It may be difficult to say what makes a winning essay winning. But one thing is for sure: You know one when you see one! As our seniors round the corner into the homestretch, the harvest is beginning.
For the next several weeks, we we’d like to showcase some of our best examples.
The first one is by Conor Lane, Senior at Saint Ignatius. He’s applying early to The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor which boasts one of the top the theater departments iin the country. Below you will find the question (in italics) and Conor’s essay. Feel free to leave comments if you like!
Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by
(among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest,
race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you
belong and describe that community and your place within in (Approximately 250
Because of its microclimates, you never know, from one minute to the next,
what the weather is going to be like in San Francisco. The fog rolls in and out like a
pendulum of smoke, and when the day comes to an end, the sun kisses the bay and
the white-capped water blends in with the clouds on the horizon. The diversity is
not only in the weather patterns, however, but in the community that makes up this
7×7 mile metropolis.
In San Francisco, being yourself is a way of life. My best friend, Evan, is gay
and lives in Tennessee. He is the bravest soul I have ever known and endures so
much hatred and ignorance in an intolerant land. My single wish is that one day the
whole world will be as accepting as San Francisco so that other people’s brothers
and sisters, friends and lovers can be themselves without the fear of judgment or
Theater is my life and I shall never have any fear that I am alone in that
feeling as long as San Francisco is a part of me. The arts community in the city is so
passionate and absurdly beautiful that displays of magic and shows of power and
grace are never too hard to find. My blood might as well be fog, for as a native son of
San Francisco, I hope to give the city what it gave me.
Here’s another winner. This one is in response to the question: WHY NYU? The “whys” are sometimes the most difficult, especially when you’re trying to convince twelve different schools that they are your top choice. But here’s a good one!
My heart beats louder than it should. In an x-ray it is invisible but I can feel it everyday. It is the fast-paced intense rhythm that is the soundtrack for my life, the physical manifestation of the motivation that pushes me forward. My heart beats too loud for safe, suburban Marin where I live; it is too intense for an ivy-covered hideaway in the midwest; my heart belongs in New York City!
I am absolutely enamored with words. It’s sometimes scary to turn my back on all the safe occupations I have been told I should pursue, but I want to do what makes me happy. Everyday on my way to school as I drive across the Golden Gate Bridge I am writing stories in my head, and more often than not, I am completely intrigued by the juxtaposition of what is going on in my head and what is going on around me. Against the fog-covered ocean and soft green headlands, the words come alive. I want the world to read what I have to say and I believe NYU is the place to cultivate my talent.
I live my life fast. I am constantly moving towards a goal and don’t like to waste a minute of my day waiting around. I am drawn to NYU for its atmosphere of creativity, opportunity and vibrant joie-de vivre. NYU has a heartbeat. And it is loud, just like mine.
This one is also amazing — a response to UC’s question: Describe the world you come from (friends, community, school) and how it has shaped your dreams and aspirations.
I write my world and my world writes me.
Neither of my parents received easy opportunities. My father grew up in the ghetto of New York City, where society labeled him a hoodlum and threw him into the heap of unremarkable teenagers destined to grow old working at their father’s plumbing companies. With no education but a lot of guts and drive, my father left Long Beach, New York in 1964. He went to Wall Street where he begged Lehman Brother’s Holding to take a chance on him. When given this amazing opportunity, he did not let it slip away. He worked tirelessly to prove himself, often staying in the building long after all his colleagues had gone home, and in 1971, my father became the top seller on Wall Street.
Upon my mother’s graduation from high school, she was given two options: get married or go to secretarial school. The day after she graduated from high school, she took the train into New York City and began going door-to-door at modeling agencies. My mother is a beautiful woman with a “snaggle tooth” and a gap in between her two front teeth. This often meant her polite smile was received with a door slamming in her face. Where most people would have quit, my mother worked harder. She began revisiting agencies that had already turned her away, taking each rejection as motivation to work even harder. The third time she found herself sitting in the waiting room at Wilhemina Modeling Agency, something amazing happened. Right as the receptionist began to recite the familiar speech about my mother’s teeth, Wilhemina Cooper herself walked into the waiting room, pointed a finger at my mother and said, “Give her a chance.” My mother’s positive attitude and je ne said quoi set her apart from all the pretty faces, and in 1979, she was named cover girl for Estee Lauder.
I want to be a writer. I know my path will be no less difficult than that of my parents, but they have given me the gift of motivation. Through example, they have shown me what it takes to succeed. The have also given me plenty to write about! 😉
Do you find it difficult to write essays about belonging?
Firstly, read our post on How to write band six essays !
Then, read the following band six response for further guidance, or Download it as a word document
This sample HSC English essay received a mark of 14 out of 15. It is not perfect, but makes some good points and illustrates the structure you should aspire to have in your essays. It refers to the prescribed text As You Like It by William Shakespeare.[separator top=”40″ style=”shadow”]
“Relationships are essential to finding a true sense of belonging”
Discuss with reference to your prescribed text and related text/s
Due to the complex and abstract nature of the concept of belonging, a true sense of belonging can be found in different circumstances for different people. As each individual has their own desires, needs and values, they find their place in the world and a genuine sense of belonging in various avenues. Many individuals find the strongest sense of belonging through relationships, due to the fact that by nature these connections fulfill the human need for social interaction and enrich the lives of the persons involved. Conversely, relationships which do not fit the conventional model of this kind of connection and thus result in negative outcomes for individuals can ultimately lead to a true sense of not belonging and its related notions of isolation and disaffection. Instead, these individuals may attain the same sense that they truly belong outside relationships, though their connections to other ideas such as place and culture, or within themselves. Shakespeare’s As You Like It and Khyenstse Norbu’s Travellers and Magicians are two texts in which an exploration of belonging and its different meanings for individuals ultimately leads to a deeper understanding of the complexity of the concept of belonging and thus that individuals can find a true sense of belonging in a great range of places, not limited to relationships.
Relationships by nature embody ideas of a connection on a psychological level between two people which can fulfill other fundamental human needs such as the need for social interaction, and thus can result in the individuals involved attaining a true sense of belonging. When individuals find meaning and purpose in connections with other people, as they often do in relationships, the need to belong is fulfilled in the greatest sense as the individuals life is enriched by the positive outcomes for their self esteem, security and stability. This idea can be seen in the relationship between Adam and Orlando set up by Shakespeare in As You Like It. Adam promises that he will “follow thee to the last gasp with truth and loyalty” when Orlando decides to go to the forest. By changing the rhyme scheme for Adam’s declaration of commitment to Orlando, Shakespeare effectively emphasizes the lack of superficiality that exists in this relationship as opposed to other relationships he sets up in the play. In their relationship, Orlando finds purpose and stability in his life, knowing he has another person who will always look out for him, just as Adam finds purpose knowing he will always be in the company of Orlando, seen where he states “Fortune cannot recompense me better than to die well and not my master’s debtor.” Through this, Shakespeare communicates that in relationships which are built on trust, loyalty or other solid connections between people, individuals can find meaning, stability, purpose and thus a true sense that they belong. In Travellers and Magicians Norbu inquires into similar ideas which support the value of relationships in the search for a true sense of belonging. In the relationship between Tashi and Deki, Norbu communicates the idea of their deeper connection on all levels through quickly alternating close ups between the expressive eyes of Deki and Tashi, which create the idea that their souls and desires are connecting as their eyes remain fixed on one another. The couple is also often presented on equal terms embracing each other, caring and showing affection through mid shots. Their connection leads Tashi to exclaim “If I never left this place, and died right here with you, I would not die unhappy.” Norbu thus effectively supports the idea that meaning and purpose can be found in real connections with others, and that consequently individuals can find the strongest sense of belonging in relationships such as these. Through this relationship, he also inquires further into the reasons why relationships can lead to a individual feeling that they truly belong. By suggesting that the positive outcomes which the human psyche correlates with attaining a sense of belonging, such as understanding, stability and care manifest themselves in relationships, Norbu advocates and supports the almost inextricable link between belonging and relationships.
Whilst there may be an almost inextricable link between belonging and relationships, not all relationships ultimately lead to individuals finding a genuine sense of belonging which manifests itself in positive outcomes for their lives. Some relationships can be driven by the quest to maintain control, have power and maintain authority over others or by the decisively one sided benefits to one of the individuals involved. In these relationships, it is more likely that individuals find themselves not belonging, isolated and disaffected rather than finding a true sense of belonging. This idea is expanded on by Norbu in Travellers and Magicians. The relationship between Deki and Agay is characterized by Agay’s domination of his young and beautiful wife. This is emphasized through low shots which place the vertically challenged Agay in a position of power over Deki and his statement to Tashi that he makes her live in the isolated hut with him because “We may grow old, but our jealousy stays young.” Deki is thus presented by Norbu as isolated in her relationship; she does not feel the strong connection with Agay that conventional notions of being in the marriage relationship would suggest. Thus through the negative consequences for Deki of being in a relationship with Tashi, and her strong sense of isolation and the feeling she does not truly belong, Norbu communicates the idea that relationships are not always central for individuals trying to find a true sense of belonging. Shakespeare through the representation of a relationship in which love is unrequited similarly challenges the connection between relationships and a true sense of belonging. Whilst Phoebe ends up marrying Silvius, there is a lot of ambiguity in whether she truly loves him and thus has attained a genuine sense of belonging in this relationship. When they marry, all Phoebe comments is “I will not eat my word now thou art mine Thy faith and my fancy to thee doth combine.” A rhyming couplet draws emphasis to this section of the play, where it is not resolved whether Phoebe truly commits her whole self into this relationship, and thus whether Silvius will experience the positive outcomes of the relationship he has desired throughout the play. In this ambiguity, Shakespeare supports the notion that individuals do not always find the greatest sense that they belong in relationships, especially relationships which are unequal and result in negative outcomes for individuals.
Individuals can find a true sense of belonging outside the confines of a relationship in connections to ideas such as culture, place or even within themselves. As each individual is intrinsically different, so are the ways in which they fulfill the fundamental human need to belong. Norbu presents the ideas that individuals can find contentment and fulfill the need to belong through connection to traditional culture and village life. In the first scene, a series of quickly changing mid shots show the activities of daily life in their rural setting. The villagers all wear traditional Gho’s and shrieks of joy emphasized through an echo when practicing archery suggest they are content with these repetitive activities. Essentially, they conform to the expectations of their traditional culture and life and find a true sense of belonging and fulfillment in this connection. Norbu thus demonstrates in this connection that a true sense of belonging and its positive outcomes can be found outside relationships. Duke Senior in As You Like It, can similarly be described as finding a genuine sense of belonging and contentment with his place and environment, the Forest of Arden. He asks Amiens and the audience “Are not these woods More free from peril than the envious court?” In the use of the words “free from peril,” Shakespeare suggests that in this place Duke Senior feels comfortable, content and untroubled and thus has developed a true sense of belonging with this place. The character of Jacques also finds an inner contentment within his meaningless existence.. At the end of the play, Jacques states “I am for other than for dancing measures” and retires to Duke Senior’s “abandoned cave.” He deliberately chooses not to belong in relationships with his comrades, instead he finds his own sense of contentment within himself, and thus Shakespeare demonstrates that a true sense of belonging can be found within an individual.
The complexity of the concept of belonging often means that individuals find belonging in different places to other individuals. Whilst many individuals can attain a true sense of belonging in relationships, due to the nature of these connections and the positive outcomes they have for individuals, there are some relationships in which individuals experience the opposite from truly belonging. Furthermore, there are many circumstances outside the confines of relationships in which individuals can attain a genuine sense of belonging, including culture, place and within themselves. Analysis of a range of texts including As You Like It and Travellers and Magicians inquire into these ideas and foster an appreciation for the need to consider different circumstances and individuals before making assumptions about the multifaceted concept of belonging. Ultimately, relationships are often the connections in which individuals find the truest sense that they belong, but the fulfillment of the fundamental need to belong is not strictly limited to the confines of a relationship.