Help This Sparkler with Her UC Essay!

Help This Sparkler with Her UC Essay!

By Jennifer Grudziecki

Essay prompt: "Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud, and how does it relate to the person you are?"

Our Sparkler's Response:

I had to do it to prove myself. I had heard a lot of the other kids complain about how creepy it was and how they often found a way out of it, but I wanted to do it.

They sent me off with directions that required me to exercise my spatial memory and a pair of gloves that were mandatory that I wear. Alone in the elevator, my worries consumed me. Would I get lost? I had never been to that part of the hospital before. How would I bring it back up without causing too much attention to myself? What would people think as I held it in my hands? Could I hide it in my uniform pocket?

The elevator doors opened to expose painfully white walls that almost glimmered under the fluorescent lights. They guided me through the quiet basement of the hospital, the sound of my shoes on the floor my only company. With every turn I made the walls were becoming almost omniscient, as if they were watching every move I made. Then finally the window the nurse had told me about appeared. I slid it open, but no one was there, so I rang the bell. Soon a woman in a white coat appeared; I gave her the slip the nurse had given me. She quickly scanned the paper and left, a few moments later she returned with it. She laid it out in front of me and asked me to read the information off of it: barcode number, patient’s medical number, the patient’s name, its solution, the type it was. After my recital of almost the entire label, I signed a slip and the bag was finally in my hands.

In my hands was a substance that had once pumped through someone’s heart and throughout their body via arteries, veins, and capillaries and would soon make the routine voyage in an entirely different body. It was a substance that was not foreign to me since the same kind was alive beneath my own skin. Yet, to see it in such an accumulated amount through such a transparent surface astounded me. It was cold and dense in my hand, differing from the liquid beneath my own skin that kept me warm and was of no burden weight wise. It reminded me of why I was here. I was here volunteering at USC+LAC Medical Center because I craved this kind of surreal moment that emphasized the beauty to be found in the mechanics of the human body. How something so common that lives beneath the skin of every animal could be so threatening yet intriguing when taken out of context of its natural home within the body.

I live for this kind of experience, a moment that pushes me out of my comfort zone, but offers a tremendous sense of accomplishment when fully embraced. That day I left with my first experience with a bag of blood and just an overall sense of fulfillment. Although I was just the kid who picked up bags of blood and talked to the patients, I felt as if I had made a difference, or was on my way to make a difference. My time volunteering at USC+LAC Medical Center evolved my interest in becoming a doctor into something more than just a childhood dream. It intensified my fascination with science and medicine and most importantly instilled a sincere sense of duty to help others within me. My dream is to one day return to the same kind of environment that I spent about 210 hours of junior year with an enhanced ability to help patients- possibly even wearing a white coat.

Our thoughts:

You've got a great thing going here: your essay draws the reader in, and it manages to highlight an experience that should look golden on your college applications. So good job! Now here is a little bit of advice on how you can make it even better...

First, some specific things to change:

    1. The first sentence of your second paragraph ("They sent me off with directions that required me to exercise my spatial memory and a pair of gloves that were mandatory that I wear") is unnecessarily complicated, and is confusing to read. Mentioning spatial memory is probably unnecessary, since you go into detail about getting lost a sentence or two later, and the gloves phrase is just worded awkwardly. Try, "They sent me off with some vague directions and a pair of gloves" or something similar.
    2. The comma after "hospital" in your third paragraph should be a semi-colon, as should the comma after "She quickly scanned the paper and left."
    3. You should have a comma after "With every turn I made."
    4. "After my recital of" reads a bit awkward. Try "After I recited" instead.
    5. The first sentence of your fourth paragraph is long and complicated. Consider cutting out the part about arteries and veins, since your reader (presumably) knows how blood flows, or split this into two sentences.
    6. In the fourth paragraph, you don't need a comma after "yet."
    7. "Differing" might sound better as "so different."
    8. The last sentence of your fourth paragraph is a fragment, so it reads awkwardly.
    9. In the first sentence of your fifth paragraph, the coma should be a colon.
    10. Eliminate "just" in the second sentence of the fifth paragraph; it weakens your otherwise strong writing.

Now, a few more general things:

  1. This essay highlights a good thing: your volunteer work in your chosen field. This is great, and it should look great! But be careful about not sounding too proud of yourself: mentioning exactly how many hours you worked (which is for sure listed on your transcript, yes?) sounds a bit pretentious. Try to make the "volunteer" aspect of your essay a little less pointed and a little more subtle; you'll still sound awesome, but you'll won't over-do it.
  2. You could stand a bit more elaboration on how this specific experience changed you. You talk a bit about your time at the hospital in general, but I want to know more about this blood story! Did it make you more confident? Why did it make you feel like you made a difference?

All in all, you've got a wonderful essay here. It's interesting and grabs my attention, and it highlights your volunteer work in a catchy way. Just get a few more tweaks under your belt and you're ready to go!

Got any tips for this Sparkler?

Topics: college applications, high school, essays, Advice, volunteering, college application essays, writing help, tips, sparkler essays

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