Purpose and College Essays

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College has a way of putting things into perspective; especially the application process. It seems like when you’re a junior in high school, the only thing people care about is where you’re thinking about applying to, what you want to major in, and what my GPA and SAT and ACT scores are. The constant game of comparison was tiring, but not the worst. What gave me more stress than anything was all the probing questions asked of me. What are five words that describe my personality? Where do I see myself in ten years? What is the most important quality of a leader? Who, outside of your family, is the most important person to you? Oh, yeah. And why, for every single damned question. To most people, questions like this are prime time for showing off their incredible BS’ing skills. I, unfortunately, can’t do that. Whenever I was asked a question that required deep personal reflection, I felt insincere if I didn’t answer as honestly as possible. Honestly, the hardest assignment I’ve done my senior year of high school wasn’t for any class; it was the senior student profile I had to submit to my counselor. The whole idea of that pissed me off. I had to write nearly five pages of personal information so that my counselor could pick and choose what she wanted to copy and paste into my recommendation letter to colleges. I realize that doesn’t give enough credit to my counselor, but the fact remains. I basically wrote the recommendation for her.

The stress and loss of sleep that was the fruit of my labor from all the effort I put into answering those ridiculous questions did provide one benefit; it gave me some real quality time for self evaluation. I was forced to write about what I truly valued and express my honest opinion. The senior profile gave me an excuse to articulate my conscience. While it was nerve-racking, I managed to put some definition to my free and elusive spirit. I encourage every senior in high school to complete a profile as sincerely as possible, if they haven’t already; the meaning behind the questions asked reveal a lot about who you are. Most importantly to me, I could finally show my teachers and counselor how genuine my faith was in an appropriate setting. As this book has shown and shows, most of the things I have any strong feelings toward I connect to my faith. Public school usually has a way of burying religion deep inside students, but with the senior profile, they asked for it. I gladly seized the chance to talk about Jesus.

I enjoy reading my old work from time to time, whether it be research papers, essays, journal entries, or poor attempts at starting a novel. Looking into the past give me perspective for the present to be mindful of the future. Recently, I decided to go back and read some of the answers I submitted for college application essay questions. One particular submission caught my attention; the Christopher Newport University Honors Program application. Two essays were required for the application. The first asked about what qualities I thought leaders should have; what makes a leader effective and such. I answered with some good ideas, but mostly wrote in generalizations and didn’t express anything too profound. My answer to the second question was what struck me. The question asked something along the lines of “If you were to reflect about your life in ten or twenty years, what events would you record in your memoirs?” This was my response.

“With all due respect, I can’t attempt to answer this question. I see little point in trying to plan so far into the future, seeing as though I have practically no control on what could happen between now and ten or twenty years down the road. Honestly, if I were going to write memoirs, I’d write about the events that I never saw coming; the things I never planned for. Those, as I have discovered, end up being far more memorable. Please don’t misinterpret this; while I don’t dare have a definite plan set out for my future, that doesn’t mean I lack drive or purpose. I know this for a fact: I want to dedicate my life to loving other people and helping them know truth. Whether that takes me down a path to teaching, ministry, humanitarian aid, or a number of other things, I can’t tell.

“When I’m old, if I live to grow old, and reflect back on my life, I will only need to know that I did a few things. First, that I made people feel valuable and loved. Second, that I didn’t waste money on frivolous things; instead, I was generous and spent only what I needed. Third, that I made enough of a difference in someone’s life that they will never forget me as long as they live. People are more valuable than anything in this world, and a life not shared is a life without joy. I want to matter to people. I want to have a lasting impact on people. I want people to tell stories about me, recall fond memories with me and smile, and miss me when I’m gone. This all may sound selfish, but I don’t want praise to make myself feel better. Those are just signs that my existence on this earth had a point.”

Rarely do I surprise myself, but reading my answer to that prompt got me. Do take note; I submitted this to a public college, not some small Christian school. It’s intentional. It’s authentic. It’s blunt. It’s vulnerable. It’s awesome! Now I’m not just trying to pat myself on the back, but for me, this was huge. I was being completely truthful. I was revealing to a stranger what I believed my life purpose was. Few people have ever heard me be this real with them, and it was so freeing to lay my heart out in front of someone. Discussing individual purpose is so beautiful to me. The desire to know what we’re on this earth for is inherent for every human being, and always spurs fruitful discussion when seriously considered.

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