Yale University Admission Essay Sample about Politics and Religion

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College Admission Essay on Politics and Religion

Essay by Rachel Dubois

As I step up to the pulpit, I feel a familiar sense of calm come over me, the calm I always experience before singing to my congregation. Scanning the audience, I look out at the parents and grandparents, making eye contact with those I recognize and those I do not. I begin to sing with my youth choir behind me, and take a deep breath in preparation for my solo. I can feel the eyes of the congregation locked onto me, waiting, and then my voice soars out over the expectant faces.

When I finish singing, I see rapt expressions and tears. Even though I know they would be touched regardless of how I sound, every time I sing at a service, I am overwhelmed by the amount of warmth that meets my participation.

"Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful." I turn to see my cantor beaming at me, and I smile back. As I walk out of my synagogue, I am stopped repeatedly by wrinkly little women who grin unabashedly at me and well-wishers who say how much it means to them to see and hear young people at their Friday night service. The amount of praise I receive is almost embarrassing and feels somewhat undeserved, but it gives me joy and gratification that I can't find anywhere but here. Where else could you get a sticky, lipstick-smeared kiss from a complete stranger, and feel like it was the most heartfelt gesture in the world?

I have spent countless hours singing and performing, but there is a tangible difference between performing in a concert with my school choir and singing for my temple community. Whenever I contribute to my synagogue, I know that people appreciate my effort, whatever the results. To be able to participate without being judged gives me full rein to enjoy the experience. For this reason, belonging to a close-knit Jewish community has always been a vital part of my life. Over the years, I became more involved, moving from attending Sunday school classes to teaching younger students and helping to found my temple youth group. I joined the temple choir, chanted Torah on major holidays, and wrote for the temple bulletin. The more I undertook, the more I wanted to be active in my community. Gradually, my religion turned into a force that has grounded me and kept me centered throughout high school. An anchor point in my life, it has provided me with a rare sense of connection to my own identity and to the needs of those around me.

The summer I turned fifteen, I attended Kutz, a Jewish leadership camp, and was exposed to a vibrant and energetic group of teenagers. The passion that permeated the camp was infectious, and that summer, I realized that I wanted to devote my life to leading and nurturing a Jewish community. Abandoning my plans to become a doctor, which I had formed in kindergarten, I decided to pursue the goal of becoming a cantor. A cantor, similar to a rabbi, is a member of the Jewish clergy who leads a large portion of the song and prayer during a service. In pursuit of this ambition, I became the Religious and Cultural Vice President of my temple youth group, writing and leading services for teens at every youth event. This past summer, I journeyed to Israel on NFTY's L'Dor v'Dor program to examine my roots and solidify my goal of becoming a cantor. Seeing my ancestral homeland was the final step; I felt a visceral connection to all aspects of Judaism.

What my community has offered me, I want to give to others. To be able to bond with a diverse congregation, create a spiritual moment for those many years my senior or my peers, and inspire all of them through song and prayer is an incomparable sensation. I truly feel like I am participating in tikkun olam, or healing the world. Not many people have had their career planned out since age fifteen, but to me, being a cantor was the only path that combined my passions with my identity. I know that nothing else in life could give me the spiritual joy and fulfillment that I crave, while having a positive effect on others.

Leaving the temple parking lot, I am perfectly content. Just as on every other Friday night, I smile an inward smile and think to myself, "Yeah, this really is what I want to do with my life. Good choice."

The only choice.

Rachel Dubois attends Yale University.

Essay Review

writing about religion

There are many pitfalls to essays about religious faith. Since faith is in the mind (and therefore abstract), the challenge is to make faith come alive with concrete stories and anecdotes. The following essay begins as a story about singing and being on stage. Only in paragraph four does the author, Rachel Dubois, begin to explain why singing in her temple has special meaning. By the end, she is talking about tikkun olam, "healing the world," in a much more convincing way than she could have by beginning the essay with a testament to her faith. Says Rachel, "Writing about my religious/cultural background was the easiest topic I could have chosen because it was something that was inherently me."

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