This is my first try at my college essay (the large one). 250 words minimum, and I chose the prompt that allows me to talk aout a choice in my life that has affected me greatly. Any help will be much appreciated!
I nearly threw up at my first lacrosse practice. I was in 8th grade and terrified of the high school girls that I would be playing with. When I walked onto the field the girls seemed like giants, they towered over me, huffing and puffing from running. They were almost bull-like. My stomach became even more nauseous when the coach put this foreign object called a crosse in my hands.
I was at the bottom of the list. I initially started playing the second half of the JV game, maybe a few seconds in the first. I worked hard at practice and at home, playing with my lacrosse stick and carrying it around. The more I played, the deeper I fell in love with the sport. As I gained more skills with my stick I started to gain more play time and the trust of the upperclassmen as well.
Once I became a freshman the academic difficulty was kicked up a notch. I discovered the difficult challenge of being a high school athlete and a high school academic. What with managing tests and quizzes and reports on top of practice, I started to feel buried under all the work. Over time, though, I began to balance my class work and my sport. I learned to plan my studying and homework time around my practices. I started to gain a sense of self-discipline. I was elated to see that studying a few days before my test because I had a game the night before was paying off as my grades began to improve. That reinforced what I was doing to prepare for school, so even during the off season, I started studying earlier from the test date.
In my sophomore year our only goalie was a senior, which meant that someone had to start training for the spot. I have always had very good hand-eye coordination and quick reflexes, so after some badgering from the senior goalie I decided to step up and become goalie. I spent most of practice inside the goal learning techniques, but when I learned the most was on the field. Being goalie was something I had never aspired to do, but the first time I stepped into the crease during a game I felt like I was in a new house, it was bare and blank; my job was to decorate and make it my home. I kept training during the summer of my sophomore year, working on improving my goalie skills. When the season of my junior year started, I felt much more confident in goal.
Just because I was more confident in goal my junior year, doesn't mean that I had everything under control. My emotions became a big challenge to control. Every time a shot was made, I took it personally. I would start to cry in goal, which would bring my team mates down. Then I would feel guilty and it would create an endless cycle. At that point I realized that being goalie wasn't just my position, it was my chance to lead.
I realized that as a goalie, I have a special view of the whole field. I can see the holes in the offense. Then I direct my teammates on how to defend. Even when the team is down, all it takes is a little bit of energy to influence the mood. This is where I am most affective, whether it is a pep talk at half time or by screeching "Good Job" across the field. That motivated me to keep my emotions in check and to encourage my team mates.
Through my four years of playing lacrosse I have learned a lot about myself. I am a hard worker, I enjoy ...
I am still working on this part, but any comments on the rest of my essay would be great!
This is very impressive for your first try at a college essay. I didnt find any glaring grammatical errors. Most of the things I recommended include content and editing. You only have so many words to let the colleges get a feel for you, so I recommened you go through your essay again and anything you find that is redundant, unneccessary, or doesn't add to your essay just take out.
Also, after reading your essay I learned about kcmonster "The Lacrosse Player", I didn't get much of a feel for who you are, what you are about, or whats unique about you. I can tell that you were leading into that with your last paragraph which you have yet to finish. However, I would almost recommend cutting back on a lot of the first few paragraphs and inserting more about how lacross has created the person you are today and give more of an understanding of who you are off the lacrosse field.
Hope that helps!
Thank you very much!
Having spent over 12 hours with this essay, I start to miss the redundancy. But now that I read it over again, I see what you mean.
I agree that I need to cut back, but like I said, I have bonded with this thing. Could you tell me which paragraphs you would talke out? I would really appreciate it!
The paragraph which begins, "Once I became a freshman the academic difficulty was kicked up a notch". doesn't add much to the essay. No offense, but most athletes have to juggle academics and sports.
You're description of being a goalie, however, is much more unique and stands out. I like how you discuss your role as a goalie and what it means to you. Now, I would add onto this by discussing how being a goalie has translated into your everyday life.
Hope that helps:)
Yes that does help!
My mom said I should add something about academics, but I had the same point you did.
No problem. If you have the time ready my essay.
Very good, just a couple places that need commas like "In my sophomore year," and "Once I became a freshman,"
I agree with the posts above and only question the very first paragraph. The first sentence to be more specific. Yes, it is an attention grabber, but you could use more professional words like when you used "nauseous". "Threw up" doesn't sound appetizing and may scare the reader of what's to come in the rest of the essay. I'll throw out a couple sentences I didn't get below for you to consider revising.
"I spent most of practice inside the goal learning techniques, but when I learned the most was on the field."
"Just because I was more confident in goal my junior year, doesn't mean that I had everything under control."
I would avoid using slang terms in this paper because chances are the person reading it hasn't played. I wouldn't start the sentence off with just because. Consider switching the sentence up. For example " I was more confident in the goal my junior year, but still didn't have everything under control."
Hope I could help! Good Luck!
I nearly threw up at my first lacrosse practice. --- this makes it too easy for the reader. Give the reader something to figure out.
I nearly threw up. I felt like I was a child among giants.
You can intrigue at the start by not giving all the info.
You have some great sentences in that first paragraph.
Okay, the problem is that you have no theme, no moral to the story. I am talking about the reader's perspective. End that first paragraph with a sentence that clearly tells the "moral of the story." Use a phrase that is catchy so that the reader will remember it. Do you know what I mean? The thesis statement at the end of the first para contains the essence of the essay, its message.
So... add a thesis statement.
LEARNING TO LOVE EDUCATION AGAIN
The Manhasset Indians: Lacrosse and the Real History of Comprehensive Schools in America
By STUART GRAUER
“We are the Indians,
The mighty, mighty Indians …”
Manhasset High School Cheering Squad, 1968
The town of Manhasset, Long Island, where I grew up, was divided into two distinct sections: the high ground, where all the original, white-flight suburban settlements were, and a small outskirts called the “Valley.” African-American families were settled down there, and they made up about 90% of the Valley population, along with a very few eastern and southern Europeans. Manhasset is an American Indian name meaning “island neighborhood,” but the Valley was not a part of the neighborhood. As a young boy, I rarely met an African-American and I’m pretty sure I never met an American Indian, either.
A neglected, rarely documented aspect of white-flight from the cities is that not all whites were the same, and suburban communities sprung up that were filled with heterogeneity, divisiveness, fear, and of course some elitism. Naturally, I rarely ventured down into the Valley. Once, though, at 13, I went with a small group to visit the Mount Olive Baptist Church and this was where I first learned of old time religion. This also was my first witnessing of a small, tribe-like community, passionate about its culture. I would have loved to go to a school with kids of those families, except, of course, they were off the island. The church was like nothing I had ever seen in the “Strathmore” part of town. Down in the valley, they sang and prayed together like something out of the Bible and their primary school consisted of 160 students, a near perfect size historically for belongingness and a tribal sense of community.
A few years later, after I graduated high school and turned 18, I went back to the Valley from time to time to drop into the Hilltop Inn, incongruously perched at the edge of the Valley. There, an Irish barkeep called John Colamick kept a German shepherd named Duke. We played pool to pass the evenings and had a few beers and, whenever a black man opened the door to consider entering, Duke began uncontrollably barking while John made a terrible show of reining him in. Any black interloper would wisely close the door and John would reward Duke with some good kibble and pats on the back. “Good, Duke!”
So, growing up, I was aware of almost no integration between the two parts of town. The Valley School served the blacks, which provided elementary education for the children of our maids and blue collar workers. When I came of junior high age, I entered Manhasset Junior and Senior High where we (from Strathmore village) were thrown together with the kids from the other two small, tribe-like elementary schools, Plandome Road School (largely Catholic) and the Valley School (blacks). Manhasset High was the supposed melting pot, salad bowl, or what have you.
Manhasset High was primarily famous for its lacrosse teams. Lacrosse was another connected community in our town. Like an Indian tribe of long ago, the Manhasset lacrosse team was able to summon a tribal inclusiveness and spirit that enabled its players to experience pride and connection, even as many other students, suddenly thrown together from the safe-feeling, inclusive schools of their elementary years, may have felt lost and threatened. High school sports teams continue to serve this tribal function as a workaround for the fact that growing numbers of students and teachers in our schools, which have grown steadily in size for well over 100 years, feel caught in the hierarchical control and command system of the modern comprehensive schools.
Football legend Jimmy Brown had attended Manhasset High just a few years before I had. Brown was bigger, faster and stronger than most every other athlete he would encounter at every level of sports. Though he ultimately became known as a pro football hall of famer, Manhasset became a lacrosse epicenter starting in Jimmy Brown’s days due largely to his legendary talent. When intercepting any ball from his position at midfield, he merely clamped the lacrosse stick to his chest and barreled straight down field into the opposing goal, completely unstoppable. According to the Lacrosse Hall of Fame, they actually changed the rules of the game because of Brown. Now you need to cradle the stick away from your body so that someone can try to get at the ball. Jimmy Brown is still widely considered the greatest lacrosse player in the history of high school lacrosse. He of course grew up in the Valley, his mother was a maid and, for all I knew, she might have been cleaning my house during those years.
To this same effect, my earliest memory of the black kids I began encountering in junior high is that many of them towered over me and were powerful and alien. Early in eighth grade I entered the bathroom and this is where I met Jimmy Jackson, in my grade but in none of my classes. Jimmy was almost a foot taller than I was. “Hey Grauer-man,” he said, with a grin. “Hey, Jimmy,” I said, and proceeded to the sink, not paying any attention. Before I knew it, he had grasped me with a giant hand, and was good-naturedly holding me out the open, second floor window. Looking back, my dangling situation was a fairly accurate depiction of my life as a teen in suburbia, and yet it had to have been even more descriptive of Jimmy’s life than of my own. Either way, as I try to contemplate the weight of cultural and historical forces in play all leading up to that moment suspended out the bathroom window, it seems unfathomable. It’s likely that his great-grandparents were slaves in Georgia or thereabouts while mine were either plundered or banished in the pogroms of Austria-Hungary; or, on the other side of my family, run out of England for religious persecution. What forces led us to meet in this place? Was it a culmination of something? There out the window, I beheld the school lacrosse field just across the quad, smiling frantically and imagining the broken bones I’d have if Jimmy let go. Just then, in walked Ralph Blocker.
Ralph was tall, broad shouldered, very handsome, movie star smile, and black. “Jimmy, what are you doing?” Ralph protested. “You don’t wanna throw Grauer out the window!”
Jimmy thought for a second. “Aw, Ralph, I wouldn’ do that to him,” he answered. “That’s m’boy!” And he pulled me in, still smiling.
I have a scant few memories of junior high school, and hardly an in-class memory that is vivid at all. I know I looked up to Ralph Blocker from then, on, though. Later on, in high school, he was the only black kid I ever knew to ask out a white girl, an Irish girl called Colleen who I didn't dare ask out. Now, exactly 50 years later, I have to wonder, was that moment in the boys room the moment something clicked in Ralph’s mind, a small moment he somehow recognized as a seed of something larger, something you could forever look into like a prism? Was this what a paradigm really looks like when you’re really in it? Though unfathomable to me at the time, that brief encounter was so purely crazy, yet so perfect, that maybe it was an invisible pivot point in education nationwide. It is actually possible.
A generation passed. It was the 1980s and I was researching multicultural education. There in the law library of the University of San Diego, I turned a page and was stunned to see this: “BLOCKER v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF MANHASSET, NEW YORK NO. 62-C-285.”
Ralph BLOCKER, a minor … et al.,
Plaintiffs, v. The BOARD OF EDUCATION OF MANHASSET, NEW YORK …
This is a class action instituted by several Negro minors who reside within Union Free School District No. 6, Manhasset, New York (the District), [226 F.Supp. 209] against The Board of Education of Manhasset, New York, its members and its Superintendent of Schools. The plaintiffs allege that they and the members of their class are discriminated against by the defendants by being racially segregated in the use and enjoyment of the public schools of the District; that the defendants are denying them their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States1 and the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983.2 They seek a declaratory judgment to the effect that the rules, regulations and procedures of the Board are unconstitutional because they require, permit or sanction racially segregated public schools.
As I had learned intuitively, at Manhasset High, there was what educators came to call a wide “achievement gap,” which, prior to decisions like Blocker versus Board, was attributed not to educational segregation but to differences in IQ and learning ability between the black and white populations.
Right away, upon seeing this case in the law book, I knew Ralph had won it, because not long after I graduated ol’ MHS, the Valley School along with the Plandome Road School up on the hill, were both razed and replaced with Manhasset’s first integrated, elementary school, the Shelter Rock Road School. Both populations were bussed in. It had taken me twenty years to learn, but I at last started to understood how heroic Ralph Blocker really was.
The court’s heart must surely have been in the right place, as the discrimination in my hometown was rampant, and not only towards blacks. However, the court’s decision may or may not have helped the situation as, unwittingly, this and cases like it led to a movement towards school consolidation. Consolidation and the comprehensive school movement would usher in 40 years of bussing kids into larger and larger high schools, schools of a size that turned out to be lower performing, less safe, and riddled with hidden costs. (1)
For many students, our large, consolidated schools became and remain forbidding places where cliques of students roam about segregating themselves even further. Had educators or educational psychologists and not lawyers divided up the schools, they might have integrated them but left them the same, small size. 160, the size of the Valley School, would have been a great size for integrating and connecting across groups, and for teachers developing emotionally significant relationships with diverse kids.
We now know that large schools promote the separateness they were set up to prevent. Our larger schools produce more crime and vandalism, lower achievement, more cliques, higher drop out rates, and more teacher drop-outs. (2) We now know that small schools promote egalitarianism, flexibility, and inclusiveness. 50 years have gone by. Could it be that the United States government, however well intentioned, has spent trillions of dollars over the past 50 years to create large, comprehensive schools which were intended to integrate kids despite unclear and conflicting evidence showing how integration could or has occurred in them? (3) The Public Policy Institute of California’s extensive, longitudinal research resulted in bigger questions than answers, such as: “Turning to the analysis of test scores, what do the generally insignificant effects of [school] choice on achievement imply for state and national policy?” (4)
When will we look at successful integration models? Such questions, almost too big to ask, suggest the rarely acknowledged reality: we continue to put kids into large, hierarchical school communities focused on imposed and enforced rules and unequal divisions of labor and, for no reason supported by any evidence, we suppose the outcomes will be fairness, democratic decision-making, cohesiveness and cooperation.
Widely held myths governed educational thinking when I was a kid. One was that intelligence and learning style were set, so that there was little point providing integrated classes—in this way we pretended there was nothing political at all about providing minorities with underfunded schools.
Later on, another myth came along that, if you only create bigger, more comprehensive school organizations, kids would mix more and seize more opportunities. That myth hasn’t panned out at all. In schools, governments and corporations, the past few generations of larger and larger institutions that were supposed to make things more efficient have only made life more complicated, disconnected, and unmanageable. Needless to say, as bad as it was in the Valley School for kids like Ralph and Jimmy, the data shows that gangs, crime, and racial strife have only gotten worse in our schools nationwide. Our comprehensive schools are too big to be safe and inclusive.
Maybe Ralph should have let Jimmy just drop me, as though some natural law were playing out, and then the whole future might have played out differently—maybe then we could have had an honest look at how suspended in space we all are, so that schools could have held supportive relationships as a core value rather than bigness. The world is a dangerous place and it is trust we need to be building, not gigantic social systems that need perpetual legal and legislative maintenance.
Smaller schools produce higher academic performance and a greater sense of connection between and among groups, even diverse ones. Generations before Blocker versus Board, we found out that the American Indian groups would do anything, including die, to resist being removed from their families and communities and becoming “re-educated” as Americans. Our failed social engineering to indoctrinate Indian kids was evident to everyone, as though our government at last heard The Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy: “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” The United States allowed the re-opening of locally-based, tribal schools, and our Indian tribes are still in recovery. But desegregating our schools through the creation of institutions too big to govern will bring us nothing in seven generations. It’s been 50 years now, and all the comprehensive schools in the world have never produced a lacrosse player better than Jimmy Brown.
“We find ourselves embedded in cultures that are, in many ways, mismatched with our neuroanatomy, neurobiology, and basic social instincts,” Cozolino writes. “The most successful institutions are able to integrate the instinctual imperatives of our trial brains into the structures of contemporary hierarchical organizations.” (5) 200 or 250 are just about the perfect cap on size for a connected and safe school organization, as well as for our post-tribal minds and their needs for a bit more complexity. About the only thing you should surely predict to produce when you make a school larger than 250 and especially when it gets larger than 400 is a steroidal lacrosse team. But then, American Indian settlements were often less than 200, and they invented lacrosse. Games for tribes larger than that had a different name: war.
5. The Social Neuroscience of Education, p. 11.
Dr. Stuart Grauer is a teacher, the founding Head of School at The Grauer School, and Founder of The Small Schools Coalition. He consults with schools worldwide and been awarded the University of San Diego Career Achievement Award, plus various international educational exchange fellowships including a Fulbright. Stuart is one of the nation's top authorities on small schools education. His work has been covered in The New York Times, Discovery Channel, and frequently in the local press in his home town of Encinitas, California, where he has been named “Peacemaker of the Year.” A regular essayist for Community Works Journal, new book is Fearless Teaching, “a rare book about education that is both beautiful and critically imperative,” is available at www.fearlessteaching.com/. email Stuart
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