Skip Nav

New York Times College Scholarship Program

Ready to build a strong resume?

❶Post a Comment Cancel Reply.

Related Stories

Contact Us
Navigation menu
Audience Navigation

A slightly darker version of the same sentiment from Samuel Beckett: I know from writing seven books and articles and essays that there are no short cuts to writing well. Often, writing short is harder than writing long: Fear is Your Friend -- or at least your acquaintance. It is part of being alive, something we all share. Write the word on a Post-it and attach it to the object.

Pick a time limit, say, half an hour, and put the object in a closet, another room, or the family car for that time period. Make a deal with yourself: Repeat as necessary, if necessary. Keep a notebook with you for weeks as you consider the topics that engage you, the turning points in your life, the events that made profound impressions, the issues that animate you.

Remember, and write down, moments, lines of dialogue, insights, keywords. You have a better chance of finding it haphazardly than head on. Take a walk or a light run, or just sit in silence. Turn off your cell phone, your iPod, your Blackberry, your computer. Pretend you live in ancient times -- before An old story goes that Tolstoy made his wife copy out War and Peace seven times. When I tell my college writing students this, they usual gasp in unison, and one asks if I expect that of them.

Embarrassed, we both laughed and picked up the books a second time. All of these lessons have defined me. People unfamiliar to me have always wanted to engage me in lengthy conversations, so I have had to become comfortable interacting with all kinds of people.

Looking back, I realize that through years of such encounters, I have become a confident, articulate person. Being a 7-footer is both a blessing and a curse, but in the end, accepting who you are is the first step to happiness. I am here because my great-grandfather tied his shoelace. His fellow soldiers surged across the field, but he paused for the briefest of moments because his laces had come undone.

Those ahead of him were blown to bits. Years later, as Montenegro was facing a civil war, the communists came to his home. His village was small, and he knew the men who knocked on his door. But this familiarity meant nothing, for when they saw him they thought of the word America, stamped across a land where the poor were stripped of their rights and where the fierce and volatile Balkan temper would not do.

But he did not, for he knew that he could not run. I also cannot run, but I wear my new shoes with great ease and comfort. I wear the secret guilt, the belief in equality, the obsession with culture, and the worship of rational thinking and education that becomes the certain kind of American that I am. None of these things are costumes. They may be a part, but I can say with certainty that they are not all. We visit every two or three years or so.

Everybody is there, my entire collection of cousins and aunts and grandparents neatly totted up in a scattering of villages and cities, arms open with the promise of a few sneaky sips of rakia and bites of kajmak.

I love them, I truly do. But they are not me, those things. They are something else. Somebody is always falling ill, or drinking too much, or making trouble for themselves. We speak of them sometimes, or pity them, but we do not go to their weddings or funerals.

And yet I feel worried, not for them, but for myself. The Serbs and Montenegrins are people of complicated histories, and as I watch the documentaries my father made during the civil war there, I am gripped with fear and fascination. Those strange people can be so hateful.

They cry and beat their hearts at the thought of Serbian loss in the Battle of Kosovo in This kind of nationalism makes me cringe. I do not want to be that way. But is there not something beautiful in that kind of passion and emotion? What does it say of me that I sometimes cannot help but romanticize something I know to be destructive and oppressive? This is why I worry. They are not me, I tell myself, and I am right. But can they not be just a part?

Can they not be a tiny sliver, or maybe even a sizeable chunk, comparable even to the American in me? Must I relegate them to nothing at all? For if those shoes, the ones my grandfather bent to tie in the middle of that blazing battlefield in France, are not mine, then why do I think of them so often?

My head was spinning, my hands were bleeding, and my lungs desperately needed more air. The air was filled with the shouts of men dying and steel clashing with steel. To my right an old man lay dead, missing an arm. My men were pouring out of the breach in full retreat. Then reality came crashing down. The sole occupant of the auditorium was a tall, bald, British man with a terrifyingly condescending demeanor. He was my Shakespeare coach. The most minuscule mistake never escaped his notice.

I emerged inflamed with the drive for victory. Every word I uttered was a strike against the French. Every heartfelt delivery of that carefully choreographed routine was ground gained at Harfluer. I fought passionately with that ancient text, but my coach cut me off again.

I put forth all my effort, but again he stopped me. I performed it countless times over, but with each rendition the quality exponentially worsened. Finally, he told me to stop. We had done all we could for today. I stepped off stage and collapsed into a chair, angry and defeated. I was here to prove to myself that I could accomplish something momentous. I was born with two speech impediments. Participating in theatre was the last thing anyone expected of me.

Yet I wanted to sway crowds with my voice, make them cry, laugh and shout for joy. I was a terrified year-old the first time I stepped on stage, and equally frightened moments before I finally performed at Lincoln Center.

I walked slowly to my position full of fear, but when the spotlight hit my face, there was no trepidation, only a calmness and quiet determination. In that moment all the long hours of struggle fell into place. I had already accomplished what I had set out to do before my final performance. Just being there, having worked as hard as I had, made all the worry dissipate.

It was just me and the light. As I sat there and the lights in the theatre clicked off one by one, the setting sun cast a beam of orange sunlight directly center stage.

I pretended to watch myself perform in that light, pacing to and fro, shouting heroically to my men and charging headlong into battle, into victory. I looked back down at the memento. Henry V never lost hope and neither would I. So I went once more to the stage. Keeping my head down and avoiding eye contact, I tried not to attract attention.

Drunken shrieks and moans reverberated through the darkening light of the bus stop, while silhouettes and shadows danced about. My heart pounding, I hoped I would survive the next 40 minutes. I had never seen the homeless at the stop act so deranged. But I had never been there so late. It was well past sundown. A man passed out on the next bench awoke only to shout and drink. One screamed racial slurs and curses at another while they both staggered around.

Another lacked an arm and had the most baleful gaze I had ever seen. After a few long minutes, a shadow detached itself from the opposite benches, came over and sat down next to me. Squinting, I took in her kind, wrinkled face. Ah, thank god, a kindred soul enduring the same thing.

When I was a bit older than you, my home was a car. Can you believe that my car, an old Toyota, got 50 miles to the gallon? I could drive from here to San Francisco in one sitting. The more we talked, the more I enjoyed her company and forgot about the craziness around me. She loved helping people and went to church. Before I could learn more, a homeless man staggered up to me and asked me for money. I was so uncomfortable I relented. The stereotype is true — they buy drugs and alcohol.

Just then a bus arrived — apparently hers. She procured two hardboiled eggs from her pocket and offered them to me. I politely declined, and she went to get her stuff. But wait, why was she carrying eggs in her pocket? When the woman emerged from the other side of the stop, she boarded the bus with a sleeping bag and backpack. She smiled down at me, the bus left, and I sat there in quiet shock. I explored the stop anew. Drugs, alcohol, missing limbs were no longer terrifying.

Now, I saw the symptoms of sickness, a sad lifestyle that did no harm except to those who lived it. The homeless lady probably has no idea what an effect she had on me. Because of her, I swore to look through the top layers of every situation. Now that I have a car, I never go to the bus stop, but I know its lesson, at least, will continue to take me places.

I hope my expanded empathy and open-mindedness will allow me to feel at home in any foreign situation and connect with all people. Attempting to juke people like an NFL running back, I slithered my way through the tunnel to the A-Train on 42nd Street during rush hour. I often try to block out the hectic surroundings by isolating myself in music, but I can never seem to get out of the real life time-lapse. In photography, a time-lapse is a technique at which the frame rate is lower than that used to view the sequence, thus, when the sequence is played at normal speed, it gives the effect that time is moving faster, or lapsing.

In a Manhattan subway tunnel, a real life time-lapse gives the illusion that thousands are moving around you in one single moment. Luckily, that afternoon, the frame rate was higher than the actual visual sequence. The crowd shoved their way toward the platform as the screeching train echoed through the underpass. The doors opened and I pushed my way toward the already full train. After five seconds, I began to worry, fearing that the door would close and I would be stuck longer in the blistering, underground cave.

The tall, brunette girl in front of me inched her way over the gap between the rusted train and the yellow platform, but one misstep turned my time-lapse upside down.

Site Navigation

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

Aug 02,  · An essay should explain why a student wants to attend a particular college and not others. Credit Credit Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times. writing that all-important application essay.

Privacy FAQs

May 12,  · 4 Standout College Application Essays on Work, Money and Class The fifth essay in our package appeared on The New York Times’s new Snapchat Discover, When it comes to service workers, as.

About Our Ads

May 11,  · A version of this article appears in print on, on Page B6 of the New York edition with the headline: 5 Standout College Essays That Go Deep to Connect. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper. Aug 02,  · How to Conquer the Admissions Essay. Image. Credit Yana Paskova for The New York Times. before you plop yourself down in front of your computer to compose your college application essay: A.

Cookie Info

May 20,  · Each year, we put out a call for college application essays about money, work and social class. This year, we picked seven — about pizza, . May 12,  · College admissions directors weigh in on the teenagers whose college application essays about money, work and social class rose above the crowd. her essay in The New York Times’s new.