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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

The college pitch: How students write personal essays

Minority students are only slightly less likely to write about their racial or ethnic identity in college admissions essays, according to data from the Common App.

"In the first year after the Supreme Court banned the consideration of race in college admissions," about 12 percent of underrepresented minority students wrote about their racial or ethnic identity, down one percent from the previous year, write Olivia Sanchez, Nirvi Shah and Meredith Kolodner in the Hechinger Report.

Less than 3 percent of white students write about their racial identity. (I wonder how many wrote about sexual or gender identity?)

How do students pitch themselves these days? The story includes profiles of applicants in the Class of '24 and their essays.

Klaryssa Cobian, a first-generation Mexican-American, earned a scholarship to a private high school in Pasadena. Her family's poverty -- not their skin color -- was the great divider, she decided.

She didn't sleep on her own mattress of her own till she was 16, she wrote in her essay. First she shared with her parents and a younger sister, then slept in the backseat of her mother's car.

Bob Marley blasted from her red convertible as we sang out “could you be loved” every day on our ride back from elementary school. Eventually, we lost the Mustang too and would take the bus home from Downtown Los Angeles, still singing “could you be loved” to each other.

Cobian will be attending Berkeley.

My favorite is an essay by Manal Akil on exploring world cultures through cooking. She wonders who was "the first person who decided to throw tomato and cheese on dough, the first person who decided to roll fish with rice in seaweed. . . . These people experimented with what they had and changed the world.” 

She chose not to write about her Moroccan heritage, Hechinger reports. "Because she didn’t choose where she came from, she feels it doesn’t reveal much about who she is."

Most of her friends wrote about their racial and ethnic identities and experiences, she says. She took what's now the nontraditional path. “I enter (the kitchen) with ambition and leave with insight on myself and the world. Each plate served, each bite taken, and each ‘Mmmh’ has contributed to my growth.”

Finding culinary parallels -- paratha, diao lu bing and msemen are all flaky pancakes -- remind her that regardless of our varied backgrounds, we as humans are one because at the end of the day, food is the heart of every civilization."

She was admitted to eight universities and chose to attend Georgetown.

My least favorite essay is focused on being a member of the black community. "I was thrust into a narrative of indifference and insignificance from the moment I entered this world," wrote Jaleel Gomes Cardoso. "Black people are bound through a shared history of oppression," yet blackness "embodies resilience, strength, and limitless potential."

Rejected by Yale, he'll attend Dartmouth.

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I am chuckling with amusement over all the essays the colleges have been receiving, written by Ho Nguyen Tranh Park Lee about how she and her friends were dissed by the police for cruising with NWA blasting too loud.

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