I’ve been asked this a bunch of times and here it finally is: the essay I wrote for the CommonApp. I think it’s really representative of the headspace I was in at the time (and admittedly still am in, to some degree). If you’re reading this and struggling with college essay, then let me say that I’ve been there too and I’ve got advice: just write the most honest reflection of yourself. That’s it. And that’s what I attempted to do below.
In case you’re wondering, I was accepted into Brown with this essay, but rejected pretty much everywhere else; though I don’t think you should read too much into that.
Here it is!
“Patience is a virtue”. This was the answer I got to most questions I asked as a child. Be it “What research should I do to win a Nobel Prize?”, or even “How do I go about making a Batman grapple gun?”, I was always told to be patient.’
“You’re not old enough to do that yet”, they would reply, “You need to wait to grow up”.
But I hated waiting, especially for unknown, indeterminate amounts of time. But since everyone I asked told me the same thing, I figured it must be true. So, I would force myself to wait and put all my ambitious ideas on hold while I attempted to learn this supposed “virtue” of patience.
One effective way I found of passing my time was through reading. My love for reading soon kindled another desire: to write something.
Like every other desire or idea I’d ever had, this seemed great and perfectly plausible. My mind immediately began dreaming up characters, plot, page counts, chapter names and even possible publishers. I enthusiastically approached my fifth grade English teacher with my plans, confident that she too would see the brilliance of my ideas and guide me forward.
“It’s great that you want to write.”, she said, “but good writing takes time. You have much more to learn. Remember, patience is a virtue”. Once again, my ideas were met with the exact same response: “patience is a virtue”. But I didn’t understand patience, and I didn’t understand why I had to wait. So this time, instead of abandoning my idea and resigning to patience, I decided to try. I was convinced I could do it, though there was still the overwhelming feeling that everyone else was right.
So I began writing. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as easy as I’d thought. There were so many times when I hit a dead end and almost gave up. But I kept going, just to see if I could finish it. One year and 35,000 words later, I had a completed manuscript.
But I wasn’t content: I wanted to get it published.
“It’s great that you’ve written something, but you should probably wait till you older before you publish”, my friends said. They’d never heard of a published author as young as I was. I hadn’t either, and like them, I was fairly certain that I had to be patient and write something else to get published. But still, since I had come this far, I wanted to try. So I sent my manuscript to a few online publishers.
A few weeks later, I got a reply from a publisher interested in publishing my book.
Three years later, that first book was officially published; the very same book that people told me would never get published because I was too young.
Unfortunately, my book did not become the record-breaking, Pulitzer-winning, multi-million bestseller that I had hoped (JK Rowling made things look way too easy). Still, the fact that it was published represented something huge for me: I didn’t have to be patient. I learnt that there is no such thing as “too young”.
Even though looking back, that first book seems rather silly and juvenile, I would do it again given the opportunity. The realization that I could challenge the “virtue” of patience helped me so much. Later on, it helped me lead my robotics team to win Nationals and represent India despite the fact that other people told us we were “too young”.
Challenging patience has led me to a new mantra: “Impatience is a virtue”. While patience is always important, it’s the stubborn desire to be impatient, work hard and not wait for others that drives great accomplishments. Yes, impatience might not always succeed, but I’d rather try and fail than wait around to grow older or gain other people’s approval.
After all, no one ever changed the world by waiting around.