This is the prompt: "We are interested in learning more about you and the context in which you have grown up, formed your aspirations and accomplished your academic successes. Please describe the factors and challenges that have most shaped your personal life and aspirations. How have these factors caused you to grow?"
Most of the successful essays have focused on one topic or aspect, so that's what I did. How could I improve?
(I like that you start with present tense; it's immediate)
“Black girls are so annoying,” he says, and I feel something heavy form suddenly in the pit of my stomach. He must see the hurt that flashed on my face, however hard I tried to hide it, and backpedals immediately. “No,” he is quick to clarify, “I didn’t mean you. You don’t count.”
I was born in New Haven -
– (use an emdash here. You can make one by hitting alt-0150 on a keypad. Don't know if you were unable to do it on A2K. I'm just pointing this out in case you don't know. Use the emdash throughout the piece, where you're setting off a phrase)
one of those cities classified as “majority minority,” (by whom?)
where all of the other races, when added together, outnumber the white population. When I graduated kindergarten, we moved to the neighboring town of Hamden, with an African-American population less than half as large as that of my hometown. Of course, (cut this; it's not necessarily a given)
when I was five years old, this didn’t bother me. We lived on the line between my new town and my old one, where a large percentage of Hamden’s black population is concentrated, and for a while I never really noticed anything was different. Nothing made me feel as though anything was different (maybe replace this with had changed; otherwise you're using the phrase 'anything was different' a few times together and it's a little too repetitive)
- at least, not yet.
Racism, at least the way it occurs at a younger age, is insidious. It is insidious in that it took me years to recognize it for what it was, and in that (replace with because or as)
the people from whom it came never even seemed to realize what they were doing. (you might want a paragraph break here)
I’ve had a love of reading since I was a small child - I was reading on my own by the time I was three years old, and when I was in the fourth grade my teacher gave me a box to put under my desk to put my books in, so they didn’t take up the room meant for my school supplies. This was my “normal” - I was used to the adults I knew telling me I was intelligent, to classmates asking for my help. The first time someone told me I was “smart for a black girl,” I felt frozen in place. I didn’t even know what to say. (this is a very powerful set of sentences)
The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is the idea that once something comes to your attention once, you suddenly begin to recognize it everywhere. This happened to me with the realization that my “normal” wasn’t the same as everyone else’s - that to many of the people I knew, I was an anomaly; that when I received praise, it wasn’t necessarily about the fact that I was smart for a child my age, but that, shockingly, I was smart despite being black.
I realized that(when?)
, for many of the people I was acquainted with, my existence blew a hole in their preconceived biases. For my entire adolescence, much of the racism I was surrounded by had a commonality - the idea that I “didn’t count.” That I wasn’t “really” black because I enjoy reading, because (I realize you may need to switch tenses here but it is a tad jarring)
I’m mixed-race, because my grades are good, or because I don’t talk the way they think I should. Another insidious part of this treatment was the fact that I came to accept it. It took me years to come to terms with the fact that being exempted from the prejudiced statements other people made didn’t mean that I shouldn’t challenge them, or that the way I was being treated was fair.
As any kind of minority, you are expected to work twice and hard and be twice as good in order to “prove” that you’re just as good as anyone else. As an African-American, a female, and an open lesbian, I understand this well. I understand that it’s unfair - but if working twice as hard is what I need to do to succeed, then I will work twice as hard. In the United States, it is estimated that only 32% of doctors are female, and only 3.3% (of all doctors? of all female doctors? of all females?)
are African-American. Wanting to be a physician is a lofty goal for anyone. As an aspiring first-generation college student and a black girl (you're not an aspiring black girl! Maybe reword this)
, it can start to feel unattainable. However, if my experiences have taught me anything, it’s this: nobody has the power to limit my potential, and I can succeed despite what others think about me.
Despite what other people might think of me based on my race or my gender, I’ve learned (even though it took me a while) that my success isn’t contingent on the way others view me - I will go to college, I will get my degree in biology, I will go to medical school, I will help others in the most tangible way I can, and just maybe I’ll inspire another child like me to do the things that I did despite what they’ve been told they can or can’t achieve. If at least one young black kid sees my future success and thinks, “I can do that too,” then I’ll feel like I’ve definitely done something right.