This is the essay I submitted for my Common Application to Harvard University. I often reread it to reorient myself, and the purpose of posting it here is not for others to copy!
My friend was reading the first version of my college essay and that was his only reply. I knew he was lying by the expression on his face. This was going to be an uphill battle, and there were no second chances. I needed it to be perfect, but, perfection is subjective, and it was necessary to define it before I attempted to achieve it. Webster defined it as, “an exemplification of supreme excellence.” I was unsatisfied with the dictionary definition.
Perfection has been a goal of mine from a young age. I read a biography on Benjamin Franklin and learned that he kept a diary of his imperfections to make sure he could rectify them. I began to use a little red notebook to keep track. It was eye-opening. Not only was it difficult to attempt to be perfect, but it was difficult just to write down each mistake. I ended up giving up on the notebook, but not on the goal of perfection. I continued to aim for a perfect Priten. When I worked to ace exams for my teachers, I would fall behind on chores for my parents, or forget a friend’s birthday. When I tried to make my friends happy, I would forget to stay afterschool to help a teacher. There lay the crux of the problem with my definition of “perfect.” It was based on other’s expectations. I had to strive for something other than social, academic, or moral perfection. I had to strive for personal perfection.
I began again. I wrote version after version on what I thought would be the perfect topic. Every time I would finish writing it, I would think it was just right, and hours later I would be unsatisfied. I spent a lot of time refining it and always ended up choosing a new topic altogether. I might as well have been writing the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson wrote the international standard for human rights in two months, and, unlike Jefferson, I had a backspace button. My teachers gave me idea after idea, yet none felt perfect. I wanted it to be unique, but truthful. After weeks, I decided I was going to write it without any outside input.
For some, backspace represents an opportunity to amend a mistake; I see it as an opportunity to prevent one. However, in order to know when to hit backspace, you need to know when not to hit backspace and so “personal perfection” became my litmus test. I made the crucial decision that I would measure the perfectness of my life not by numbers or awards, but by my impact on family, friends and society. I wanted to make sure I could look back and wish to hit copy, not hold down delete.
I wrote this essay in one sitting, read it over innumerable times, and no one else was allowed to see it. My only goal was to accurately portray what is important to me. It is probably flawed in the eyes of grammarians, my parents, teachers, and the software that checks word count. But for me, it’s perfect.