My college essay topic: COMING OUT, read my paper inside.

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    Jan 31, 2008 8:36 PM GMT
    Tell me what you guys think... the prompt was:

    Write an essay in which you tell us about someone who has made an impact on your life and explain how and why this person is important to you.

    And here is the essay:

    When developing pictures, there’s a very elaborate and delicate process that has to occur. You first develop your film, process the photos, expose the negative on paper, then “fix” and “burn” the photo with chemicals. In the end it’s very easy to have a picture that comes out underexposed. From there, you have to separate the quality photos from those that are mediocre, or even garbage. This “process” is much like one in my own life. I had a secret that no one knew. It was something that I thought no one could possibly understand; something that I was afraid of revealing to even my closest and longest friends out of fear that they would reject and ignore me if they found out. I suppose that my friends began to suspect something, because they started asking me questions, hinting that they knew my secret. My gut reaction was to distance myself from them, until one day I decided that I needed, and wanted, to finally confide in a specific someone. That day my life changed forever.
    Cole was one of my best friends. We shared everything, well, almost everything, since I kept my secret from him. I had known Cole for several years. We competed in tournament level paintball every weekend as teammates side by side. As my secret continued to gnaw at me, I began to withdraw from everyone, including Cole. I was scared that I might say or do something inadvertently that would reveal the truth to them, losing their friendship. Cole, however, as one might expect out of a best friend, never let our relationship fully divorce. He continued to call me, message me on the local internet paintball forum, and attempted to stay in contact with me in every form possible, in spite of my attempts to fade away from my friends. This is one of the things that I hold in the highest esteem of Cole. What I finally realized was that he was reaching out to me, that he knew that I was struggling with something deep inside and that he would be there for me for support no matter what.
    After a concise conversation over the phone I found myself driving to what might ultimately be the most influential experience of my life. A sudden realization of the events to follow struck my entire body as I pulled into his driveway. Nervousness controlled my every whim from the stuttering in my voice to the shaking of my hands. However, after many pauses and much hesitation, I managed to build up the courage to share with him my secret. I “came out” to Cole. I told my closest friend that I was homosexual. His reply was shocking and consisted of simply, “Yeah… so?” He acted as if my confession was insignificant, but in fact was indirectly telling me that something such as sexual orientation was irrelevant regarding our friendship. From that, I learned that genuine friends don’t judge or criticize each other; they are there for one another regardless of the situation at hand. I was able to finally understand the difference between my real friends and those who were merely acquaintances. Cole was the picture that came out perfect.
    Shortly after my experience with Cole, photography found a way in to my heart. Photography initially was an interest, but I never let it develop past this as I was afraid of how people would judge me. Though, in realization that people who are significant in my life take me as I am, for whom I am, this interest was able to evolve in to a passion. Just like every other young adult I switched what I believed may be a possible career path many times, but I finally realized that a career in marketing and advertising was the route that I would be most content with. This would allow me to incorporate my love for photography and graphic design with my sales abilities in to a life long career. Not only have I obtained self discovery, which is essential for personal success and happiness, but my performance in school, work and my social life have increased dramatically. My GPA drastically climbed, my sales statistics at work rose, and I received an escalation of invites to social events from my peers. I owe every bit of this maturity in my life to Cole.
    Sure, everyone has their best friend, but how many of them are able say that this individual has contributed to a meaningful impact on their life? Cole has without a doubt opened up my eyes and allowed me to reach my full potential.




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    Jan 31, 2008 9:52 PM GMT
    "Nervousness controlled my every whim"

    Are "controlled" and "whim" good words here?

    Nervousness controlled my every ....action

    Nervousness colored my every action

    Nervousness controlled me and my every action.

    Nervousness consumed me and my every action
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    Jan 31, 2008 11:22 PM GMT
    i thought about that, but i like whim, not many people use it. and a major part of the essay is to stand out over the other thousands of applicants going through the same process.
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    Jan 31, 2008 11:25 PM GMT
    I really like the metaphor of photography. When we come out, it seems that we are transferred from a little image -- a negative -- in the wrong colours to a photograph; we are in that sense now "developed".

    But can we extend the metaphor a little? And what are it's weaknesses? Away from the moment of transition, we are no longer stills, but streams of pictures. We are not static creatures, but like leaves on a river each blown this way and that. We cannot ignore this dynamic dimension: cameras are inevitably a harsh judge of us because they see only our faces and our bodies and not down into our hearts.

    For me personally, photography (and painting) is something I hide behind when I am unable to connect with life. The camera lens rather than the one in my eye -- the image on the canvas and not on my retina -- provides a level of indirection that allows me to cope with seeing so much trauma and injustice in the world. Chaos and Decay in all around I see.

    Your essay is nicely written. It has emotional impact. My suggestion is to boldly try to see what your metaphors really mean to you, and to try to integrate them, and extend them, throughout your essay. You are young, and it seems to be like a photograph that is only becoming clear in the developing tray. What will the final picture be?
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    Jan 31, 2008 11:57 PM GMT
    Overall I believe you have a good subject and presentation. Caslon hit on one of my thoughts, but I do have others. I've tried to leave your words...almost entirely and, for the most part simply rearranged them:

    I don't like the opening. I've always felt the reader should know what you're writing about from the opening sentence. Something like:

    "My best friend Cole has made a tremendous impact on my personal life and my future career."

    I think I would reorganize your thoughts:


    Cole was one of my best friends. We shared everything, well, almost everything, since I kept my secret even from him. I had a secret that no one knew. It was something that I thought no one could possibly understand; something that I was afraid of revealing to even my closest and longest friends out of fear that they would reject and ignore me if they found out. I suppose that other friends began to suspect something, because they started asking me questions, hinting that they knew my secret. My gut reaction was to distance myself from them, until one day I decided that I needed, and wanted, to finally confide in a specific someone. That day my life changed forever.

    I had known Cole for several years. We competed in tournament level paintball every weekend as teammates side by side. As my secret continued to gnaw at me, I began to withdraw from everyone, including Cole. I was scared that I might say or do something inadvertently that would reveal the truth to them, losing their friendship. Cole, however, as one might expect out of a best friend, never let our relationship fully dissolve. He continued to call me, message me on the local internet paintball forum, and attempted to stay in contact with me in every form possible, in spite of my attempts to fade away from my friends. This is one of the things that I hold in the highest esteem of Cole...I think this prior sentence is awkward and needs reworking...I have no idea how to do it.... What I finally realized was that he was reaching out to me, that he knew that I was struggling with something deep inside and that he would be there for me for support no matter what.

    After a concise...I don't like this word...conversation over the phone I found myself driving to what might ultimately be the most influential experience of my life. A sudden realization of the events to follow struck my entire body as I pulled into his driveway. Nervousness controlled my every whim from the stuttering in my voice to the shaking of my hands. However, after many pauses and much hesitation, I managed to build up the courage to share with him my secret. I “came out” to Cole. I told my closest friend that I was homosexual. His reply was shocking and consisted of simply, “Yeah… so?” He acted as if my confession was insignificant, but in fact was indirectly telling me that something such as sexual orientation was irrelevant regarding our friendship. From that, I learned that genuine friends don’t judge or criticize each other; they are there for one another regardless of the situation at hand. I was able to finally understand the difference between my real friends and those who were merely acquaintances.

    You might add some transititon to your other topic...photography...something like.

    "Cole's impact on my life affected my future career goals as well."

    Photography initially was an interest, but I never let it develop past this as I was afraid of how people would judge me. When developing pictures, there’s a very elaborate and delicate process that has to occur. You first develop your film, process the photos, expose the negative on paper, then “fix” and “burn” the photo with chemicals. In the end it’s very easy to have a picture that comes out underexposed. From there, you have to separate the quality photos from those that are mediocre, or even garbage.

    This “process” is much like one in my own life. In realization that people who are significant in my life take me as I am, for whom I am, this interest was able to evolve in to a passion. Just like every other young adult I switched what I believed may be a possible career path many times, but I finally realized that a career in marketing and advertising was the route that I would be most content with. This would allow me to incorporate my love for photography and graphic design with my sales abilities in to a life long career.

    Not only (credit Cole here, not yourself) have I obtained self discovery, which is essential for personal success and happiness, but my performance in school, work and my social life have increased dramatically. My GPA drastically climbed, my sales statistics at work rose, and I received an escalation of invites to social events from my peers.

    I owe every bit of this maturity in my life to Cole.
    Sure, everyone has their best friend, but how many of them are able say that this individual has contributed to a meaningful impact on their life? Cole has without a doubt opened up my eyes and allowed me to reach my full potential. Cole was the picture that came out perfect.


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    Feb 01, 2008 3:21 AM GMT
    Well i sent it in, i was just curious as to what you guys think as far as the gay perspective.
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    Feb 01, 2008 3:30 AM GMT
    No, thanks for sharing it! With no criticism intended, I found rigsbys version to lack *expression*... :-/
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    Feb 01, 2008 3:50 AM GMT
    Your voice is strong in the piece and the conventions aren't too bad. It is a strong topic and a bold one to put out there. THe big compositional weakness is that the portions about Cole and the last paragraph about photography don't connect that strongly. If you are sending this out to other institutions I would work on that bit a little more.

    Caslon's comment is dead on regarding whim. The sentence is much stronger with a word like 'action'.

    You didn't have a 'concise' conversation. It is such an efficient little word. Perhaps 'hurried' if you are trying to convey nervousness, or 'terse' if there was some negative emotion surrounding it.

    just a thought. Hope everything goes well for you.
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    Feb 01, 2008 6:29 AM GMT
    rigsby, no offense by this, but blatantly stating what your paper or essay is about in the first sentence is a tad elementary. You want to get the reader to think, to become eager to further in the reading of the essay.

    as for the other suggestions thanks, notes taken.
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    Feb 01, 2008 6:33 AM GMT
    I think its a good essay I actually wrote about coming out and my family in my law school personal essay.
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    Feb 01, 2008 6:37 AM GMT
    my good friend said that law school actually encourages homosexuality in their program and gets your bonus points, hopefully its somewhat the same case with advertising...
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    Feb 01, 2008 7:21 AM GMT
    I thought it was great, Hott -- the way you communicated the suspense, in particular. I agree with others that the transition back to your photography metaphor is a bit too subtle but that's a simple fix if you rewrite it for some other purpose.

    What I most like about it is its illustration of a point I try to communicate to clients frequently: That once you liberate your heart's capacity to love and be loved, life acquires a lot of clarity in other, often surprising respects too.

    Tim makes an interesting point that photography and painting serve him as defenses against connection. That may be true, but working with images CAN be just the opposite. Since I work with most clients with images, this comes up a lot.

    I usually compare it to the myth of Medusa who turned anyone to stone if they looked at her. In order to slay her, Perseus looked at her reflection in his shield. In other words he looked indirectly at his obstacle in order to approach it without becoming paralyzed. That's the beauty of images in psychological process, they can represent something with perfect clarity without immobilizing you.

    So, from my perspective, any aesthetic undertaking has the potential to transform our experience.
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    Feb 01, 2008 7:22 AM GMT
    l thought it was nice but no big deal!
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    Feb 01, 2008 10:02 AM GMT
    [quote]Nervousness controlled my every whim[/quote]

    I agree with Caslon on this one. Just because it's a rare word doesn't mean it's the right one.

    A whim is by definition, uncontrolled, spur-of-the-moment. Putting it close to it's antonym gives the illusion of illogicality. icon_wink.gif Though if you examine it, it's quite acceptable.

    Anyhow, the teacher won't be impressed by your vocabulary if you use it in the wrong way, anyway. Hehe

    As for the essay in its entirety:

    It's quite good. I do hope you did separate the paragraphs/indent them for the final piece though. LOL The flow of your storytelling is natural and smooth. None of the jarring bouncing back and forth of most amateur works.
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    Feb 01, 2008 1:19 PM GMT
    obscenewish saidI usually compare it to the myth of Medusa who turned anyone to stone if they looked at her. In order to slay her, Perseus looked at her reflection in his shield. In other words he looked indirectly at his obstacle in order to approach it without becoming paralyzed. That's the beauty of images in psychological process, they can represent something with perfect clarity without immobilizing you.


    Do you know, that is almost exactly the point I was in fact trying to make earlier. Good for OW, who expresses my thoughts better than I do, apparently! I really like the connection to Perseus.
  • HndsmKansan

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    Feb 01, 2008 1:59 PM GMT
    I think the overall essay is very good. I like the transitions and your ending is excellent and leaves the reader with a total sense of satisfaction.

    Some of the input received makes sense. I just tend to offer criticism after assessing the whole. Some of your phrases could be changed.. the one Caslon mentioned is one of them... another I noticed:

    "My GPA drastically climbed".

    I would have left out drastically and simply said "My GPA soared" or maybe "My GPA improved significantly".

    On a side note, the comment Chung made is true. My law school essay encouraged individualism, but I never talked about sexuality. That would have been a step.
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    Feb 01, 2008 2:19 PM GMT
    I write (and get edited) for a living, so I hope you won't mind some feedback here.

    I agree with rigsby that the reader should know exactly what the essay will be about from the beginning, whether from the opening sentence, or at the very least from the opening paragraph. You don't want to "bury the lede." The photography intro is nice, but ultimately serves no purpose -- you can bring that part in later on as you already do. The essay question is about a person who's had an influence on your life, so I think you should really focus on your friend Cole. As it stands, he kind of gets lost in the shuffle.

    Also, I wouldn't worry so much about trying to "wow" the reader with vocab words like "whim." It doesn't quite work here. "Concise," "divorce" and "drastically" also aren't exactly right here. (Friendly writing tip: Never use a word that isn't exactly right! icon_smile.gif )

    Finally, your essay reads... well, like a college essay. It doesn't grab me, and I'm sure nowadays admissions officers read 20 coming out essays a day. You have to stand out, but don't do it with metaphors or vocab words. People will be blown away by your story, plain and simple. And your story is about a terrible secret, the fear of losing everything, and the joy of finding out how wrong you were about your friend -- and yourself.

    So write your story, and make the reader hold his or her breath until the end, even though they know how it will turn out. Just tell your story, and you can't go wrong.

    Hope this helps!
  • HndsmKansan

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    Feb 01, 2008 2:28 PM GMT
    I read meb's comments and most are probably true.. especially the part at the beginning and while I can appreciate that input (since he is a writer) my response is... This is a college essay from someone who is in college. You are relaying something important based on your age, views and experience.
    In 10 years I'm sure you would write the essay a little differently.

    Focus on the "clean up points" others have presented and express yourself as you feel is important.
  • NickoftheNort...

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    Feb 01, 2008 3:03 PM GMT
    I am an unprofessional writer, but I love the English language and enjoy human expression through this language.

    I am piggybacking on Meb and Hndsm in that your essay reads like a college application essay. Before I checked out your profile, I understood that your essay came from a high school / just came out of high school perspective. If you want, I have typed up my point-by-point nit-picking in Word document that I am more than happy with e-mailing to you.

    My major concern is with your terrible ending; in a single sentence, you dismiss the "best friendships" of most of our species while exalting your own. That one sentence reeks of emotional immaturity and of an inexperienced perspective.

    Your experience with coming out to Cole is not unique in a general way (as in, unique to our human world); tt is unique between you and Cole. It is possibly unique to your life and being (in terms that include your future life that you are currently living through). Of all persons you knew at that moment, you made yourself vulnerable to Cole. That is what makes this special and significant.

    That moment of coming out to your closest (and, effectively, most intimate) friend is powerful and it affects you for many years thereafter (presumably even if it does not go well). It is also something that more and more among us go through. icon_razz.gif [sorry, that is the cutest smiley of the bunch]

    ***
    I agree with much of the nit-picking and clean-up suggested in the thread thus far. In the Word document, I even made the same change Hndsm suggested in terms of "My GPA climbed drastically" to "My GPA soared" before reading his suggestion icon_lol.gif

    A good general rule is to minimize the amount of adverbs in your text and replace them and their connected verbs with verbs that are more descriptive on their own.
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    Feb 01, 2008 6:15 PM GMT
    NickoftheNorth said
    I agree with much of the nit-picking and clean-up suggested in the thread thus far. In the Word document, I even made the same change Hndsm suggested in terms of "My GPA climbed drastically" to "My GPA soared" before reading his suggestion icon_lol.gif

    A good general rule is to minimize the amount of adverbs in your text and replace them and their connected verbs with verbs that are more descriptive on their own.


    Yeah, I gotta agree with Nanook of the North on that one. It's almost always better to use fewer words, and using just the right verb is an excellent way to do that. (But I don't agree with the harshness of some of his criticisms. Come on now, be nice!)

    Another trick is to turn any nominalized verb (i.e. a noun formed from a verb) into an actual verb for more oomph. For example, you wrote:

    "I received an escalation of invites to social events from my peers."

    The noun "escalation" comes from the verb "escalate," so why not use the verb?

    "Invitations to social events escalated."

    But "escalate" isn't quite right here. How about:

    "Invitations to social events skyrocketed."

    Obviously these wordings are not ideal (I'm just dashing this off instead of working icon_smile.gif ), but I hope you're getting my point -- be direct, use action words instead of adjectives or adverbs wherever possible, and don't say in 10 words what you can say in 2.

    Another example of that last point... you wrote:

    "I was able to finally understand the difference between my real friends and those who were merely acquaintances."

    But you can cut out several words and make a bigger impact with something like:

    "I finally understood the difference between real friends and mere acquaintances."

    Parallels are also a great thing to master in writing, like "real friends... mere acquaintances" (adj-noun, adj-noun) instead of "my real friends... those who were merely acquaintances" (pronoun-adj-noun, adverbial phrase-adverb-noun).

    OK, I'm getting nerdy now and I'll stop. But I do want to encourage you to look critically at your own work, as difficult as that is. Writing is just a small part of writing -- the real work happens in the revising. So once you get your first draft down, tear it apart mercilessly until it says exactly what you want to say in the fewest words possible. As the old joke about the letter writer goes, "I'm sorry that this letter is so long. I didn't have enough time to write you a short one."

    Just remember you're not merely expressing yourself, to quote HndsmKansan. You're trying to make a favorable impression on an audience who will decide whether or not to admit you to the college of your choice. So you're not writing just for yourself -- you're also writing for an important audience. (At work, one of the first questions I ask when getting an assignment is "Who's the audience?") So just be aware that they read piles of essays every day, and resolve to make yours stand out. Not by being clever, but by being real.

    This is too long already, so I'll just wrap up by encouraging you to really pour your heart and soul into this essay. But edit ruthlessly. icon_smile.gif
  • NickoftheNort...

    Posts: 1416

    Feb 01, 2008 7:33 PM GMT
    ...and with that I have learned about a 1922 documentary icon_biggrin.gif (no, my name does not come from the documentary; it merely comes from my nickname, "Nick," and that I live north of most of the world).

    I recommend Strunk and White's Manual of Style for the purpose of your future essay writing. You may find the manual useful in your advertisement projects and in the many papers you will write in school and during your career.
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    Feb 01, 2008 7:48 PM GMT
    I'm not an English Professor or anything, however it read well and flowed! LOVE the analogy with Photography, a hobby of mine! It also reminded me when I came out to my best friend! I was nervous as FUCK! When I was sputtering it out, he actually cut me off and very angrily assumed/questioned if I had slept with his girlfriend (now wife!)!! I laughed and said "SO not it!" Then I just said it! And with that, he put down the skill saw, walked over to me and gave me a HUGE hug and said "Dude, you're still my brother no matter what!"

    hottxstud, THANK YOU for sharing!!!
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    Feb 01, 2008 7:54 PM GMT
    NickoftheNorth said...and with that I have learned about a 1922 documentary icon_biggrin.gif (no, my name does not come from the documentary; it merely comes from my nickname, "Nick," and that I live north of most of the world).


    LOL! Whenever I put on a heavy winter coat as a kid, my mom would tell me I looked like Nanook of the North, and I guess the phrase stuck with me. Sorry Nick, I couldn't resist icon_smile.gif
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    Feb 01, 2008 8:15 PM GMT
    Well hotxstud -- above is plenty of good constructive thought, and praise. So I'm just going with the positive. I really liked your comparison of the relationship with photography, how you built up from photography to your relationship with Cole. Your piece has a lot of heart, with that you win over the reader. I also think your very brave to turn in something so personal to a professor, but I'll bet you have his/her respect. You have mine !!! The best to you !!!
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    Feb 01, 2008 8:15 PM GMT
    Hottxstud, I liked what you wrote, and the way you told your story... (and as far as I'm concerned, this is not the time or the place to nitpick about anything you may have said). When I took photography at IU, there was a girl in my class who had a HUGE crush on me... and who had no clue that I was gay. Then one day our assignment was to photograph some night life action shots. Without even thinking twice about it, I photographed some male dancers at a local bar. The next day, when we were developing our photos in the darkroom, she came across my photos in the wash... "These are interesting. Who took these?... Oh My GOD!" And she RAN out of room! I have never seen anyone so pissed off in my entire life. The rest of the class was torn between those who laughed about it (like, "How could she not know???") and those who went in the other room to try and console her. I did go into the other room, and she was crying; but she had absolutely no desire to speak with me at the time. Fortunately for me, that was perhaps one of the worst reactions to me coming out, and everyone else has been extremely supportive (well, most everyone). Best of luck finding a job in the advertising industry! I'm sure you'll do great.