A creek is no place for shoes.
I think it’ s unreasonable to ask children
to keep their shoes on in such a place. My bare
feet were always covered with calluses from walking
down the rough pavement of Peardale Street and
around the corner, past the weeping willows, but
not as far as the Lindsay’ s squeaky old
swing-set. It was hard to see from the road, and
as far as I could tell, nobody ever went there—
except for me. Large pines nearby stood tall and
erect, looking down at the ripples and currents
that nudged each other about playfully, like children
in the back seat of a car on a long drive. Stones
and pebbles lined the shallow bottom and allowed
the water to glide in creative patterns over their
smooth surfaces. Larger, moss covered rocks dotted
the bank and provided ideal spots for a child
to sit and watch and wonder.
The creek often taught me things; it was my mentor.
Once I discovered tadpoles in several of the many
eddies and stagnant pools that lined the small
rivulet. A cupped hand and a cleaned-out mayonnaise
jar aided me in clumsily scooping up some of the
more slothful individuals. With muddy hands and
knees, I set them on the kitchen counter, and
watched them daily as they developed into tiny
frogs. I was fascinated by what was taking place
before my eyes, but new questions constantly puzzled
me. Dad was usually responsible for assuaging
these curiosities. He told me about different
kinds of metamorphosis and how other little tiny
creatures lived in the water that I couldn’
t see without a fancy magnifying glass.
By the creek, my mind was free to wander. I remember
sitting silently on a mossy rock and watching
the birds; I used to pretend I was one. As my
body lay still, my imagination would take flight.
High above, looking down on this stream from the
pale blue heavens, the wind whistled over my face
and the sun warmed my body. When my eyes flickered
open, it was usually time to go home. Sometimes
I even did.
I was always up for a challenge. My sister and
I used to jump from rock to rock, in a kind of
improvised hop-scotch obstacle course that tested
our balance and agility against one another. She
was four years older and I had to practice every
morning when she was at school in order to keep
up. On the rare occasions that I outdid her, I
wore a goofy smirk for the rest of the day.
The creek was a frontier. The stream extendedfar
into the depths of the woods. I thought that if
I wandered too far into its darkness, I might
be consumed by it and never heard from again.
Gradually overcoming my fear, I embarked on expeditionsand
drafted extensive maps using my father’
s old compass, a sheet of paper, and a few colored
pencils. As my body grew in height and weight,
my boundaries grew in extent and breadth.
Years later, I happened to be walking to a friend’
s house by way of the creek. It occurred to me
that what was once an expedition was now merely
a shortcut. Although I had left this stream behind,
I found others: new questions and freedoms, new
challenges and places to explore. But this creek
would remain foremost in my memory, whatever stream,
river, or ocean I might wade.
Princeton, Athlete (football)
I have learned a great many things from participating
in varsity football. It has changed my entire
outlook on and attitude toward life. Before my
freshman year at [high-school], I was shy, had
low self-esteem and turned away from seemingly
impossible challenges. Football has altered all
of these qualities. On the first day of freshman
practice, the team warmed up with a game of touch
football. The players were split up and the game
began. However, during the game, I noticed that
I didn’ t run as hard as I could, nor did
I try to evade my defender and get open. The fact
of the matter is that I really did not want to
be thrown the ball. I didn’ t want to be
the one at fault if I dropped the ball and the
play didn’ t succeed. I did not want the
responsibility of helping the team because I was
too afraid of making a mistake. That aspect of
my character led the first years of my high school
life. I refrained from asking questions in class,
afraid they might be considered too stupid or
dumb by my classmates. All the while, I went to
practice and everyday, I went home physically
and mentally exhausted.
Yet my apprehension prevailed as I continued
to fear getting put in the game in case another
player was injured. I was still afraid of making
mistakes and getting blamed by screaming coaches
and angry teammates. Sometimes these fears came
true. During my sophomore season, my position
at backup guard led me to play in the varsity
games on many occasions. On such occasions, I
often made mistakes. Most of the time the mistakes
were not significant; they rarely changed the
outcome of a play. Yet I received a thorough verbal
lashing at practice for the mistakes I had made.
These occurrences only compounded my fears of
playing. However, I did not always make mistakes.
Sometimes I made great plays, for which I was
congratulated. Now, as I dawn on my senior year
of football and am faced with two starting positions,
I feel like a changed person.
Over the years, playing football has taught me
what it takes to succeed. From months of tough
practices, I have gained a hard work ethic. From
my coaches and fellow teammates, I have learned
to work well with others in a group, as it is
necessary to cooperate with teammates on the playing
field. But most important, I have also gained
self-confidence. If I fail, it doesn’ t
matter if they mock or ridicule me; I’ ll
just try again and do it better. I realize that
it is necessary to risk failure in order to gain
success. The coaches have always said before games
that nothing is impossible; I know that now. Now,
I welcome the challenge. Whether I succeed or
fail is irrelevant; it is only important that
I have tried and tested myself.
** ADMISSIONS COMMITTEE COMMENTS **
The topic of this essay is how the applicant
has matured and changed since his freshman year.
He focuses on football. One of the strengths of
this essay is that it is wellorganized. The applicant
clearly put time into the structure and planning
of this essay. He uses the platform of football
to discuss and demonstrate his personal growth
and development through the high school years.
What he could have done better was spend more
time describing himself after he made improvements.
As it is, he only tells us about his newfound
confidence and drive. This essay would have been
stronger had he actually shown us, perhaps by
including a story or describing an event where
his confidence made a difference.
Source: Email Essay