College Sample Essay
Standford University: Denied
Over the past few years I have become increasingly interested in World War II history, specifically the Holocaust. It has gradually become a constant presence in my mind, so that I think about it every day. Last spring, I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. It was there that my feelings came to a head.
I was walking through the museum by myself, feeling a little rushed because I had only been allowed an hour and a half to view everything. My first impression was a sense of profound mourning. The lighting was very dim, and many people were around. It was as if everyone there was going through their own private agonies, but I was witnessing them, somehow a part of them.
The place where I lost all self-control was about midway through the museum. There was an old train car that had been used for transporting people to the death camps. I had to walk through it to continue on, and on the other side of the car there were piles of suitcases with names written in chalk on the sides. I could suddenly imagine the SS officers telling the desperate people to clearly label their baggage so it wouldn't get lost, all the time knowing the owners would step off the train and into the crematorium. The monsters took malicious pleasure in perpetuating the false hopes of the doomed. I looked around me, and I saw a young woman staring about, tears streaming down her face. I felt like I was being engulfed by a huge wave.
I have all of this anger inside me over all of these lost lives. It just sits and festers in my gut, because I have no outlet for it. I desperately need to do something to avenge or solve the atrocities of the Third Reich, but I often feel that I can do nothing. My deep horror comes not only because of what the Nazis did but also because the world sat by and let it happen. The people of Poland were not crying when their fellow Jewish countrymen were being slaughtered. The United States was suffering at the misery of the Europeans. My disgust at the conduct of the world during World War II has evolved into an aversion to isolationist sentiments. Especially now, with the "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia, I feel that it is wrong for the powerful nations of the world to stand by and witness suffering, and take no action to relieve it.
It is sometimes hard for me to admit to my passionate feelings about the Holocaust. In some ways I wonder if it is not my tragedy to claim. I am essentially a cultural WASP. I have no ties to the Holocaust by family or by heritage. With the recent success of Schindler's List, it has become trendy to be aware of the tragedy. I have no objection to this: anything that preserves the memory is good. But my concern over the Holocaust is not part of a fad; it is not something I will outgrow in a month or two. It is an awareness that is stuck deep inside of me, something I couldn't get rid of if I wanted to.
The writer of this essay does manage to convince a reader of his or her concern for the tragedy of the Holocaust. Yet this extremely serious and poignant subject is not approached in a way that is particularly unique or compelling. A sense of disgust for the activities of the Third Reich, after all, though certainly valid, is virtually universal. One wonders, just what about the applicant's feelings is so remarkable? What sort of insights does the applicant have to offer other than the rather obvious point that the Holocaust was terrible? This essay ultimately tells the reader very little about the writer's unique perspectives, values, or commitment to taking anything but a rather passive role in events.
One should also be extremely careful to maintain a level of emotional intensity that is comfortable for the reader. It is slightly jarring to read some of the passages in which the writer of this essay becomes carried away. "I have all of this anger inside me.... It just sits and festers in my gut," he or she writes. And this anger spills over into a sweeping generalization concerning the Polish people, which forces a reader to question the writer's capacity for truly thoughtful reflection.