When I was in the eighth grade, my backpack disappeared from my life. I can’t remember what happened to it. I may have lost it, or perhaps my sister took it. Anyway, I found myself backpackless. I need a backpack to carry all my books, binders, pens, pencils, highlighters, protractors, calculators and compasses (sometimes I go a bit overboard with the tools I bring to class). I began to use this strange pack of my dad’s, which was actually more like a soft-sided briefcase with back-straps. That pack was truly the ugliest piece of luggage I have ever seen. It embarrassed my friends and made me feel like a fool, but I had no choice but to wear it. I couldn’t find any alternative where I lived in Saudi Arabia, so I promptly ordered a backpack from L.L. Bean.
I really enjoy pouring over catalogs, so I enthusiastically decided on the nine-inch deep L.L. Bean Deluxe (I need a roomy backpack). For the color, I debated among eggplant, forest green, pine, and the other excitedly named shades, but eventually decided on mallard blue. It was a shade of blue that bordered on iridescent. I knew no one else would have a backpack that color. I sent off my order form and eagerly waited.
It takes a few months for L.L. Bean to get something all the way to Saudi Arabia, but my backpack eventually arrived. I realized that mallard blue had been a bold choice. The color could definitely be called ugly, and its brightness could not be denied. It was also huge, especially on my eighth-grade body. The crowning detail was my initials “H-A-W” embroidered on the back. Yes, it spells “haw.” However, it was clearly an improvement over Dad’s dork-case. I loved it, and it has since gone with me everywhere.
My bag has acquired a great deal of character since eighth grade. There are little marks and scratches all over the material. There’s a small sparkly bead flower I sewed on once in a fit of procrastination; the flower was originally accompanied by a diagonal line of sparkly beads above the reflective strip on the bag, but I decided that was just too much and removed the line of beads. One can faintly see where I wrote “excess” on the bag. I don’t know why I wrote that; I just went through a phase when I thought “excess” was a cool word. Also on the bag is leftover stitching from where I had attached a Saudi Arabian flag, which I removed because I feared it made me vulnerable to terrorist attacks. On the back pocket, I added a patch proclaiming me to be an “advanced” diver from the scuba class I took during the summer. When I have time, I plan to add another patch from NOLS, the National Outdoor Leadership School, where I spent part of my summer. The final touch is a little guardian angel pin that my aunt gave to me. It looks silly in its shiny golden newness next to the rest of my rugged ragged bag, but I could think of no better place for the pin, which I’m supposed to keep near me at all times.
I think my backpack is a good representation of me. Just like my backpack, my personality is full of random, loud elements that don’t really make sense together. Their only unifying force is the fact that they all belong to me, so I like them. Just as my backpack has picked up a patch here and a beaded design there, I have picked up ideas here and insights there throughout our travels together. It records my history more personally than a diary ever could, and although I know it is just a material object, I would be at a loss if I were ever to lose it.
Though not as strong as some of the other “Well Done” essays, the success of this applicant’s work lies in his unique subject matter—his backpack. The introduction is a bit stolid and too conversational, causing the reader to lose interest. However, the unique topic helps keep the reader’s attention. The writer shows his ability to relate precise details in the second paragraph and adeptly (and indirectly) relates that he is a foreign student: “It takes a few months for L.L. Bean to get something all the way to Saudi Arabia, but my backpack eventually arrived.”
The applicant shows his maturity and attention to current events through the relation of his concern about “terrorist attacks.” Talking about the patches and other details of his backpack provides the opportunity for him to relate some of his qualities and past experiences.
He saves his explicit conclusion for the end of the essay—a much more successful (and interesting) strategy than relating the point early on. Though his realization could have been more insightful (“Just like my backpack, my personality is full of random, loud elements that don’t really make sense together.”), he is genuine in his expression of confusion. Not everyone will know exactly who they are or what they want to do with their lives. For students such as this applicant, college will indeed be the place for him to discover more about who he really is and aspires to become.