Example of 2006 Undergraduate Application Essay
On the 2006 Application for Undergraduate Admissions: Part I, you were asked to indicate your race or ethnicity. We recognize that your ethnic heritage is far more complex than just checking a box; therefore, we
invite you to share a more detailed description of your heritage and the role it has played in your life.
My ethnicity is something I am aware of every day. It is something that I have always been proud of, but my whole life, others have tried to make it clear that being Asian is something to be ashamed of. As a first generation Korean-American growing up as a minority in Brooklyn, New York, there have been constant battles between “being American” and “being Korean.” It is only when I realized I could be both that I came upon a win-win situation.
I felt just as American as my other non-Asian friends but there were constant degrading comments made by strangers on the street, stereotypical characters in the media, and offensive comments made by even my closest friends, that made it clear I was not considered an American. It didn’t seem to matter that I had never traveled outside the country or that I excelled in English class—I was still an outsider, and therefore less of a person. I soon learned to leave my “Asian-ness” for church; a weekly pit stop for fun songs and hot food, and my “American-ness” for school; daily living. I kept love of my culture in my heart and wore love of American culture through my dress, manner of speech, and attitude. I would brush off the racist comments, accept it as a morbid fact, and move on.
On the first day of junior high school, my homeroom teacher broke the class up into groups and amongst mine was an Asian girl. Subconsciously, I shied away from her, unknowingly, being racist myself. I put her down in my mind and decided that I would not associate myself with someone so “different.” Over the course of the year, however, we were put together for several projects and group activities and I began to realize how much in common we had, and how reassuring it was to be able to talk to someone who knew where I was coming from. She was my first Asian friend from school.
As we grew increasingly closer together, I realized how this relationship was no different from ones I had with my church friends, only that this one was taking place in my daily living life—I could be publicly “Asian” in my own neighborhood—and there was nothing to be ashamed of. This opened up my interests in openly exploring my own heritage, culture, language, as well as those of other countries. I started to care about how other people lived instead of focusing on the idealized life portrayals I had previously idolized on television.
Realizing the vast complexity of the world we live in, I started to humble myself and feel empathy for those who had singled me out because of my race. Instead of loathing them, I’ve come to a realization that racism is merely a form of ignorance and a lack of knowledge. When someone makes an insensitive remark, instead of seething, I explain how they are mistaken and make sure that they won’t make the comment again. People are afraid of anything different because it is unknown and therefore a cause for defensive reasoning. Since they often don’t ask, but accuse, I’ve made it my responsibility to educate and correct. I do not want my younger sister or my future children to grow up in a society where people lash out at them due to misperceptions and lack of knowledge.
Denying the Asian side of me was stifling my self-confidence and I was lying to everyone including myself. Tapping into it has opened up my eyes to people’s issues and has blessed me with the knowledge of different cultures. I type this essay today as a proud Asian-American—there are still battles for sure, but the war has already been won.