Stanford University Admission Essay on Personal Growth

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Stanford University Application Essay on Personal Growth

Essay by Anne Erickson

Potential to Contribute: Tell us about a talent, experience, contribution, or personal quality you will bring to the University of California.

In my six-year-old mind I see the president, sitting at his plush desk chair in a navy blue suit. He's examining an important document. Or better yet, he's in the middle of a crucial meeting with leaders from all over the world. His secretary enters. She looks worried. "We've received a letter of some importance," she says. His brow furrows as she hands him a small envelope addressed in sparkly pink pen. "Anne Erickson, age six, Oakland, California," he muses, examining the careful writing. He rips open the envelope to read my note. "My God, Louise, it's regarding dolphin-safe tuna. Call out the National Guard!" Louise would head over to that red telephone, dial a few numbers, and the powers of the U.S. government would be unleashed for the sake of my carefully articulated plea for the dolphins.

It was lucky that I learned to write just as my emerging sense of justice took hold—my letters gave me an outlet for my worries about the world. I remember the feeling of satisfaction it gave me to stick those letters in the mailbox. I was, after all, imparting crucial information: someday, when they were old and retired, the politicians would all thank me. "If it hadn't been for that little girl," they would say, "I'd never have known about those dolphins."

I was thrilled when I received my first presidential envelope in the mail, but soon became indignant to discover that the president sent me the same photocopy in response to each of my painstakingly crafted letters. I didn't give up, however. I simply broadened my target audience, pursuing my dream of a planet safe for animals through posters, clubs, subscriptions to Greenpeace newsletters, and the sheltering of a variety of odd creatures. The Norwegian ambassador renewed my faith in humanity when he sent me a handwritten note in response to my concerns about whaling.

As I've grown, so has my perspective on environmental issues. I still feel just as passionately about the need to save the dolphins, the whales, and all manner of animals, but my passion has been complicated by my slow realization that everything needs "saving"— even humans. A trip to South Africa when I was fourteen left me addicted to international travel, and I came away just as intrigued by that country's people and politics as by its monkeys and lions. Volunteer work in Panama and Honduras has shown me firsthand how difficult it is to strike a balance between human survival and environmental preservation: I'm still angry when I hear about "slash-and-burn" deforestation on TV, yet in the Panamanian village that was my home for two months, burning trees meant farmland, survival, and a way of life for my host family.

My loyalties and passions have expanded as I learn more about the world. In both Panama and Honduras, I worked in schools with kids I adored, and learned to discuss politics and history in Spanish. This fall, I used that Spanish in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I became an Election Day volunteer, getting my first taste of political action and becoming acquainted with volunteers from across the nation, not to mention the unforgettable residents of Albuquerque precincts 67 and 73.

I am no longer the little girl with the one-track mind who wrote letters to the president. Each time I discover something new about myself—my interest in politics, in public health, in teaching—life certainly becomes more frustrating and complex. But my passion for new experiences, and my tenacity and commitment to working for true justice in the world, has never wavered: it will follow me into college and beyond.

Anne Erickson attends Stanford University.

Essay Review

Dolphins, the president, and a spunky six-year-old

The following essay is more than merely a tale superbly told. At the beginning, author Anne Erickson is a six-year-old who sees the world in black and white; by the end, she is a sophisticated thinker who sees the world in shades of gray. The essay flows so well because of the follow-up information that gives texture to the stages of her life. As a six-year-old, she was pleased and then disillusioned, while as an older person she lived her ideals in Albuquerque. Says Anne, "Sitting down knowing that you're writing a big, scary college essay can make you sound wooden and formulaic. Instead, have fun writing about yourself. Later, you can work on all that college-essay-checklist stuff."

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