Sample Essays: Compare and Contrast
Note: The following essays were not edited by EssayEdge Editors. They appear as they were initially reviewed by admissions officers.
Columbia, Athlete and Musician (sailing and bass guitar)
Write a chapter from your autobiography.
Chapter 34: One Memorable Sailing Practice
The sun’s glare off the water forces my watery eyes to close even more. Spray leaps over the bow and blocks my vision as it slams into me like hundreds of little pebbles. The salt water has irritated my eyes enough already, but I am only beginning my practice for today. The Buzzards Bay Regatta is only three days away, and I must get comfortable with the boat.
Skimming over the waves on a screaming plane, the boat senses every movement. The boat is like a leaf being blown across a pond. With only the rear end of the hull in the water, I am half flying and concentrate on positioning my weight aft for the most speed. I shuffle my butt half a foot aft and the boat rounds up towards the wind, but I fight the motion off with the helm and regain my original course. With one hand on the tiller and the other holding the mainsheet, I see that my hands are in the same position when I play my bass guitar. Comparisons between the two mesh together in my mind as I realize the similarities between bass guitar and sailing. I recall the practicing involved in bass and see how sailing requires the same diligence. My thoughts no longer focus on fine tuning my sailing, but they vividly connect bass guitar playing and sailing.
I probe to find out what the essences of sailing and music are. While on the water in a sailboat, I accept the elements as they present themselves to me. Given certain wind and wave conditions, I manipulate the sailboat to attain the best harmony between by boat and its immediate environment. I imagine the sailboat is an extension of my body and plunge, accelerate, and rock with the sea and the wind, as the boat does. Sailing stresses technique because I need proper form to adjust to all of the different combinations to have twelve different notes in the musical alphabet with which to work, and with my technique I manipulate those notes and arrange them to adjust to varied moods I want to express. Again, painstaking technique is emphasized because by body must encompass the bass to attain the pure harmony between my expression and the notes on the instrument. Meticulously, I pluck, pull, and slide my fingers on the strings as I adjust to the countless combinations. Musicians and sailors alike practice their technique to reach perfection, whether it be in the form of the fastest sailboat or the most sonorous melody. Rooted in the same essence, I discover that I draw from the same method to sail and play music. Seemingly unrelated experiences converge. Bass guitar and sailing do not seem to relate to one another, but I discover the similarities. Linking bass guitar and sailing consummates the understanding of two of my hobbies. I seek the mastery of my sailing, but I realize that I simultaneously increase my understanding of bass playing as well.
My focus shifts from new realizations back to my sailboat, but the waves are turning into ripples as the sun sets. There will not be any more sailing today, but I can now continue practicing with my bass.
This writer maintains focus by making the similarities between his two activities the topic of the essay. The detail with which he describes both activities and the depth with which he analyzes their similarities clearly demonstrate the passion that he brings to both.
Harvard, Favorite Characters
Of all the characters that I’ve "met" through books and movies, two stand out as people that I most want to emulate. They are Attacus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird and Dr. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham from Field of Dreams. They appeal to me because they embody what I strive to be. They are influential people in small towns who have a direct positive effect on those around them. I, too, plan to live in a small town after graduating from college, and that positive effect is something I must give in order to be satisfied with my life.
Both Mr. Finch and Dr. Graham are strong supporting characters in wonderful stories. They symbolize good, honesty, and wisdom. When the story of my town is written I want to symbolize those things. The base has been formed for me to live a productive, helpful life. As an Eagle Scout I represent those things that Mr. Finch and Dr. Graham represent. In the child/adolescent world I am Mr. Finch and Dr. Graham, but soon I’ll be entering the adult world, a world in which I’m not yet prepared to lead.
I’m quite sure that as teenagers Attacus Finch and Moonlight Graham often wondered what they could do to help others. They probably emulated someone who they had seen live a successful life. They saw someone like my grandfather, 40-year president of our hometown bank, enjoy a lifetime of leading, sharing, and giving. I have seen him spend his Christmas Eves taking gifts of food and joy to indigent families. Often when his bank could not justify a loan to someone in need, my grandfather made the loan from his own pocket. He is a real-life Moonlight Graham, a man who has shown me that characters like Dr. Graham and Mr. Finch do much much more than elicit tears and smiles from readers and movie watchers. Through him and others in my family I feel I have acquired the values and the burning desire to benefit others that will form the foundation for a great life. I also feel that that foundation is not enough. I do not yet have the sophistication, knowledge, and wisdom necessary to succeed as I want to in the adult world. I feel that Harvard, above all others, can guide me toward the life of greatness that will make me the Attacus Finch of my town.
This essay is a great example of how to answer this question well. This applicant chose characters who demonstrated specific traits that reflect on his own personality. We believe that he is sincere about his choices because his reasons are personal (being from a small town, and so forth). He managed to tell us a good deal about himself, his values, and his goals while maintaining a strong focus throughout.