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As I sit staring with droopy eyes at my computer, the mere thought of having to write another 1000 word essay describing the “most influential person in my life” or “a time that I made a bad decision” makes me cringe. With seven essays down, and two to go, I can say with no reservations that not one essay topic has sparked the flint that is creativity in my mind. This creative barrier limits students nationwide to compose essays of banal quality, forcing much of their intellectual character to be demonstrated through a large vocabulary; but the verbosity of a 17 year old can be only so impressive. This essay topic though provides a welcomed reprieve from the trite topics in which I have been engulfed for the past few months.
A good admissions essay should require the applicant to shed light on their character, not just boast knowledge of multi-syllabic words. It should also ask a question that forces the applicant to prioritize between options. After hours of brainstorming, I feel I have determined a topic that tackles both of these requirements; “If you were required to have one, and only one, bumper sticker on your car, what would it be and why?”
Upon first reading it, the topic appears rather simplistic; bumper stickers are common and, especially as teenagers, we see them every day. The simple facade is what will allow the topic to be so interesting. Applicants will feel more comfortable writing about a topic they are slightly more familiar with, allowing their responses to be far more genuine than the obscure and sometimes awkward topics they are used to. The familiarity of bumper stickers is personally intimate to me. Creeping out of my high school parking lot every afternoon at 2:15, I find myself staring, through squinted eyes, at all the bumper stickers that surround me. I see Grateful Dead stickers, Coexist emblems, and of course the political campaign decors. I wonder what made my peers choose the automobile embellishments they did, and I believe that if asked that question, their responses would be interesting, emotional, and a valid representation of their characters. A bumper sticker is a skewed version of a first impression, often a very crucial factor in developing connotations of a person. Answering of the essay topic could cast light on the applicant’s perspective of global affairs, foster creativity, and allow them to display their level of confidence with specific subject matter. Depending on how the applicant answered the question, admissions would be able to understand much about the student’s character.
Every possible characteristic of a sticker can act as a means of communication in some way. The size of a sticker represents personality. A small sticker reflects little confidence in a matter; for example, a two-by-two inch sticker of the Obama “O” shows far less passion than does a five-by-five “OBAMA-BIDEN 08” one. The size of a sticker can show the owner’s level of interest in the matter. Thus an outspoken individual would be more likely to choose a large sticker while a more soft-spoken person would opt for the less noticeable embellishment.
The color of a bumper sticker also reflects the owner’s individuality. The audacity to boast a lime green or hot pick sticker shows that the individual is bold and unafraid to step out of the pedestrian black and white that so many teenagers fall victim to. This ability to diverge is representative of courage and curiosity, two aptitudes one is lucky to possess. Bright colors represent a fearlessness to be unique, and eccentricity is undoubtedly a positive personality trait.
“Destination” bumper stickers unearth the travelers in the group of applicants. Students with bumper stickers of locations they have visited are more likely to be the outdoorsmen, the adventurous souls in the bunch. These travelers are most likely to be the “travel abroad” students, the international explorers and risk-takers who will most likely make for interesting students that the school community will enjoy having in its presence.
Organizational bumper stickers are often those of the extremely altruistic, those who have donated much of their time to serving as hopeful peacemakers. For example, a common bumper sticker seen on the Myers Park High School campus is a black “IC” outlined with a thin white border. IC stands for Invisible Children, an organization for which Myers Park has raised thousands of dollars in the past few years. An applicant who chose an IC bumper sticker would most likely be a service-oriented student, but his or her choice of such a “safe” sticker would shed light on the fact that he or she are probably more of a reserved individual.
Finally, regardless of size, color, destination or organization, the most important factor of this essay would be the applicant’s ability to coherently verbalize his or her sticker choice. Obviously no sticker can wholly define an individual, but something that can is the individual’s capacity to explain to someone else why he/she loves what he/she loves. What passion is it that can not be explained? The applicant’s explanation of their sticker of choice will show Admissions what means the most to them. This insight into character is far more valuable than hearing about a “favored teacher” or “a moment of regret” for it defines who the student is now, not in a moment of the past. Explaining a love for a sticker is comparable to defending an answer to a professor, or pitching a sale to a group of executives; all three focus around the ability to communicate a concept to a stranger. Be it in an essay, a college classroom, or in the business world, the skill of communication is far more important than any textbook-taught technique.
When leisurely cruising down the road, waiting in the carpool line, or reading an application essay, observation of a bumper sticker is a way to learn about someone of no acquaintance. Such a small and seemingly unimportant possession can truly give deep insight into the character and personality of someone; but more importantly, a person’s explanation of the choice can justly allow him or her to define who he or she is as an individual.
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