By Mike Omamo
Badassery. The art of engaging in seemingly impossible activities and achieving success in a manner that renders all onlookers completely awestruck. I’m sorry, I know I sound so cocky in my blog posts. I don’t mean to imply that I have the answers to everything but, I know a couple of things here and there. Like I said earlier, I’m an old man trapped in a young man’s body. They say to remain young while growing old is the highest blessing. It truly is! I talk a lot when writing but in person? Not so much. Anyway, how do you write a badass college essay? I like to start with a story. Who doesn’t like a story. Stories are everything.
I wrote my first college essay in 2015. I however, didn’t submit it until 2019. This is what I really mean. In 2015, I was in Equity’s study abroad program and we went to Gems Cambridge for two weeks for college application preparation. We did so many SAT practice papers, had so much fun while at it, fell in love and so forth. But then came the hard part. Writing the college essays. This is me speaking for myself though.
SAT’s are pretty easy if you ask me. You only need to practice hard enough. Writing the personal statement was so hard for me. Have you ever been asked by people to tell them about yourself? You probably have right? What did you say? Did you hesitate? Did you figure out right away what you were going to say? I’ve gone to a couple interviews and that question has always shaken me. I mean, where do you begin to tell someone who you are? You are so amazing to be described in a few words. Now imagine you are supposed to use words to entirely and genuinely describe all of the magic that makes you. Difficult right?
I forgot I was supposed to explain how I submitted my 2015 essay in 2019. Mwahahaha. I’m sorry, I play too much. So, this is what really happened. It was so hard for me to write the essay. I didn’t know where to begin to genuinely write something that would show them who I really was. I am beginning to think I didn’t even know who I really was. I mean, there’s who you think you are, who people think you are and then there’s who you really are. That’s what they want! Who you really are. I couldn’t figure out who I was then so I wrote about what I knew. My guitar. It’s a she. I named her Zari. I wrote about the first time I went into that Moi Avenue music store and saw her and how I couldn’t afford her then how I finally got her and how I felt about her. It’s a beautiful story I tell you. Just find me sometime and I will have you read it.
So, I wrote about Zari and my mentor didn’t like it. He told me…uuuuum…okay I can’t remember exactly what he told me but he didn’t think it would get me into college. I sent it to some of my friends and they loved it. But then they were here to be mentored like me so I was confused and honestly, I thought they didn’t know better than I did. I cannot insist on how wrong I was. Never ever ever assume that someone doesn’t know more than you do just because they are younger than you or the same age as you or a drunk or whatever.
Everyone has something to teach you regardless of who they are. Trust me on this. It will get you far. I went with my Mentor’s advice. I changed my essay entirely into what he thought would get me into college. I changed it a couple of times. I didn’t get into college for the next 3 years. I didn’t stop rewriting an entirely new essay every year. That’s what I was taught. I know madness would be me sending the exact essay over and over again over the years and expecting different results but honestly, if I sent the first essay I wrote with good SAT scores, I know I would’ve gotten in earlier. So, the fourth time I submitted my application, I sent the first essay I wrote about my Zari in 2015. And with good SAT scores. I got into Bennington.
So, this is the most solid essay advice I could give you. Write truthfully. Write for yourself. The world is full of people wearing masks and sure, you can lie to people about who you are but you cannot lie to yourself. You know who you really are. So when you write, write as if you are writing for yourself. Go deeper into who you are. The parts you don’t show to anyone else but yourself, write about that. Think about your life from the beginning. The very beginning. Now think about how it has unfolded to where you are now. If someone made a movie on it, would it be an epic story? Would it have twists and turns and thickening plots? It would right? I’m pretty sure the world would love to watch your beautiful story on the screens. I for certain would love to make a movie on your story. Maybe I will. Come find me later in a few years and pitch it to me 🙂
The purpose of your essay is to paint a picture of who you are. Admission officers will get an idea of your academic and extracurricular achievements from other sections of your application. The essay is where you demonstrate your character, what you will bring to campus, and new insights and perspectives you can offer. To write a compelling essay, convey your ideas through powerful language, and choose a topic about which you can write passionately.
I know sometimes it feels like we don’t know ourselves but the little that you do know now, write it. Be truthful, don’t be superficial, own your story and trust that it’s beautiful because it is. Of course, listen to your mentors and what they have to say but most importantly listen to your truth. Now I know myself a little better. I’ve learnt to embrace who I am. To own it and to show it to the world. So, tell me, who are you when nobody is watching? Not who you think you are. Not who people think you are. Go write about who you really are.
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