Wow. Time has passed so quickly. I remember clear as day my anxiety in beginning to write the personal statement needed for the Common App. I remember I couldn’t relate to any of the prompts so I chose the “freewrite” option. But going into the college process in general, I was completely unprepared for what I would become: numbers on a chart, scores of a spectrum, ultimately just numbers in some system that I couldn’t dispute or change or relabel with my own name. And it was hard for me. I have a very humanistic approach to life, I guess. I believe that everyone should be valued and have their own unique style. So when it came to summarizing to who I am into a 500-650 word essay, I took that opportunity to share the biggest transitional moment in my life.

Before diving into something as big as *air quote* “the biggest transitional moment”, there are a lot of different approaches to essays, but there are also very few topics students limit themselves to. It’s so easy to fall into the grazing pasture of random facts about yourself. The stigma is to be this put together, well-organized, goal-driven student–so the essays tend to follow that thought process. But in order to break away from that stigma, question it. Question whether the stigma is really how you want to portray who you are. Consider the moments when you didn’t feel like that or some time when you felt emotions strongest.Maybe it was your first F on an assignment that made you sit back and analyze why you felt so down, or not, or during a school dance when you really wanted to dance but nobody was so you decided to start. The moments when your emotions were so tangible that they made you act or reflect on what you just felt. In my opinion, those are the moments that help define who you are.

I’m throwing “you” around like cookie crumbs and I don’t wish to come off as a demanding kind of tone but I can’t think of a better way to express the genuinity of my thoughts. So I’ll turn the topic back to my personal statement to provide an example of what I’m trying to describe. In my statement, I wrote about my first encounter with fear about my culture. It sounds weird but let me explain: at my high school we had formal dinner four times a week. “Formal” meant dresses or slacks, nice shoes, combed hair, the whole get-up. But I had a very different notion of formal. To me, formal meant traditional. So, getting dressed was a snap. I put on my full Navajo regalia and stepped out somewhat nervous, I didn’t  know how to dress otherwise but it didn’t bother me. Until I saw the pack of freshmen girls in actual dresses. Dresses from Seventeen magazine or Teen Vogue. The sight stopped me dead in my tracks and I started to cry. I was terrified at how different I was. Terrified that my culture made me different.

Looking back on it from four years later really helped to figure out how crucial that moment was for freshman me. I didn’t know at the time that that fear was what made me cry. I felt embarrassed at the time, so I put it off as so embarrassed I couldn’t help but cry–but it wasn’t that. After completing my essay I felt a stronger sense of who I wanted to present myself as. I wanted to push the fact that I wasn’t perfect. In finding the imperfections of something, it becomes easier to cherish it as a whole. Don’t be scared to take a leap away from the prompts. Let colleges know who you are because there is no one else like you.