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Prompt #3:  Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Sample Essay:


My father's words stumbled through his mouth and past his lips like a stream of water sloshing over upturned, jagged rocks. I felt his discomfort in my bones. Our new neighbor's openly judgmental expression angered me and I felt myself turn red. Twenty years my father spent carefully learning a language that somehow still betrayed him. Twenty years, and my father was still an outsider. Up until this moment, this first encounter with our neighbor, my relationship with my father had been a lot like his English: broken. It took me seventeen years to realize the linguistic persecution that my father had felt for twenty. Once I finally did, my self-identity completely changed.

My story is the same as most first generation Americans: my parents are from a completely different culture, and so I was raised multi-culturally. I didn't quite fit in with my classmates, but I couldn't really relate to my parents either. I was stuck in the middle between two entirely different worlds. As a child, of course, I chose the one I was living in. I would come home some days and ask my parents if they could stop packing me leftovers for my lunch and just buy me Lunchables instead. I wanted clothes from American Eagle instead of Ross and Wal-Mart. My parents' native tongue was slowly becoming my heritage language. In other words, my first language was becoming my second language.

One day in particular stands out in my memory. My father had just come home from work; he had just started his residency program. Dark circles and wrinkles surrounded his honey-brown eyes and made them seem passionless, lost, and sad. I didn't notice at the time.

My aging father slumped down on the couch and sighed heavily. Still, despite his very apparent fatigue, he attempted to make conversation and asked how my day was in our native language. I was twelve—you know, the age where you start thinking you know better than your parents. Ignoring his question, I told him he should speak in English since we were in the U.S. As I approached adolescence, the rift between my parents and me only got bigger. My life revolved around school and my social life. Once my friends got their driver's licenses, I was hardly ever home.


Earlier this year, since my dad's medical practice was expanding, we moved to a better part of town. It was beautiful, a huge upgrade. As he was telling us the news, my father, beaming with pride, explained to me in English how we could finally afford to get cable. I laughed weakly, knowing that instant streaming was more popular nowadays.

The first encounter with our new neighbor changed everything. His name was Bill and he was a retired banker. My father greeted him graciously, despite the fact that he was on our property uninvited. Upon hearing his accent, his demeanor changed. "So, how long have you been living in America?" he asked. My father paused, as if he knew where the conversation was headed. It was probably a conversation he had had many, many times before. "Twenty years," he responded, with his head down.

That's when I realized how wrong I'd been. I regret staying silent during our encounter with Bill, but after that moment, I never spoke English with my parents again. I stopped scoffing at the cultural traditions they practiced every year. And whenever Bill came over unexpectedly, I made sure I was the one to talk to him. 


I figured that at the very least, my parents should feel at home in their own home. Seventeen years I wasted being ashamed of my background, my heritage, my family. I'm eighteen now, but I still cringe when I think about the self-absorbed person I once was. I still feel the shame and guilt of having realized something I should have known a long time ago: my parents aren't the ones who are broken.

Prompt 3: Language 


  • Paragraph 1: Start in the moment - a time when you were presented with the belief you ultimately end up challenging

    • Even if this is a belief you yourself once held or a belief you were consistently confronted with, it is effective to start with a particular example 

  • Paragraph 2, 3 and 4: Tell the story of how the belief has impacted your life - a brief history lesson grounded with details about times you have encountered this belief 

    • Did you buy into it initially? Were you surrounded by it or did you see it infrequently?

  • Paragraph 5: Here is the inciting event - what galvanizes you to ultimately challenge the belief

    • Bring us back into a specific moment here, whether you confronted an individual, an organization, or your own thoughts

  • Paragraph 6: Here you explain what changed - what happened in the above moment and describe how it led to your changed thinking

    • How has it affected your life and behavior going forward

    • How will this new belief inform what you do in the future (college, professional life, community)

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