UC Admission Essay

This essay helped me get accepted into UC Berkeley and UCSD - Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud, and how does it relate to the person you are?

Guitar is the extracurricular activity that has helped me grow the most as an individual. A lot of my other activities are easy for me, but not playing guitar. I don't have the same natural talent in guitar that I have in things like martial arts. I have to put in a lot of practice time to be successful in music. I've learned that there's no substitute for hard work, because sometimes, a person can't get by on talent alone. When I feel overwhelmed, it's a huge help to have my guitar as an outlet for stress. Music is relaxing for me, and that makes it an intensely personal experience. I get nervous when I perform for other people, almost as if they could hear my most private thoughts and feelings.

In the summer of 2010, I was my school's delegate to the National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC) in Washington, D.C. I was apprehensive about going at first, because at 10 days, it was the longest I had ever stayed somewhere without my mother. I had little reason to worry though; my counselors and the other kids were really helpful and welcoming.

Due to my family’s financial limitations, we don't get to travel very often. I’ve never been able to visit a foreign country, even though Mexico isn’t more than a couple hours away. For the first time, I met people from all over the country. I was introduced to so many different perspectives, perspectives I had never imagined existed (like people who call soda "pop").

I credit my experience at the NYLC with helping me become more sociable. I created a Facebook account at the insistence of my new friends so we could stay in touch across the miles. It was a key moment for
me, since I had a history of being shy and reclusive. Friends at home had pressured me into getting a Facebook, but I always refused and told myself I had no interest in social media. But at NYLC I found myself able to open up and expand my circle of friendship to include many more people, genuine friends from every corner of the country.

It was quickly apparent that I lived a sheltered life. When we discussed our communities with each other, I learned that many of the other kids came from neighborhoods with endemic gang violence or drug problems. A lot of them had friends who had been beaten or raped. I thought about how fortunate I was to live in California. I couldn’t imagine that kind of thing ever happening in my hometown. If these kids could come from such gritty places and still be the young leaders of their communities, I knew that I couldn’t complain about the relatively paltry issues in my own community. If they could deal with drugs and violence as a part of everyday life, I could never give up in the face of my own challenges. Being exposed to them and learning their stories taught me more than I ever could have learned in a classroom or from a book. The confidence I gained from my participation in leadership and team-building activities in NYLC has helped me both in school and my life outside the classroom. I am more sure of myself and I feel better about my decisions. Above all, I learned that no one has to be powerless; each of us has a voice.

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