University of Wisconsin at Madison Application Essay Sample on A Significant Experience

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University of Wisconsin at Madison Admission Essay Sample on A Significant Experience

Essay by Megan Topolewski

Please write, in some detail, about an experience, an achievement, a person, or a matter of particular significance to you.

Last year I got to taste life; the lukewarm water of revival flowing down my throat. I got to feel it, in the pumping of my heart, the layers of dry dust encrusted on my hands. I got to smell it; the magnified aroma of my body fused on my clothes. I got to hear it too; the melody of zippers. And I got to see it; the orange mountains and cliffs, and sand that I thought I was used to. But this time I didn't just drive by them or admire them from a pool side.

I went shopping for hiking boots and pants that made me look like a miniature version of the tent I would be sleeping in for that week. We call it "Project Term" at my school, where we get to pick one of several trips to go on. I picked the most difficult, the one with the warning attached. The one without the bathrooms, the mirrors, the showers. I went into it so scared that I could not imagine a "me" that could have survived it. My big goal for myself was to do just that; to get through it. But I came out of it, indeed, as no one who I could have foreseen. I came back with clothes that needed to be washed twice, hair that had wildly regressed back into its natural curl, and the notion that the suburbs would no longer pass as satisfactory. I learned to eat spilled pasta off the ground, that it was fun and tasted just fine. I learned that there are more stars in the sky than I thought. I learned how to package my clothes air-tight, into zip-lock bags. I woke each morning with every muscle muttering in complaint, but hiked a mountain that day anyway. I treasured my bruises and the new holes in my clothing. I felt what it was like to hold myself, dangling in front of a waterfall. I learned that my mountain bike at home has no idea of its luck in escaping the torturous trails out west. I know that it's best to take small baby steps to walk up a steep hill. I'm also learning that these things can be metaphors for life. The most important thing I came back with was a new belief in myself, where I had previously harbored doubts. I came back with ambition to learn about the world. Life, I'm ready for you.

Megan Topolewski attends the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Essay Review

a fresh take on camping

Many essays begin with an air of mystery that lasts for a sentence or two, but this one prolongs the uncertainty through a five-sentence first paragraph. Author Megan Topolewski drops a clue for each of the five senses, but only in the second paragraph does she spill the beans that her subject is a camping trip. Note as well that in cataloging what she "learns," Megan starts with the small stuff: how to pack ziplock bags, and the joys of eating off the ground. Starting with the mundane makes her more credible when she moves on to the big lessons.

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