Tuesday, November 18, 2008

College Essay: What is my potential? - Second Draft

And here we are, the second draft. I tried to keep in mind what I was told from my readers, so hopefully this version hits harder to home. I really do hate the revision process.

What is my potential?

For the past few years, that has been the question I’ve always asked myself. In everything I did, that question loomed over head - at times out of sight, but never out of mind. Then, when I’d finally sit down to take a break from school, work, or whatever was going on, it would come out of hiding to taunt me with its inquiries of limitation. And so, now that I’m at the threshold of college - a series of decisions that will not only impact the next four years of my life, but ripple out into the rest of my adult career - I can’t help but be consumed by the nuances the word ‘potential’ carries upon its back.

Unfortunately, the dilemma of fulfilling personal potential is one that is not easily solved. And setting out to find it has been a journey - much like walking onto a new, never before seen college campus. The surroundings are frankly intimidating, but not because they are scary. Rather it is because they symbolize possibilities around every turn. Every imaginable what-if converges all around me, and I just simply feel lost. And at the same time there is an urge to sort through as much I can. An urge that keeps me moving in order to find that one embodiment of potential as well as that one college that would allow me to reach whatever the peak of my abilities may be.

After this past year of visiting universities and hunting for my potential as if it was a tangible object that could be somehow worn like a pin on my shirt, I believe that I’ve found my answer. My response to this uncertainty is a resounding ‘yes’. Yes, I have grasped the potential of my high school self. And yes, I believe that I am indeed ready for college along with all of its ups and downs. I see this now through everything that I’ve done for my potential has deeply been correlated with my learning:

Take my normal school workload - something that has forced me to seriously develop my writing and literature capabilities by dabbling me in a little of everything and at the same time ended up creating the bedrock on which I’ve stood - academically and mentally - and will continue to stand on as I reach out to redefine myself many more times to come.

Take my classes at Hunter College which gave me a more in depth look into the field of sociology and consequently psychology, subjects that I can’t wait to pursue once I walk past my college of choice’s door. Observing not only the structure of human society, but being able to look at the individual units which form the very fabric of the framework is something that can’t and shouldn’t be neglected. After all, this is where the question of potential within us mortals as a whole takes center stage and manifests into exceptional constructions, evil and good alike.

Take my work with computers, especially with the XO machine used in the One Laptop Per Child Project - an experience that led me to understanding the rift that divides levels of education around the world and what is being done to dispel it. This of course lent itself to the graver issues world poverty contains for me to expose myself to. I’m still amazed because of how it truly holds the potential of solving an issue larger than itself and manages to cross into some many different areas of interest. Its potential can’t be limited to merely one sphere of importance.

Yet, despite all of that and countless more experiences, I’ve learned some thing about the idea of potential. Potential is not a fixed value that once its reached can then be shelved and forgotten. Instead it behaves more like that of a variable, and it is with that new found knowledge that I must answer with an equally resounding ‘no’. As I chased after my potential, I saw that the more I did - the more that my accomplishments stacked up - my potential shifted and morphed itself into something grander than what I was originally capable of just days before. I see that it was the driving force behind my own development and why it couldn’t have just kept still and why it became a complete and utter hunger to learn. If it did come to a halt, I wouldn’t be ready for what is to come. It is that determination that has gotten me to this point.

And perhaps, this is what it means to attain my potential. Knowing that now that I’ve grown to the best of high school self and it is only through college that I’ll discover an older and wiser me. That the bar of accomplishment will also rise and it is my job, not only as a student but as a human being, to always keep up with it. This is my potential, and while its not the pin I first thought I was after, it is something that I am much more proud of.


  1. Hi, Ryan. You've got more concrete details here about what interests you. That's good. You haven't really re-framed the question, though, and that still leaves some problems, IMHO. For example, I still have to get through 4 paragraphs before I learn anything about what you've done or what interests you. Are these 4 paragraphs really necessary? If so, could they be or distilled down and/or moved to later? I think your goal should be to have the reader interested from the start in the potential you bring to their school.

    Also, I feel a little dissonance with the "yes" and "no" parts, since, technically, "What is my potential?" is not a "yes/no" question.

    I think there are still some important talking points you've left out, too, such as the foreign languages, contacts around the world, etc. Even if you have no intention of pursuing this sort of thing further, it shows something about potential you've already fulfilled and hints at future potential.

    There are a few minor phrasing issues I could talk about, but I think I'll wait for another draft before bringing those up, since they might disappear in the next rewrite.

  2. See, I'm kind of not sure on how to rework the question. Do you have any ideas?

    Taking your comment about the "yes/no" factor (which makes perfect sense now that you bring it up) should the question be "have I reached my potential?"

  3. For me, the question looks like "What potential do you bring to this university?"

    That gives you the chance to say things that will make the reader think "it would be good to have this guy here". What you've done in the past can be used in support of whatever claims you make to future potential.

    Any sentence which gives them a sense of how your presence will enrich life in the classroom and on campus is a good one, especially if you can back it up with some facts about what you've already accomplished. If you give a sense of the kind of things that interest you and the energy and technical and communication skills, etc. that you can bring to them, you will help your cause.

    Another way to look at the question which does not necessarily conflict with my first idea is "What are you capable of accomplishing with a degree from this university?"

    You don't have to say that you'll win a Nobel prize or that you'll donate a new wing of the library after you've made your first 10 million, and you don't have to have your whole future plotted out (most people don't, and many of those who do have got it all wrong). But they'd like to think that the educational experience they offer makes their students better people. What kind of a person will it make you?

  4. Oh, I think I get what you're getting at. Now that I understand I can properly do something about it. I'll try to have my next attempt up Friday or Saturday night. Should be interesting...

  5. Great. I don't have all the answers, but I'm thinking about the people who will read 1000 of these and what they want to discover.

    I know it's a pain doing rewrites, but here's a situation where extra effort can improve your chances of success.