Sample Essay Set

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Describe your intellectual interests, their evolution, and what makes them exciting to you.

I glanced at George Bush, standing at the opposite lectern, then faced the audience and proceeded to argue the case for my election as President of the United States .

It wasn't George Bush, but rather one of my classmates, and we were conducting a mock debate. My adrenaline was flowing just the same; I relish the challenge of debating issues or causes. This infatuation began in childhood when I would argue points with my parents and schoolmates.

As my intellect grew, and my research skills became more sophisticated, I would seek occasions to employ my skills in a formal environment. I ran for student government, participated in mock debates, and took on class projects that required critical thinking.

It's not just the thrill of the argument that appeals to me—I like doing the research as well. My mother, a library media specialist, cultivated my love for reading. I enjoy chasing after a subject in the library, and watching all the pieces of information fall into place as a form the larger picture.

Fiction has also been part of my intellectual diet. Over the course of a novel, I can meet and get to know people who live in different times and different cultures—people whose lives I would never get a picture of without reading about them.

I can't wait to continue my intellectual development at the university level, taking in all the information, processing it, and reforming it into new ideas.

Define success.

Police barricades restrain the frenzied crowd as the white stretch limo pulls up to the curb. A handsome young man steps out of the vehicle as his fans leaned over the partition, screaming for his autograph.

I see this presented on television and in magazines as an image of success. Money and glamour are not the standards I use.

For me to consider myself successful, I first will have to earn the respect of both my superiors and my peers. This respect won't come solely from achievements and abilities, although that will be part of it. But it must also come from the values they see me practice. I want to be respected not for money or grades or titles, but because I help improve the lives of the people around me.

By my standards, success is about more than what you do. My success as a person depends on the support of family and friends. They help me achieve success, and they are a part of that success. If I neglected those relationships to move up the career ladder, then my success would be empty.

Finally, success is personal. When I graduate with a bachelor's degree, I want to feel that I left the university better than when I arrived. Of course I want recognition from my teachers and fellow students, and of course I want my family and friends to be proud of me. But I also want to know that I put forth my best effort, and to me, being able to look yourself in the mirror is part of success.

What work of art, music, science, mathematics or literature has surprised or unsettled or challenged you, and in what way?

The explosion was vast in magnitude. Light illuminated the infinite darkness of space, as matter hurtled outward from its primal source.

This is the Big Bang Theory of how our universe began some fifteen billion years ago. If we look through a sophisticated telescope, we can still see a miniscule portion of that matter, consolidated into galaxies, still racing away from its celestial womb.

The origin and destination of that matter are a challenge to my imagination. It could have come from a previous universe that collapsed upon itself. Then again, it could have been a divine force that sparked its inception.

Either way, that leaves the question of whether our universe will expand infinitely, or collapse into a new primal mass.

If collapse is the answer, then I wonder if some species will be here in our place, and whether another species was here before us. I wonder whether we are the only beings formed from this universe soup, and if we will ever bump into the neighbors.

On clear nights, I like to stargaze. I wonder how many of those stars still exist, since it takes tens of thousands of years for the light to reach us, and many of those suns have burned up their gaseous fuel and devolved into cold, dark masses.

I wonder how long we will be here.

However we got here, and however long we get to stay, the time is precious to me, and the process is beautiful.

What is your favorite word, and why?

The baby hits the air, and begins to cry, letting us know that she's here, and she's ready for life.

Life impresses me. In my science classes, I marvel at how sophisticated the human brain and body are. I look under the microscope to view amoebas and paramecia, and I'm struck by how we came from such tiny beginnings.

How we treat life is the defining act of our existence.

I flick on CNN, and immediately see war and destruction. Life is precious to me, so it concerns me that we conduct our disputes in any way that interrupts it. But I also see many acts of kindness in times of crisis, many people working to nurture and support life.

Paradoxically, the same medical research we do to preserve life can turn into a weapon of mass destruction in the wrong hands.

We've had mixed success treating non-human life on our planet with respect. We've been able to conserve and protect many species, but we've managed to extinguish nearly as many with carelessness or selfish purpose.

As a member of the highest form of life on our planet, I feel a deep responsibility to contribute to the quality of life of human beings as well as our plant and animal cohabitants.

I plan to spend my time at the University of Virginia learning how to foster my favorite word: life.

What are the three words that best describe you, and why?

Fortunate, confident, concerned—this is how I would describe myself in three words.

I have been fortunate enough to have access to good schools and extracurricular activities. I have parents who love and support me both emotionally and economically. Our home is comfortable, our friends are plentiful, and we have had the opportunity to travel and observe many cultures.

This supportive environment has nurtured the confidence I now possess. When presented with a challenge—academic, athletic or interpersonal—I approach it with the attitude that I can handle what comes. This confidence has helped me push through difficult situations, and keep sight of whatever goals I set for myself.

Despite my privilege and my confidence, I am also extremely concerned. I love the natural beauty of our world and the diversity of its people. I enjoy living on Long Island 's seashore, but I know that we have to take care of our waters, wilderness and atmosphere to maintain this quality of life.

I'm also concerned that not everyone gets to enjoy these aspects of life. They are busy trying to make ends meet, or even trying to stay alive. We not only need to treat our planet well, we need to treat each other with respect.

I plan to use my fortunate circumstances, my confidence, and my concern to make the most of a university education, and graduate ready to go out into the world and work for the values I hold.

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