Columbia University Admission Essay: Power of People

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College application essay about challenges

"Power of People"

Suzanne Arrington

Columbia University

I BELIEVE IN PEOPLE. THIS CONVICTION drives my action and ambitions, and defnes me in a world of cynicism and doubt. I have seen the power of people and their ability to come together in times of need and joy and sorrow. I know that ultimately, humans strive for belonging and community; thus, while loneliness and anger may always be in existence, so will be togetherness and bliss. My strong faith in humanity stems from my witnessing of the best in human qualities while doing the MS150 and during Hurricane Ike, and pushes me to pursue a career in helping others. Both of these events have allowed me to see humanity at its best, performing selfess acts of benevolence.

For the past four years, I have participated in the BPMS150 bike tour from Houston to Austin. This 175 mile ride raises funds for the national MS Society, which sponsors medical research for multiple sclerosis and aids the families of its victims. I can say from experience, the ride is grueling; enormous hills, headwinds, fatigue, and body aches are prevalent throughout. Yet every year, over thirteen thousand riders decide to put their minds and bodies through two days of torture so that they can help those who live with it every day. I have raised, over four years, more than eight thousand dollars to beneft the MS Society, and have never regretted any of the painful training or the ride itself. The view at the starting line is one of the most empowering I have ever witnessed: thousands of people, all of them with their hands on their handle bars, one foot poised on a pedal. All are ready to experience exhaustion for the beneft of others, like my father. He was diagnosed with MS when I was four, and is a constant motivator for me. I witnessed him become blind in one eye, and struggle with a body that refuses to function normally. I participate in this ride every year for him, as do thirteen thousand others. The power of people will ultimately help my father to receive better medical treatment, and maybe even one day, be cured.

While writing this essay, I was also able to observe and be a part of amazing human efforts. Hurricane Ike devastated Southeastern Texas, particularly the Houston and galveston areas. Much of my extended family lives in galveston, and so was forced to evacuate. Without hesitation, my parents opened up our home to aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and pets. This is the environment in which I have always lived; our home is anyone's shelter, our food is anyone's nourishment. Together, our entire family weathered the storm, and comforted one another. My aunt's home received electrical power prior to my home, and so she eagerly welcomed us to stay with her. Large scale displays of altruism could be seen in the hundreds of University of Houston students handing out food and water to those affected by the hurricane. During times of need, people band together for safety and solace. Community is instinctual; dismiss the notions of survival of the fttest. People truly desire closeness with one another.

In the future, I hope to pursue a career in public health. I love studying science and math, and I would like to use this passion to beneft large numbers of people. Many go without basic medical treatment, and this causes a huge discrepancy in quality of life and health in the population. Even if this problem can never completely be solved, I want to help remedy this as much as possible. With small deeds and cooperative effort, humans can accomplish immense good. I know this because I believe in people, and I have seen them at their fnest.

Essay Analysis

Suzanne begins her essay with a four-word sentence that is powerful for its simplicity and frankness: "I believe in people." She goes on to explain why this assertion of her beliefs distinguishes herself from the people around her. Several of the statements Suzanne makes are quite grand; for example, she states that "humans strive for belonging and community; thus, while loneliness and anger may always be in existence, so will be togetherness and bliss." Still, she avoids the pitfalls of generalization by honing in on two specifc examples: the MS150 and Hurricane Ike. One minor point to comment on here is that it is best to spell out all acronyms when frst using them in an essay. Most people probably do not know what the MS150/BPMS150 is, so Suzanne could have made this clear by referencing a 150-mile beneft bike tour.

The second paragraph does an excellent job of demonstrating what Suzanne does for the MS150, her feelings toward the event, and her personal motivation for participating in this "grueling" bike tour's "two days of torture" for four years. This description is particularly strong because Suzanne not only relates her own experience, but also shows that there are 13,000 other people dedicated to the same cause. This adds evidence to the faith in humanity that she describes in the frst paragraph. When making broad claims, it is necessary to provide a broad base of evidence and support. Suzanne certainly accomplishes this in describing her fundraising achievements for the MS Society. Her essay is made more compelling by sharing the story of her "constant motivator," her father.

The transition between the second and third paragraph is some-what jarring. After the sentence, "The power of people will ultimately help my father to receive better medical treatment, and maybe even one day, be cured," Suzanne could have chosen to write about her future career goals in public health. This link makes more sense logically than the current sentence preceding her career plans, "People truly desire closeness with one another." Luckily, because Suzanne referenced both the bike tour and Hurricane Ike in her introduction, the paragraph about the Hurricane is not entirely incongruous. It would simply have ft the fow of the essay better, had she chosen a more specifc and compelling transition sentence rather than "While writing this essay, I was also able to observe and be a part of amazing human efforts."

The power of the Hurricane Iike story is similar to the strength of the MS150 description in that Suzanne presents her individual perspective along with a sense of collective effort. Overall, Suzanne does an excellent job of conveying two profound experiences to illustrate her conviction that "With small deeds and cooperative effort, humans can accomplish immense good."

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