University of Virginia Application Essay on Hobby or Interest

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University of Virginia Application Essay on Hobby or Interest

Essay by Christopher M. Pirrung

Leaning backward in my one-man laser, I hike out hard in an attempt to keep the sailboat from capsizing, the tiller clutched hard in my left hand and the main sheet sliding through my right. These strong thermal winds are exciting yet challenging. I have been waiting for them for some time. As I leave the protected harbor and venture out into the bay, the swells grow and the horizon appears. Sailors know that Little Traverse Bay is one of Lake Michigan's best protected harbors, yet the horizon to the west gives the impression of vastness equal only to an ocean.

The race is about to begin as I try to assess the wind shifts and puffs. Everyone has the same boat and most racers are equally experienced; the key to winning resides in tactics. The right side of the course appears better because of the ten-degree wind lifts, but the windward mark is slightly to the left. What is the shortest course? Which side does the wind favor? There are a thousand options. I must tighten the outhaul, downhaul, and boom-vang to change the sail shape to de-power up the sail; the winds are strong today. So many variables make small-boat racing the most exciting and rewarding challenge.

Just like a sailor, I am at the real beginning of my life. Decisions I make now will affect who I shall become. Although slightly jittery, I must go forth with confidence and hope. On that race day, the wind favored the right side so I head out on port tack. Before long I noticed the wind shift left and I took the lead. Feeling proud of my successful tactics, I am the first to round the windward mark. Downwind, however, is anybody's game. You never know what a wind puff will bring. The left looked windy, so I pointed the bow slightly left. I caught a puff and enjoyed the ride for some time but when the puff died, I decided to jibe-turn the boat suddenly and unstably. The race makes me think of the infinite variables I face at this time. Sometimes I become passionate about my physics class and decide to dedicate my life to the study of hydrodynamics and naval architecture. Not long after however, I may meet a prominent man and become inspired to be an entrepreneur.

Sailing is a metaphor for my life right now because there are so many variables and paths to take, each of which can produce successful results. So many options lie at the beginning of a race, yet a sailor who initially heads right may cross the line within seconds of a racer who headed left. There is no correct path to take, just knowledge mixed with gut feeling. I may catch a puff and head right, but as the puff dies I must decide to push forward or tack. Once you start a race each decision affects your place but one thing is for sure: you can't finish a race on one tack only. Small-boat racing is a pro-cess of intellectual exploration where knowledge and curiosity lead you; a university should be no different.

Christopher M. Pirrung attends the University of Virginia.

Essay Review

A lot of overworked metaphors make the rounds in college essays—as in "I realized that the big game symbolized my quest for meaning in life"—but such essays can be good when they are done right. Author Christopher Pirrung masterfully explains his love of sailing—and convinces the reader that it is a pretty good metaphor for his life. He understands the importance of using terms like "outhaul," "boomvang," and "jibe-turn" even if most readers won't know what they mean. Notice, as well, the graceful way in which he weaves in comparisons of sailing to charting a path in life. He doesn't belabor the metaphor at the beginning. Instead, he makes a brief reference to it in the third paragraph, subtly setting the stage for more extended reflections in the last paragraph.

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