Cornell University Admission Sample Essay on Hobby or Interest

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College Application Essay on Hobby or Interest

Essay by Alex Callen

When I was ten years old, I met Vince Lombardi. I saw him at the post office. He was sitting quietly with George Marshall and Humphrey Bogart. Vince cast a triumphant smile in my direction. His excitement was so contagious that I could not help smiling with him. Mr. Marshall, however, seemed to stare right through me. His solemn gaze conveyed little more than that he had very important things on his mind. Then I looked to Humphrey Bogart, who, with a suave movement, simply cocked his head to one side, and sat there, just looking good. The three men seemed nice enough, so I took them home with me. Yes, they had all been dead for many years, but I didn't really mind. In my room, armed with a pair of tongs, I gingerly slid each of them into the slots of homemade album pages, next to stamps of bright blue jays, waving flags, bursting flowers, a crooning Elvis Presley, and scores of others, which I had acquired over the past two years.

Philately caught my attention very early in my life. My grandfather hooked me with a stamp from the 1960s that commemorated the sesquicentennial of the Erie Canal. I was drawn to the small colorful pictures like a crow is drawn to shiny objects. I started saving every stamp that I could find. The hobby quickly developed into more than a haphazard accumulation of pretty paper labels. A closer examination of each stamp revealed new cultures, new languages, new people, new geography; new worlds, each competing to quench my inherent thirst for knowledge, steering my imagination to new heights.

As a group, stamp collectors have been categorically branded as wealthy, reclusive, boring, moldy old men. However, I've been an avid philatelist since age eight, and, as a seventeen-year-old in high school, I don't fit the stereotype very well. It is true that few young people collect stamps. Though I know some exist I've never met another stamp collector my age. More often than not, my peers express disapproval for the hobby. In fact, when I told a friend that this essay would be about stamp collecting, he laughed and said, "Man, you're going to have a tough time making that sound cool." I pointed to a pile of trading cards on his desk and replied, "Hey, at least I don't collect Magic cards" (Magic is a fantasy card game similar to the Pokemon game that swept the country a few years ago). I understand how some could perceive the slow, tedious processes associated with stamp collecting, like sorting, classification, grading, and organization, as exercises in monotonous futility. I, for one, not only welcome the procedural structure of these processes, but also embrace the rare opportunity for uninterrupted solitude that accompanies them, using it to develop my patience and allow my imagination to lead me through exciting childhood realms of exploration and adventure—winning Super Bowls, rebuilding post-war Europe, making films—which are markedly absent from the high school experience.

I don't think I will ever be able to make philately "sound cool," but at the same time, I don't feel like I need to. It's not about being "cool." I'm a philatelist, because stamp collecting gives me pleasure and peace of mind.

Alex Callen attends Cornell University (NY).

Essay Review

When stamp collecting is cool

This essay is for every applicant who thinks that having a near death experience—or making a diving catch in the championship game—is a prerequisite to writing a great essay. Alex Callen takes a mundane hobby, stamp collecting, and makes it come alive with skillful use of personification in his opening. The fact that stamp collecting is off-beat and a little nerdy works to his advantage because he can show himself to be a person who follows his passions regardless of what others may think. Among the hundreds of newspaper editors and varsity team captains, a stamp collector stands out.

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