Journalism and Literature Allusions

I am starting to plan out and write my Common App essay, and I want to use the following allusions;
“Topple frauds like Woodward, expose cover ups like Greenwald, meet the people of the world like Amanpour.”
“From the Joads to the Smith’s down the road”

Do you think I can use these allusions? They seem to be pretty common but I don’t want to assume anything.

Also, should I use the oxford comma? I personally despise it (I’m a newspaper editor) but my journalism teacher said its more formal and some essay readers like to see it. What do you guys think?

I understand the references, and if you use them well in your paper, I think a reader would love to see those. However, I remember a ton of admissions emails or pages saying “Never assume we know something.” If an admissions officer for some reason doesn’t recognize your allusions then those parts of your Common App essay won’t make much sense to them. In my opinion I feel that unless they’re really necessary, you should take them out.

As for the Oxford comma, I think that’s a small, nit-picky detail in grammar for an essay reader to take serious note of. As long as you’re consistent in your use (or lack of use), it shouldn’t be an issue. For what it’s worth, I used the Oxford comma, but I also like its use. Do what’s best in your eyes.