Can a 'my trip to Europe' essay still work?

<p>The moment remains amazingly clear to me. I am standing in the middle of an intersection in a small village in France. It is late afternoon, and the light sifts through the narrow alleys that run between the ancient, crumbling buildings. The air is still, and nothing moves. There is none of the normal commotion. It is a perfect silence.</p>

<p>I am with two German and they are teaching me how to waltz. One-two-three. One -two three. I am slow and clumsy. Again: One-two-three, One-two-three. My timing is off, and I’m misplacing the stressed downbeat. Again: One-two-three. One-two-three. My timing is off. I’m misplacing the stressed downbeat. Again: One-two-three. One-two-three. I stumble around the intersection, acutely aware of my lack of grace. One-two-three. One-two three. Again, and again, and again.</p>

<p>One-two-three. One-two-I have it! I’m waltzing. One-two-three. One-two-three. One-two-three. We stop, exhausted. Laughing in the middle of the quiet intersection. How incongruous we are with the setting, yet how well matched. Suddenly, there is clapping. Startled, we look toward the gable window from which the two wizened Frenchmen are loudly applauding. There is, of course, only one fitting response: I curtsy.</p>

<p>It does not matter what I was doing in a small French village with two Germans. Nor is the reason I was learning to dance significant. What is important is that at that moment, any prior boundaries I had built around my goals were shattered. I was free!</p>

<p>If a girl from a small town in southwestern Virginia could be applauded by two Frenchmen for dancing with two Germans in the middle of an intersection in Vorges, then that same girl could at least try anything that she wished to attempt—and perhaps even succeed. After all, hadn’t I been able to coax my unwilling feet into the complex und unnatural pattern demanded by the waltz? One-two-three. One-two-three. One-two-three.</p>

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<p>Comments:
‘Keep it simple’ should be the take away from this successful college admission essay. The diction does not attempt to impress with its sophistication. A simple word count, so to speak, demonstrates that the words are almost all short nouns and verbs--a great many are, of course, the numbers one two and three. </p>

<p>Normally repetition of this sort in a short essay would be cause for concern. If each word is precious then why repeat the words and the phrase so often? The writer is smart enough to know that to draw the reader in to this magic moment, she will need to recreate the movement of the waltz. </p>

<p>Learning to dance, or any new skill, requires repetition and she shows (yes, again--shows not tells) us how she did it. Nevertheless, sometimes simplicity is much harder to accomplish than sophistication. I would say that this essay is highly sophisticated in it structure if not in its vocabulary.</p>

<p>It begins by setting a scene. For me, the word to pay attention to for people writing college essays is “moment”. The writer recreates a moment in time. She does this by setting the scene in time and place, adding characters and then what is, in effect, a musical scores, the repetition of the waltz beat. As readers, we can see the moment, hear it, and watch the movement and then participate in the triumph of leaning the dance and the subsequent epiphany of what this means to her.</p>

<p>If this were a scene from a film or even a commercial, it would be perfectly paced. The camera begins with a wide shot of the landscape and then pans in until we see the people in the empty square dancing. It would take all of a few minutes at most. And only then, after the visuals and the soundtrack does the meaning of the event become clear. It is this moment that has put her on a journey toward exploration and new experiences. It is this kind of risk-taking, of a willingness to forgo convention, that schools want to see in students. The fearlessness of attempting to learn something new in a strange place with people not native to the region is inspiring and indicates she will take such risks on a campus and in life past classes and a degree.</p>

<p>While this student may not have had the test scores of the writer of yesterday’s essay or attended the same famous school, her rural background serves her well. She is not afraid to be in a new place, not afraid to try new things, and not afraid to share her voice, simple yet oh so subtle in its effects. She teaches each of us to waltz with her and for that any reader should be grateful.</p>