I live in a small suburban town, where the atmosphere is slowly being destroyed by the influx of commercial business and development. A great source of anxiety to me is the extent to which this may eradicate the town’s heritage and environment. . . .
A cool evening breeze wafted over the age-old former municipal court, illuminated by a stately street lamp from the late nineteenth century. Through the rhythmic, dreary swaying of two tall willows, one could perceive the building’s simple architecture: four perpendicular walls and a sharply pitched roof. Windows were few and unadorned. The single magnificent feature of the court was a towering steeple, evidence of its early service as a Protestant church. Once, children and their parents gathered there in their best attire for Sunday sermons. Now, the ancient edifice stood silent, a lifeless presence dwarfed by the vastness of the cloudy sky. As the clouds drifted, a glimmer of moonlight fell on the building, lighting the hallway within. The corridor was enveloped in white, from the porcelain tiles to the alabaster walls. Two antique benches, crafted from mahogany, stood at either end of the hall, their splendor obscured by a thick layer of dust.
A few minutes later, the main door creaked open, and the street lamp projected onto the hallway the silhouette of a lone, plain-looking man. He moved confidently through the courthouse, since after his duty in the army he had served as magistrate within these walls. Moving toward one of the four inner doors, he thrust it open with flamboyance, admiring his former office with the strength of a thousand memories. Thoughtfully, he continued to his chair and sat down. Taking up the gavel, he smiled; the furnishings in the room had neither been replaced nor refurbished since its construction, and they remained as solid as the day they had been made. Poised upon his former judicial post, he relived his favorite cases. Most were neighborly quarrels or property disputes, and none were as brutal as those he was hearing about these days. Disturbed by these thoughts, the man arose and moved toward the door once more, and after swiftly passing through the corridor, he left the building. As he exited, he felt something bound over his foot. Since winter was approaching, he believed it was probably a squirrel hoarding food; reaching into his coat pocket, he produced a half-eaten sandwich, bent down, and placed it on the clayish ground for the animal, should it return.
An hour later, a black, polished oxford crushed that sandwich, and the brilliant glow of a lantern flooded the small courthouse. The man who loomed in the doorway was nattily dressed: the suit he sported was expertly tailored, his overcoat was of the finest wool, and his elegant hat was tilted back at a dashing angle. He was young, no more than thirty years of age, and he walked quickly through the hall, glancing around furtively and taking deep breaths from a smoldering menthol. Lackadaisically sliding into a bench, he stirred up the age-old dust, which rose quickly around him. Irritated, he continued to move about, scrutinizing the rooms. The furnishings, he thought, would bring quite a sum through auction, as would the oil paintings on the walls-portraits of men who had contributed to the community. Then he could bring in a blasting crew to level the building. He found the court’s history to be of passing interest but was deeply attracted to the profitability of building a shopping center on the land.
Content with his plans, he pictured himself a dozen times richer and smiled approvingly to himself. As he turned to depart, he noticed a half-destroyed window and decided to end its misery. With a swift and brutal kick, he shattered the remaining glass, rending a spider’s web in the process. Approaching the door, he turned off the switch that gave power to the street lamp; no sense in wasting electricity and, therefore, money. He casually dropped his cigarette on the tiled floor and stamped it out with his heel. Heading for his car, he murmured to himself that the trees would have to be cut down to extend the parking lot. That would cost a fair amount, but he hoped that selling the lumber would pay for most of it. Getting into his sedan, he looked around and wondered why people had lobbied against his venture; after all, it could only bring the town revenue. Then there was the roar of a Buick six-cylinder, and as its drone dissipated into nothingness, silence descended upon the courthouse once again, to remain until the demolition crew arrived the following morning.
This essay, except for the first paragraph, would serve as a passable piece of creative writing—if that was the assignment. However, the application essay is a personal statement, used by admissions officers as a tool to get a better sense of the applicant’s personality. The precise, vivid details and well-executed narrative clearly show this student is a good writer, but they tell admissions officers little about his unique character and beliefs, except that he dislikes the influx of commercial business and development into his town. The introduction is too disconnected from the story, and the use of the ellipsis creates an awkward transition to the second paragraph. The student has erred in stating his thesis too soon and in never proving to the reader that the commercial development would be detrimental—except, perhaps, to the former magistrate.