University of Virginia Admission Essay Sample on Racial or Cultural Differences

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University of Virginia Admission Essay Sample on Racial or Cultural Differences

Essay by Danielle Marie Needles

In the beginning of third grade, I took my first standardized test where I had to fill out my full name, address, my birthday, and to shade in the corresponding ovals. My teacher then said to fill in the oval that represents our ethnicity. One of the choices was "Hispanic/Latino." I paused for a moment. I knew that I was Mexican American; my grandparents emigrated from Mexico to El Paso, Texas, where my mom and her ten brothers and sisters grew up. However, when I came across this question about my ethnicity, I never fully realized what it meant to me. I filled in the oval labeled "Hispanic/Latino" and then smiled, for it was the first time that I could remember where it was going to be recognized that I was, in fact, Mexican.

Growing up in a middle class family, I never experienced the hardships that my grandparents (the Navarros) and my mom had to go through in their daily lives. My great-grandparents never went to school; my grandmother never received an education past third grade, while my grandfather never exceeded fouth grade, in their home in Chihuahua, Mexico. They emigrated to El Paso after they married, where my grandparents had to teach themselves English.

My mom and her siblings went to a predominantly white high school, where the only Mexicans she knew of were her extended family. My mom was very studious, always breaking the boundaries and exceeding expectations about how a Mexican girl in high school should be. Her counselors would tell her she should be taking homemaking classes which would help her out of high school, but she stuck with the most rigorous math courses and took four years of Russian. After she graduated, her dreams led her to a place outside of El Paso; my grandmother helped her secretly leave El Paso to Miami, Florida, for the hope of a better future. My mom ended up working at a law office and took night classes at Miami-Dade Community College. Her job gave her the chance to help her family financially, but it consumed all her time, leaving her studies behind. My mom became a very prominent and well-respected real estate settlement manager for twenty-five years at the firm, but to this day her only regret is not to have completed her education. For me the way to keep this story alive

is through a strong education and by surpassing all stereotypes and keeping my faith.

In my high school, 35 percent of the students are Hispanic. Since I've entered Washington-Lee, I've always been in the most advanced classes. During freshmen year, I knew a lot of people with various ethnic backgrounds. At the end of my sophomore year, it was time to declare if one was to become an International Baccalaureate (IB) candidate. The majority of students who declared themselves as IB candidates were white, while a small minority were from various ethic groups.

During the end of my junior year and the beginning of my senior year, more ethnic students dropped out of the IB Program. Today, there are only a handful of students of ethnic backgrounds. The main reason why I've been pursuing the IB diploma was to challenge myself and that although I am Mexican, I am capable of beating the odds and trying to accomplish a task my mom's family was not given the opportunity to. In a way, I'm pursuing this diploma for my entire Navarro family, especially my mom.

I am thankful everyday for all that I have: a wonderful supportive family, the drive to pursue an IB diploma, and to be surrounded by a strong, dedicated group of friends. I know that the history and struggle of my mom and her family runs through my veins; although I don't have stories of personal experiences of growing up in poverty, or struggling through a time of racism, the best I can do is to tell my family's story by keeping it alive. It gives me hope and confidence to exceed through the boundaries by graduating high school and attending college—a task neither my mom, mis tios? or my grandparents achieved. As a third-generation Mexican in my mom's family, what being Mexican American means to me is to embrace my past and to excel in the future.

Since that test in third grade, whenever I fill out my ethnicity on a standardized test, I fill in the "Hispanic/Latino" oval and I smile as I remember who I am and that I am proud to be Mexican American.

Danielle Marie Needles attends the University of Virginia.

Essay Review

finding inspiration in family

There is nothing fancy about the following essay—it is simple, honest, and works beautifully. The anecdote that opens the story is an experience everyone has had: blackening the ethnicity oval. The author goes on to describe the lives of her mother and grandparents, and why their experience continues to inspire and motivate her. In writing about the IB program, she highlights her drive to excel and gives strong evidence that she can thrive in a highly competitive college. Says Danielle, "I had so many ideas all at once that it was way over five hundred words. I asked my mom to help me edit it and cut it down, and got guidance from my college counselor on how to make it more fluid."

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