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3 Application Essay The following essay was written as part of a successful application to Harvard University. It was included in the book 50 Successful Harvard Application Essays 2nd ed. (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2005). It is followed by an analysis by one of the staff members of Harvard’s student newspaper. example: Religion Reconsidered, Alexis Maule I had never questioned religion. My father was raised an Episcopalian altar boy and my Colombian mother, a Catholic, only stepped into church for special occasions. In both cases, however, challenging Jesus or “Papa Dios” was as blasphemous as committing murder, even though they couldn’t come up for a reason why. The “why” question led me to reconsider my religious beliefs. After nine years of attending church I had one message drilled into my tiny head: if you were good and prayed to God, He would help you when you needed Him. I remember my first cry for help as if it was yesterday. I made a sanctuary with candles at the foot of my ill father’s bed. I got down on one knee and prayed like I had never prayed before. I pleaded with God to save him. 20    Genres To watch over him. To cure him. The next day I awoke feeling lively because I knew our family would be restored. That same day my father died, and my nine-year-old world came to a stop. I started researching the why of everything , especially religion. My father was one of the most pious men anyone knew. After my father died I hated God. He did not exist to me. When I was thirteen it came time for Confirmation. I spoke to my deacon about religion before the ceremony because I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit myself to the Episcopalian church. Over lunch I asked her tons of questions. How do people talk to God? Why do we worship a work that is sexist and contradicts scientific evidence? The questions that I had when I came into her house remained unanswered when I came out. The only thing she could say was to have faith. As a result, I was never confirmed. Two years later I took the course European History A.P. and we began to read about the Enlightenment. I felt a great sense of resolution reading everything I had felt about religion scripted eloquently by Nietzsche when I read the works and his claim that religion was for the weak. I picked up Freud on my own and just consumed every word he wrote about religion. I compare the Bible to the D’Aulieres book of Greek myths—there may be lessons to learn and lively characters to study, but it is more of an imaginative attempt to explain creation. I believe that how I do as a person is not dictated by God. Essentially, people are in charge of their destinies. I have learned the hard way that society is not accepting of these beliefs. Even the closest people in my life reject my lack of religious beliefs. However, I am comfortable with myself and am fortunate to have gone on my very own unique religious journey . The biggest lesson I have learned from my religious journey is to never let anyone mold my beliefs. On any topic I must listen, investigate and form my own beliefs rather than follow the status quo. Analysis, Zachary M. Seward of The Harvard Crimson At a sparse five hundred words, admissions essays are often sorely lacking the fundamentals of quality writing—narrative detail, character development, even plot. But Alexis manages to include all those elements and then some in an essay which stays within the tight word count yet never feels hurried or deficient. Clearly, Alexis’s essay is focused on her philosophical development with respect to religion. But as she takes us across a span of roughly ten years in just a few minutes of reading, we also learn a surprising amount about her background . Alexis tells us her mother is Colombian, but she tells us even more in two quick words, “Papa Dios,” a phrase which brings us right into her home as we imagine a childhood dominated by a cultural, not just religious, deity. Similarly, when Alexis describes kneeling at her father’s bedside, her writing adopts a genuinely prayerful tone. “I pleaded with God to save him,” she writes. “To watch over him. To cure him.” Those sentence fragments might...


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