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Two perspectives on an essay

AndersonAs a graduating senior, my life is beginning to change as I prepare for the greatest adventure of my younger years. New responsibilities begin to pile up as I enter into the world of adulthood. From registering for college classes to filling out the FAFSA, I begin to feel more and more like an independent human every step of the way.

One of these responsibilities, which may seem less than glamorous from the surface, is completing scholarship applications.

West Linn High School offers an abundance of scholarship information and aid to help seniors complete applications in a timely manner. That is not always to say the student will finish in a timely manner.

As the hours count down to the first of many major scholarship deadlines, I find myself drowning in personal statements, reference letters and summaries of activities. There is no easy way to gloat about the accomplishments of high school and life thus far. In the end every essay sounds arrogant and egotistical from the writer’s standpoint.

To heighten the issue, every scholarship application requires an essay just slightly different from the rest, ranging from community service to personal strife, but all asking how you have changed because of your circumstances.

Scholarship applications are a daunting task, to say the least. After asking mentor after mentor for recommendation letters, I was tapped out. I took a break and wrote a recommendation letter for a fellow student who needed a contact for leadership. I figured if I was asking my elders to write glowing recommendations for me, I should know the process.

To my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed writing about the positives and potential contributions of someone I wanted to see succeed. It felt uplifting to be a part of tying a person together with their dreams. I dove back into scholarship applications with a renewed mind.

Instead of writing about everything I had accomplished, I began writing about everything that defined who I was as a student and how that had impacted me. The same message of involvement was expressed, but in a different light. I stopped writing about the “amazing” things I had done in high school and instead discussed how both my successes and failures helped narrow my vision for greater goals in life.

It never ceases to amaze me how a tiny change in perspective can alter such a large part of my life. For years, I had viewed applications as bragging grounds and dreaded writing sentence after sentence describing what a great individual I was. College applications, job applications and applications for classes were the bane of my existence.

I always thought an establishment could learn more about who I was by the mistakes I have made than by my accomplishments. The grounds of successes and failures became less black and white. Some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned came from failing, and some of my greatest achievements have come about because I was cut from the team.

As a society, I believe it is time to start focusing more on journeys than on destinations. The next time someone asks you to list your accomplishments, focus more on the fruit of your accomplishments and what you learned and less on the recognition or title you received.

At the end of the day, I would rather define my successes than have my successes define me.

Keeley Anderson is a senior at West Linn High School. She is contributing a regular column to the Tidings this year.



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