What My College Admissions Essay Would Have Said If I Was Honest

by Melanie Martinez

It’s college application season, which means the teenage masses of America are walking home with Herschels full of looseleaf paper and nerves strapped to their backs, ready to ask their parents for a few hundred bucks for application fees.

The "name, address and what extracurricular activity did you join so you would look good on this paper" part is cake.

It’s the dreaded college essay that would make any teen consider joining the military, or working retail for the rest of his or her life.

Please provide your personal statement. Why do you want to attend our college? What is your major of choice, and why? What do you want to do for the rest of your life?

I remember not being able to grip the pen while brainstorming for my essays, due to Niagara Falls somehow making its way onto my palms.

I definitely recall answering every typical college essay question, but I couldn’t tell you what I wrote for sure.

I probably mentioned something about being an honor student since the time I could write a full sentence.

Or maybe, I said something about being the daughter of an immigrant teacher and businessman.

Sure, my college essays were perfectly eloquent and a little bit decorated, but if I had told the entire truth, they probably would have read something like this:


Dear Dean of Admissions of 1/10 Colleges I Applied to in Hopes of a Scholarship,

I was 4 years old when I read my first book in its entirety.

I was the second in my class (to the obviously genius girl who sat behind me), but my parents didn’t care. They couldn’t be prouder.

More than that, they were ecstatic because raising me through school was going to be a breeze, and getting into a good college in 12 years would be a cinch.

Twelve years later, I’m just who they expected me to be, but even after 20-something honors pins, countless hours of voluntary community service and four years of tutoring in three different languages, I’m irrationally nervous about applying to your institution.

But how could you not accept me? My transcripts, SAT scores and off-campus activities all say you should.

Plus, for a 17-year-old, I have the grammar of a tenured writing professor. My credentials should at least get me a half scholarship.

I’m just not sure you want me because I can’t answer your question.

I’ve worked extremely hard to please anyone who has expected any scholarly greatness from me during the last 12 years, so the likelihood of a meaningful college declaration is limited by the extent of my exasperation.

I can’t decorate this statement with accolades or anecdotes that distinguish me from all the other applicants, and I can't woo you with a sob story, even if I tried.

I’m just a New York City-bred Latina teenager, who knows this is a ticket out of the lackluster, middle-class suburbs my parents moved us to.

Yes, I’m Hispanic, but I wouldn’t be a first-generation college student, as I suspect my Latino competitors are attesting to.

My mother immigrated from the Caribbean, taught herself English and acquired an accredited teaching degree after just a few years of her US residency.

College isn’t a decision for me; it’s a stipulation of my existence.

More so, it’s a requirement if I want to come full circle as an archetypal American citizen (or if I want to afford living in this country after graduation without working three jobs).

In conclusion, I want to go to college because I have to, and I want to go to your school because my future employers will know where it is when they see it on my résumé.

Who do I want that employer to be?

Where do I see myself after working there?

What classes would I want to take to prepare me?

I haven’t the slightest clue, but if you accept me, I promise to make the most of my scholastic stint.

Hoping For An Acceptance Letter,

A College Applicant