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"Drawing portraits for others" - Common App Short Answer


answers: 8
The Common App short answer prompt is this: "Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences in the space below (1000 character maximum)."

I tapped my pencil nervously on the table as I awaited the task at hand. I checked one last time to make sure everything was ready: my sketchbook securely propped up on the small table easel, my colored pencils neatly arranged in their boxes, and the large sign reading, "Get your portraits drawn here!"
It was family barbecue day at Camp YEY, and I had volunteered myself as a portrait artist. I had never done this before, so my stomach was aflutter. But I had no time to worry; the first camper had arrived.
"Hi, would you like your portrait drawn?"
The little boy nodded, and I put my pencil to the paper. At first my breathing was shallow; my nerves still hadn't settled. But as I drew, I grew calmer. Then, I finished, and the grateful expression on the boy's face upon receiving his portrait made me realize: I loved this. The more portraits I did, and the more appreciative faces I saw, the more my confidence soared. I want to always be able to provide small joys like this to others.

Would this be a good response for a college application? I feel like I cut it off too abruptly, but the character limit is really hard to follow. Please read and feel free to give any suggestions! Thanks!

And also, does the 1000 character maximum include spaces? Just curious.

To begin, this is a great topic. The content should be used as an example for all college essay writers to follow. The structure is creative, and the focus is spot on. I see a little bit of number agreement error, thought

I want to always be able to provide small joys like this "these" to others.

Unless that was your intention then ignore my advice.

Other than that, I can find no wrong with it. Try experimenting with your conclusion, though ; you always want your readers to be left with a fulfilling experience after they read your essay. I feel it can be stronger.

P.S. Thanks for commenting on my essay:)
Thank you for your reply!

You're right about the agreement error. I didn't notice it till now, thanks! :P

I guess I'll have to cut some more out of my essay to beef up the conclusion. I didn't have much room for it in the end, so I know it's a little weak.

Thanks again, and you're welcome! ^^

Oh, and does anyone else have any advice? It's much appreciated! (And I'm still curious about the character limit including spaces or not, hehe.)
As I awaited the task at hand, I nervously tapped my pencil on the table. With no time to spare, I made one last check to make sure everything was ready: my sketchbook securely propped up on the small table easel, my colored pencils neatly arranged in their boxes, and the large sign reading, "Get your portraits drawn here!"

It was family barbecue day at Camp YEY, and I had volunteered myself as a portrait artist. Because I had never done this before, butterflies fluttered in my stomach. But I had no time to worry; the first camper had arrived.
"Hi, would you like your portrait drawn?"
The little boy eagerly nodded his head, and I raised my pencil to the paper. At first, my breathing was shallow (needs work), and my nerves still had not settled . But as I drew, a wave of calmness washed away my fears. Soon, I finished and noticed a grateful expression on the boy's face upon receiving his portrait. Suddenly, I realized that I loved this. After drawing more portraits and seeing more appreciative faces, my confidence soared. I want to always be able to provide small joys like this to others. (write a stronger conclusion)

Made some edits here and there. You have a good topic, but make sure you avoid passive use such as "my breathing was shallow". Try to change it to something like "I breathed..."
Thanks Kate! I'll keep that in mind.

Allergic: thanks for the tips! I'll definitely consider some of your suggestions. Sorry, I can't use them all because it goes over the character limit.
But a couple things I disagree on: "my breathing was shallow" is not passive voice, even though it uses "was". "To be" by itself without a direct object doesn't constitute passive voice. And I would like to write something like this: "After drawing more portraits and seeing more appreciative faces, my confidence soared." But I'm afraid my confidence doesn't draw portraits or see appreciative faces. And I can't think of another way to change my original sentence without losing my "voice". :/

Alright, after many agonizing minutes of painstaking word-removal to keep my character count within 1000, I finished my revision (exactly 1000 characters!!):

I tapped my pencil nervously on the table, awaiting the task at hand. I then checked one last time to make sure everything was ready: my sketchbook, my neatly arranged colored pencils, and the large sign reading, "Get your portraits drawn here!"
It was family barbecue day at Camp YEY, and I had volunteered myself as a portrait artist. Since I had never done this before, my stomach was aflutter. Before I knew it, the first camper arrived.
"Hi, would you like your portrait drawn?" I asked.
The little boy nodded, and I put my pencil to the paper. At first my breathing was shallow; my nerves still hadn't settled. But as I drew, calmness overcame my anxiety. Soon, I finished, and the grateful expression on the boy's face upon receiving his portrait made me realize: I loved this. The more portraits I drew, and the more appreciative faces greeted me, the more my confidence soared. Reassured of my abilities, I decided that I want to always be able to provide small joys like these to others.


I know my conclusion is still weak, but I think it's slightly better, and it is REALLY hard to write a good one for my short answer with this character limit. Do you guys think it is good enough, and if not, do you have any suggestions?

Thanks again to those who have helped so far!
"To be" by itself (no verb after it) doesn't constitute passive voice*
Sorry, ignore "direct object"; I don't know why I put that. o_o

And I found that my character count was actually 997, not 1000. But still, very close. xD



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