Reading Applications For My Alma Mater
A day of application reading looks much like a Sunday in my undergraduate years did: a cozy robe and fuzzy socks keep my always-cold tendency at bay, and a three-hour calming music compilation fills the air as I settle into the day. This task is simultaneously daunting and exciting, and every file takes me on a unique journey. The stories you share are raw, real, revelatory, and oh-so-relatable. At any given point throughout the day, I catch myself gasping with shock, letting out a tender (or sometimes, disappointed) “awwww”, or screaming out with an enthusiastic “yes!”
And this is what makes reading for my alma mater so special. Not only am I learning about the trials and triumphs of navigating this world as an intellectually curious teenager today, but I adopt that angst vicariously because I was once a fellow aspiring Barnard student.
There are infinite opportunities in everyday life that make for a great college essay. If you need a visual for this experience, check out any event sponsored by The Moth. Sitting at my first GrandSLAM Championship sponsored by The Moth & WNYC, I was overwhelmed by the beauty in the stories that echoed through the Hall of Music of Williamsburg. The universality and range of human emotions in situations both minimal and monumental, the simple yet intricate unfolding of what would otherwise be considered minutiae. The way one event leads to the next, and to the next, and suddenly you have an elaborate tale that brings a total stranger closer to you. This is what reading your applications is like. You're offering us a window into the world as you see it, a front-row seat to your self-titled, one-person show.
Reading for my alma mater is meaningful because I have a hand in shaping the legacy of this fine institution which has been a launchpad for 44,848 graduates. But it’s even more important to me because I see students who, like me, may not have even had the opportunity to throw their hat in the ring were it not for their Community Based Organization's support. It's personal because in committee we discuss hopefuls from my very own alma mater, Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics. It's a walk down my own University Avenue in the Bronx, a stroll down my native Puerto Rico and a visit to my abuela's house in the Dominican Republic. It's a knowing nod when I come across students whose first language isn't English and who are still struggling with being too __________ for Americans and too American for __________ (fill in the blank; I've read about this struggle countless times from countless backgrounds). It's moving to see students who have also been raised by a single mom and who grew up in low-income households aim high in spite of a nay-sayer's discouragement. It's also a sweet taste of all the experiences I've never had and inspiration for the world you're all striving to create.
As I read your applications, I’m reminded of the 17 drafts I wrote and re-wrote for my college essay, my final choice for supplement B (I’m happy to share it with you during one of our Admitted Students’ events in April!), and the many Sundays I spent nestled in a desk by the elevator in the third floor of Hewitt Hall. Reading applications is almost analogous to nostalgia as I (like you might in just a few months’ time!) can’t help but recall the tantalizing prospect of being a Barnard student. It's a treat to move through the pages in your Common Application and sneak a peek into the wonderful yet tragic, adventurous yet directed lives you're all leading. I can only hope that you revel in writing what you send our way as much as we take away from reading it. Maybe some day you, too, will find your Sunday study nook on Barnard's campus; unique journey included, robe and fuzzy socks optional.