Student Essay Highlighted by Chicago Tribune

Posted: August 31, 2006

An August 20 article in the Chicago Tribune Magazineon college application essays included the essay of incoming first-year Kelsey Andersen.

The article, by Jessica Reaves with additional reporting by Kristin Kloberdanz and David Thigpen, featured essays by 16 college applicants, along with their advice for high school seniors and their parents going through the application process.

Andersen's Essay and Advice:


One may gaze at the stars to marvel at the romance of one shooting across the sky, to illustrate a tale through a constellation, or to study the hydrogen and helium composition of the spectacle. Someone else might wonder at the possibility of life on other planets beyond our reach or of the infinite realm of scientific exploration available to us. I, however, prefer to inspect the finiteness of our own existence. Just as the smallest creatures observe the foreboding beings that walk above them, I realize our defined scope in life. The stars can represent our limits as much as they are associated with the limitless.

When looking up at the stars, I am reminded of the precious time one is given and with which he or she has a choice to make a meaningful contribution. Even the slightest act can make a difference, and one must be cautious that it is not destructive. This is what the stars tell me. The vast blackness is dotted with their brilliance, just as our lifeline is marked by our achievements, contributions, and connections to others. I prefer to see the stars symbolically, rather than scientifically. As the shooting star sweeps the sky and disappears into oblivion, a child cries for the first time and the elderly and sick cry for their last. These fleeting moments can have profound significance.

In a stressful moment, I choose to glance up at the sky. In this, I can find peace as I realize the insignificance of my worry. I feel my lonesome smallness, but also that which ties me to the larger world. In wide-open landscapes, among the tall grasses of the Midwest prairie, or the sand dunes of the East, and the cool waters of the shared oceans, the stars shine clear; their message reaches me. I am reminded of the love I have for my family as well as my connection to my fellow man. Staring into the expanse of the sky and in my peripheral vision, I can take in my immediate surroundings where I grasp the meaning of time, its beginnings and ends, and that which is continuous. My concern is then but a blink, and my life a flicker in the greater universe. My thoughts turn to the more important ideas in life, of my loved ones, my good fortune and how I could possibly better that of my fellow neighbor.

I do not feel disconnected looking into the darkness, but more united with my brother and sister here on Earth. I think of the stranger I have not yet had the opportunity to meet, and what might be the circumstance of our encounter. I sense our commonalities more than our differences. One culture is not upside down and the other right side up, one progressive and another backward. We share the guilt and the praise for what has been done during our time, the time before, and the time to come. The interconnectedness of generations and cultures is prevalent in my thoughts as I look up at the stars.

I am not overwhelmed by the immensity of the night sky nor of its ominous associations, but rather overwhelmed by the wondrous life I have been afforded, and of the endless opportunities I shall find to leave my own lasting mark. Whether it be a personal gesture of kindness or a more organized act of humanity, I look to the stars to remind myself of my goals.

I think of my ancestors' spirits sprinkled amongst the stars as the Native Americans do, and of my own descendants who someday may think of me, their great-grandmother. I look to the stars for an understanding and awareness of myself and others. Stars can shine on the path of my quest in life, my purpose, showing me how I fit into the constellation of society and how I shall shape it as I journey.

- Looking back: You spend so much time in the admissions office that you don't really know what the faculty is like. Somebody could have said to stop in, bother a professor, knock on their door and find out about them. It would get you a little further than the tour.

- Advice: Get to know your college counselor but don't take it all so seriously. You still have four years. Just kind of ignore it until you take the PSAT.

- Best role for adults: The whole family went to Brown, but they didn't push me in that direction. I think there are those kids who have trouble with the process because their parents are putting pressure on them. They end up not going to the school that is the best fit. The whole name brand thing that parents and adults put on you is not helpful. And I suppose for other adults, to remove their experience from your own. It is nice to hear about adults and their perspective and what their experience is like, but when they impose it on you, none of us like that.