Common Application Prompt #1: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
Hello There, Admissions Associate! Research shows that no two voices are alike. However, after a while, the thousands of personal statements you read from the same demographic must begin to sound fairly familiar. Not mine. My background gives me a unique perspective that most students entering college today simply cannot duplicate. Unlike most applicants, who are on their iPhones creating Snap Chat streaks, I have written my stories in longhand, sometimes joyfully, sometimes painfully, without the benefit of instant replay. I am a living time capsule, and my very existence from the late sixties through today makes me a valuable contributor in any classroom. Following are examples from my life that make me uniquely qualified to attend your distinguished university.
I am resilient. I don’t crumble at the first sign of adversity. You won’t have to worry about my helicopter parents calling you to protest a B-minus, or complaining that my dorm isn’t nice enough. As an only child of divorced narcissists, and a product of benign neglect (now called “free range parenting”) I learned early how to fend for myself. Way early. I wasn’t given the benefit of a boosted immune system through prenatal nutrition and round-the-clock breastfeeding. I was ripped from the womb and fattened up like a Christmas goose on Similac. When I had 104-degree fever I didn’t stay home from school; I toughed it out. When I had an abscess in my lymph node, my parents didn’t even bring me to the doctor until I looked like the Elephant Man. As a kid who spent a week off school during The Blizzard of ’79, roaming the city on municipal buses, holding on to the sides of buildings to avoid being blown away in the Chicago wind, I think I can handle a full course load at your school and a couple loads of laundry per week.
I’m smart but, more importantly, I’m savvy. Being able to read people saves you a lot of heartache. My years in the workforce have taught me that most bosses reward people who make their lives easier; they don’t care about genius, they want the path of least resistance. The same goes with professors. I know how to strike the balance of being a hardworking team player without appearing to be too brilliant. Nobody likes a smarty-pants. Having a six octave range won’t get you to Carnegie Hall if people hate your guts. On a related note, I don’t give any credence to standardized tests, and you shouldn’t either. Let’s be honest, you and I both know that shit has no bearing on real life. Also, while being a strong writer of both fiction and non-fiction, I’m not that into math. Again, life experience shows me that beyond basic financial management, if you’re not going into a STEM career it doesn’t matter. Nobody lists Trig as a skill on their resume.
I have excellent executive functioning skills and the wisdom that goes along with having made a few mis-steps in balancing academics and a social life. First of all, I won’t make the rookie mistake of scheduling any classes before 11am, especially on Thursdays, a well-documented day of partying. I will never think that because you can’t taste grain alcohol when it’s mixed with Kool-Aid, that it isn’t effective. Generally, less punch means a quicker reaction time when your toga falls off. I won’t buy mushrooms from a random person at a Grateful Dead concert, because they could kick-in as you’re approaching the on-ramp to the expressway. And I know that the munchies brought on by copious amounts of weed make it almost impossible to tell the difference between green icing and green mold on a cake that’s been sitting in a frat house basement refrigerator for several weeks. Fortunately, the intoxicating ABC lineup of Ryan’s Hope, All My Children, One Life to Live, and General Hospital is no longer a temptation.
Having experienced misogyny, racism, sexism, unfair pay practices, sexual harassment, unsafe working conditions, verbally abusive bosses, and date rape first hand, I don’t sweat the small stuff. If you happen to make an inappropriate comment in front of me, or refer to me by the wrong pronoun, no biggie. You have no way of knowing that my brother and sister are biracial, or that my husband is Jewish. How could you possibly know that there are gay people on both sides of my family? Micro-aggressions do not ruffle my feathers, at least not until you’ve fixed the big stuff. As long as you can protect me from spoiled athletes who don’t know the difference between “getting some action” and sexual assault, and nerdy white boys in full body armor with AR-15s play acting Call of Duty, I’m good. In the words of Matthew McConaughey, my goal is to “just keep livin”.
In conclusion, college can be a magical time, four years of intellectual stimulation, personal growth, creativity, close friendships and maybe even love, if you’re lucky. There are the benefits of independence while being nurtured within a community, freedom within the structure and safety net of an institution, and relatively little real-life responsibility. If anyone can appreciate those things, it’s a middle-aged adult like me. And that is why I deserve the chance to do it all over again, without the beer goggles on. I will scale back a bit on the partying in favor of some of the fabulous extra-curricular activities that your fine institution has to offer. I’ll take a few more visual arts classes, even though they are outside of my major, because they put a smile on my face. I’ll be the best damned 50-year-old Freshman you’ve ever seen, if you’ll just give me the chance.