Personal values are qualities that represent your priorities and highest motivations. Asking about personal values allows colleges to gain insight into the traits that students hold dear. This student wrote the essay below when colleges asked him to describe one of his personal values. He also used it in modified form to address such essay topics as adversity, personal trait/identity, community, diversity, social issue, and greatest accomplishment, among others. The key is to interpret the questions creatively and apply them to your own personal characteristics.
Grapes, box scores, and musical fugues – not a list of things commonly associated with one another but, in my life, these items are forever linked.
One day, as I was sitting in my highchair, pretending to be king of all babies perched on my throne, my parents decided to interrupt my fantasy for a meal. A bowl of voluptuous grapes was placed before me. "How many grapes are there, Joshie?" my mom asked. "Ten!" When she took three away, I counted seven. And with that, my passion for numbers took its alpha step into what would become a lifelong pursuit of numerical wisdom, a love I have always referred to as The Grapes Of Math.
The eminent physicist Richard Feynman once remarked that, in order to do multiplication, all one needs is to know how to count. I proved this concept a few years later. My dad, recognizing my early proficiency for addition and subtraction, and my early passion for all things athletic, decided to test my knack for multiplication with batting averages and box scores in the New York Times.
Perhaps the only other activity in my life that conjures up such passion for me is music. From the age of three, I sang the concluding prayers at my synagogue. Congregants would tell me what a beautiful voice I had, but I never believed them. As I got older, my confidence as a singer began to grow and I joined a small choral group in fourth grade. Unfortunately, by fifth grade, my voice experienced that inevitable adolescent mutiny and I became embarrassed to continue in the chorus.
Last year, several juniors at my school performed at Fugue Night to an audience of peers and parents. I composed a fugue and helped perform another. Our music teacher, who happened also to be the chorus director, heard me sing and told me that I had an amazing ear and great voice. At her urging, I auditioned for chorus, and, with her support, I became one of 15 students chosen for the school’s prestigious chamber choir.
Just as my “grapes of math” have aged, so too has my passion for math. As I have learned more, math has become more exquisite and flavorful to me. Similarly, musical tastes change with age, and my musical development has seen me evolve from a carefree singer, to an insecure one, to a skilled one, to an educational one. For a while, music represented a suppression of a love, for which I struggled internally with self-doubt. But it always remained inside me; a true passion, after all, cannot be kept silent for long.