not straying from his side.

    I can not begin to comprehend the initial pain of losing someone so close, however this girl has done exceptionally well coping with the loss. In addition to the initial loss of her brother she is faced with the constant subtle reminders of the life that once was. Passing her brothers room in her house is a constant reminder of the past tragic events. Her brother’s room which was once filled with the vibrancy of life now lays eerily undisturbed. Even normal routines such as going to school force the unpleasant reminiscences of an earlier time. Her brother will never experience his first day of high school, nor share the same halls that his sister walks through each day.

    The almost incomprehensible strains that this girl has faced would almost surely be enough to cripple even the strongest of spirits. Where others would have fallen under the now enormous pressures of life, she remains standing. The ability to get back up after being struck by the cruel punches of life is more than an admirable quality.

    Through the examples set by this girl, I now strive to put less weight towards the problems in everyday life. I feel that if she can still have a positive outlook on life, then I should do no less. Although we all have losses in life, by witnessing her strength I have learned that life must go on, even after the most devastating of events. An initial loss, especially of something in such great magnitude in respect to her, should never be overlooked or go without mourning. There is however no need for extensive additional losses due to the consistent delay of everyday life. That is a major life lesson I have learned through this girl, a taught lesson that makes her more than deserving of the title of hero, even if she never knows she holds that title or to whom regard her as such.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 26, 2006 #2


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    Where's the thesis statement?

    What's the topic supposed to be? Anything?
  4. Nov 26, 2006 #3
    The topic is both open/a person who has had an significant impact.
  5. Nov 26, 2006 #4
    It would be a good idea to make it more personal by including this girl's name. If you don't want to include her name for whatever reason, make one up. It will make it seem less sterile.

    If you can, have someone read this outloud to you.
  6. Nov 26, 2006 #5
    I'll change the essay later to include the girls name, I think your right that it will carry more of an effect if a name is included. Makes the reader able to connect more with someone who has a name, instead of a girl.
  7. Nov 26, 2006 #6
    Also, how did the girl impact you, other than in the way you stated in the last paragraph?

    Remember, college app essays are supposed to be about you. Adding specific examples (ie, some event in your life) of how this girl impacted you, instead of just how she impacted you in theory may do the trick of making this more about you. Another quality that this could add to the essay is the reader being better able to connect with you, the applicant and author.
  8. Nov 26, 2006 #7
    I have an idea... Why not twist a few details and make it a close family relative who died??? The college board people might appreciate your essay more if you did so maybe.
  9. Nov 26, 2006 #8


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    It's a minor change, but the more natural paragraph structure would be to include the first sentence of that second paragraph in the intro paragraph, since it is, well, an introduction. You might not be doing that because you've been taught that your thesis statement needs to be the last sentence of your intro paragraph, but that's really a suggestion, not a rule. One thing I would say about that thesis is that: 1) It is too general. Saying that sometimes people can be heroes without knowing it doesn't necessarily tell us anything about the specifics of why this person was a hero to you, why she didn't know it, and only gives a hint at what your essay is about. Really, it is not about people in general being heroes without knowing it. It's about a girl whose brother died, whose courage inspired you in some way or another. You want to keep the more general statements about how this instance relates to a larger theme relevant to humanity in the conclusion, or earlier in the intro, before writing a more specific thesis. 2) It isn't a very strong thesis. It's unequivocal, which is a great start, and also quite clear, but it's rather obvious. It actually is ambiguous on one point as well. Are these heroes unaware that they are heroes at all, or only unaware that they are heroes to certain people? The way your statement is worded, it can mean either.

    You want to get more specific and give some example of what you're writing about. You do a great job with her passing the brother's room as a reminder of him. Go deeper, and make it more vivid. What's in the room? What little item reminds her of him, and of what significance is it? How has she coped exceptionally well? In what way does the routine of going to school remind her of her brother? Is it really just the fact that he will never attend, or is there more?

    Additionally, using a device of some sort to put this in her voice, from her perspective, would make the statements stronger and more poignant. You describing things is somehow not as engaging as simply being there with her. Put us in a scene with her walking past her brother's room and picking up something she gave him for his birthday three years prior. Show more, tell less.

    Same as above. What are these strains? Show her experiencing one of them, talk about the effect it had on her, and note how she overcame it. To the last sentence, if such an ability is more than an admirable quality, what else is it? Don't leave us hanging there.

    As other have noted, this feels a little hollow, like anyone could have written it. Put your stamp on it, place us in an experience that is specifically hers, and by proxy, specifically yours. What exactly did you see her do and what did you learn from it? How did you apply this learning to your life? What is your relationship to this girl? If she does not know she is a hero to you, why not? Why have you never told her? How do you know these details about her in the first place? Get more specific about your own commentary as well. What additional losses do you think one suffers by failing to show strength and moving on from the death of a loved one? Did she experience any of these losses and learn that she had to move on, or did she simply move on from the beginning? If so, how do you know what she might have lost had she not?
  10. Nov 27, 2006 #9


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    Personally, I dislike this 'is' language. I think telling people what something is before it has been justified comes across as overly assertive. I know that when I read such things, I feel like the author is challenging me, that there is something I should know and I begin to feel inferior.

    So perhaps saying what a hero is is not the best way to start. I always think an introduction should describe the purpose of the essay, perhaps by giving a question and promising to provide the answer or just by saying than one will endeavour to show X or do X. The purpose of the essay seems to me to be to show an example of heroism from your own experience, so perhaps you could start with something says that you are going to do that with the essay.

    Besides the introduction, there seem to be very many pronouncements in your essay, things which others might not agree with. For instance, by saying "The almost incomprehensible strains...", it seems to me that you are telling the reader that they too can't comprehend those strains, but of course some reader might have lost someone close and might be offended that you say they can't comprehend it. Perhaps they might feel they can comprehend even greater strains.

    In point form now:

    Would the reader have fallen? That's a dangerous challenge.

    How do you know this if you can't comprehend what she's going through?

    How is the fact that everyone has losses relevant to you learning to go on with your life? Surely the fact that you have had losses is relevant, but I don't see that everyone's losses are relevant. I would understand the sentiment that 'I should go on with my life because I admire that she has done so', but does it make sense so say that 'I should go on with my life although everyone has had losses'? And if it does make sense, does this one example justify that conclusion? If it does, I think it is only because her loss was the greatest loss, but again I dislike that challenge to the reader.

    Okay, so reading this essay, the impression I got was that you were telling me what to think, not allowing me to think. Remember, I don't care a whit whether you gained some enlightenment or not. I only care about what it means to my life. Certainly, if you present facts and your conclusions and I find that they are agreeable, I will have gained something, but if your facts challenge me and what I think, I am more likely to stop reading than to face up to the challenge. By contending that I can't comprehend something, I am very likely to reason that you don't know what you are talking about, so I should put the essay down.

    I think if you give it a good intro advertising what people might gain from reading it (because that's all I care about), and if you make it less challenging to the reader, you will do well.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2006
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