Essay Sample: The Optional Essay

As you're gearing up to write a mountain of essays, it's easy to toss out those optional essay questions. After all, they are optional, and what else could you possibly have to say after writing 30 other essays? Okay, we definitely get that, but let's slow down and rethink this. Colleges want to know you as more than just a constellation of numbers, and they want to know that to you their college is the most important. What better opportunity than to take the time out to write an optional essay that shares even more about yourself with the college of your dreams? Even if you are simply submitting your resume in order to give a more complete summary of your experiences, or as the below essay does, giving more background on the Common App main essay and sharing further information about a passion, the extra effort won't be overlooked. 

When I was five years old, my grandparents took me to the Museum of Modern Art, and as we entered Chuck Close’s exhibit, I approached with curiosity the portrait entitled “Emma.” I suddenly realized that the striking and colorful pixilated image I had seen from afar was actually composed of hundreds of individually painted squares. I was totally blown away. At the time I was drawn to the purely aesthetic value of the painting, but as I grew older it was Close’s unique process of creating art that inspired me.

Process would become everything to me in the years ahead. In fact, the process of trying to find the right college allowed me to develop a much better understanding of who I am and what I’m looking for in the next four years, and I now see that Bucknell encapsulates everything I’m seeking academically, socially, and personally. I believe Bucknell’s Affinity housing option embodies my belief that many individual voices coming together can create something powerful and surprising that goes far beyond what any one person can achieve alone.

In my early teens I started exploring subjects like psychology, politics, history, and business, and can see now that what I appreciated was how, like in Close’s abstract impressionism, every story or idea was composed of smaller stories and ideas, each building on the other. This concept was made real when I was developing the trip to India for Kaiizen (see my Common App essay). I had a grand vision and needed to break that big goal down into many small goals, each with its own set of responsibilities and staff members. Throughout the process of designing this service trip, I continually expressed the importance of small contributions coming together (whether in fundraising or staff support) to reach a loftier goal. I led the group, keeping in mind that inter-relationships were key, and was able to motivate the members of the group to contribute small pieces of what, in the end, turned out to be a massively successful and inspirational trip.

Bucknell offers students the opportunity to get involved in things like The Global Friendship Club and B.A.C.E.S. These on-campus organizations make it clear to me that Bucknell values the idea that individuals working together for the greater good can achieve great things. I believe any challenge in life can be broken down into small, manageable parts, and that understanding those parts is crucial for arriving at a successful outcome. The notion that Bucknell supports this way of thinking makes me very excited about the prospect of calling it my home for the next four years.