College essays are personal statements — they require applicants to say as much as they can about themselves in very limited space. What follows are excerpts of college essays from recently graduated high school seniors; they’ve been edited for style.

 

By Dafna Fliegelman

I take a deep breath and think about all the people I have come to know in my life. Such phonies. All of them! I have come to this realization numerous times over the course of my 18-year-old life, but the thought always manages to escape me. I know, thanks to my darling friend Holden, that my mindset is cohesive with others around me. “Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now.” So many people have felt the way I have and that gives me a sense of comfort. The only thing that matters is how we go about it. How we presume to live the rest of our lives with the knowledge of how people can truly act, greedy and quite selfish. The key is to push on and avoid negative thoughts at all costs. Being distracted helps keep my mind in a safe zone and I can do that, following Holden Caulfield’s lead in “The Catcher in the Rye.” I can do that by reading. It takes me away from where I am and sends me somewhere better.

 

By Isabel Calkins

My knees cracked as I stood. My group gathered outside of the crematorium and I lined up with 11 other individuals to lead our first tekes, or ceremony. As people stepped forward to complete their parts in the service, I awaited my turn. The song I would be singing was “Eli, Eli” by Hannah Szenes. Translated from Hebrew the words read, “The rush of the waters, the crash of the heavens… the prayer of man.” My turn approached and I nervously stepped forward as the song began. The guitar strummed the opening chords, breaking the calm silence like a storm on a summer night. I channeled the words and melody and passion took over my body. As I began to sing the line, “The rush of the waters…” I noticed little droplets on the paper I was holding. At that moment the sky opened up and delicate raindrops had begun to fall. I kept singing. The emotion in my heart was unlike anything I had ever felt before. It was no longer just my voice leading this song. Drop after drop, note after note, the words reverberated through me. As the final notes were released from my mouth, my emotions peaked. Unsure of what had just occurred, I put my right foot behind my left foot and took one step back so I was shoulder to shoulder with my peers. I closed my eyes and took one long cleansing breath — in through my nose and out through my mouth.

 

By Gabriel Goldstein

I’m 14 years old and I cannot speak. I’ve never moved. I can’t comprehend complex concepts. I’m incapable of participating in everyday life. I’ve even lived in a closet for two years. And though my interaction with the human world is severely limited, I’ve seen it all. … I wondered how a young man who had immensely suffered in his life had the will to see good in the world and in himself. I watched as he re-evaluated his beliefs, deciding to live a life based on the principles of kindness and unity. I was confused by his pursuit of building bridges, but it eventually became evident that he wanted no one he cared for to suffer a comparable loneliness to the kind he endured. … He recently pulled me off of the shelf. He told me he wasn’t satisfied. He told me he’s ready for the next stage of his life. He wants the opportunity to change the world, and he firmly believes he can. I’m just an uncultured red Power Ranger, but I’m absolutely certain that the child who once saw himself limited by his past now sees before him a limitless horizon.

 

By Hudis Lang

The tickets were booked and I had said goodbye to my friends and family. I got on a plane and flew to Memphis to start my junior year in a brand-new school. There was no turning back; this was a fresh start. No one knew me and, best of all, no one knew my past. At first, I experienced extreme culture shock. “Southern Hospitality” was not exactly comparable to what I was used to on the streets of Brooklyn. I was living in a small dorm with several other students, practically fending for myself. Adjusting to the new environment was difficult; I had to make new friends and a new name for myself. This was my golden opportunity, and I was not going to mess it up. My future was in my hands and it was going to be a success.

I am so glad that I gained the courage to grow and step out of my comfort zone by switching schools. School is something I now enjoy and look forward to. Not many people can say that they love their school and are lucky to be in it, but I can. I am so fortunate to have such supportive teachers, parents and friends. I am proud of who I am today and how far I have come. Today, when someone asks me where I live, I proudly respond, “I come from Brooklyn, but I live in Memphis.” Memphis has become the place where I can finally live like myself, Hudis Lang.