Frances Brown '20
Amherst Regional High School, Amherst, Massachusetts
Alphabet > 26
Ever since kindergarten, I have been a teacher—call me Ms. Brown, please. Situated in my basement was a rickety old chalkboard that my dad bought at one of his flea market adventures. The chalkboard was patterned with six-year-old scribbles, but in my mind, they were carefully thought-out diagrams of area, perimeter and volume. There I sat, wobbling on an old-fashioned diner chair, writing all afternoon, while speaking in my loudest voice to an imaginary class.
Occasionally, while amidst an intense conversation about fractions, poetic symbols or maybe the anatomy of a walrus, my mother would visit with cut-up cucumbers or peanut butter crackers. She would smile, and say, "Ms. Brown, what are you teaching the class today?" I would rest my nibbled Ritz cracker and draw a less-than-angular rectangle, pointing enthusiastically, experimenting with my "teacher voice."
My older brother Grafton grew annoyed with my occupation. While I thought it could be jealousy, he disagreed, mentioning his Xbox games and the immense amount of distraction I was causing. I grew infuriated by his lack of appreciation; after all, how lucky was he to have a teacher in his own home!
As the year went on, I began teaching more often. My third-grade days were spent at gymnastics struggling with the basic cartwheel, coming home and filling my pores with chalk debris. Every so often I would catch Grafton smiling; I caught his eye reflecting in the TV screen. He overheard me yelling at the distracted kid in my class and found it funny that I paid attention to the seemingly invisible audience. Grafton may not have been in third grade, but he was visible and his presence anchored my imagination to reality.
Every year since, I've been teaching; it may not be in the frigid basement, but my schoolhouse still runs, inside my palms, stored in my bones. Teaching is part of me; it comes out during tough homework assignments, comforting cries, intense recipes, and cold lake plunges.
My imagination at age six ignited development, passion, and created scaffolding for future success. I learned how to teach myself, and how to feel confident. The lessons in my basement leaked through the cement walls and stained the future ideals and motivations within me. Today, when stuck on how to find the derivative of a function using the chain method or the quotient rule, I turn to my teaching side. Out come the whiteboard and rainbow Expo markers, along with the familiar tingle in my fingertips.
I speak out loud. My voice fills with new character, and my equations simplify as the color begins to fade. Diagrams are drawn while internal audiences chime in with their solutions. I am full of twenty-three third graders. I grow distracted at times, and need to be steered. Some days my hands remain raised, leaving the muscles sore and the confidence strong; at other moments I remain quiet, letting my thoughts develop and condense into real substance and intellectual reflection.
I am filled with endless classrooms, countless passions each pulling my mouth into a positive parabola, a beaming smile; college is an opportunity for me to explore the undefined lines, and develop a newfound understanding of myself. I can't wait to meet the future students, personas, and possibilities inside of me. I will always find joy in a chalkboard, in an empty room that seems fuller than ever. No matter how many wrinkles I accumulate, or dead ends I hit, I will always be Ms. Brown—the teacher, the rebel, the poet, and the softball player. I am the photographer, the leader, the sister, the camp counselor, and next year, the imaginative college student.
Essay Tips from Andrew K. Strickler, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid
Over the years, students who tell me they absolutely love to write have said they struggle with the application essay. So if you’ve been biting your nails or tearing your hair out even a little, you’re not alone.
The good news is, I can help. I’ve been in the admission business long enough to have gleaned a few tips that I think are worth passing along. I also want to recommend you take a look at our Essays that Worked: real essays submitted by real students who have since matriculated at Connecticut College. These essays are terrific, and you can find them listed on the right side of this page.
Now for my tips.
- Allow yourself plenty of time to write the essay. Do not wait until the last minute. I know this sounds absurdly simple, but it really does make a difference to be as relaxed as possible when you sit down to write.
- Choose the prompt that comes closest to something you’d like to write about. The purpose of the prompt is to help you reflect on something that matters to you. Your application will be full of information that illuminates dimensions of you and your abilities, but only the essay gives you a vehicle to speak, in your own voice, about something personally significant. Choose something you care about and it will flow more naturally.
(a) Fallacy: If you haven’t experienced a life-changing event, you have nothing to write about. Wrong. You care about things now. Write about one of them and show us why it matters to you.
(b) Fallacy: If you haven’t had a major international service experience, you’re sunk. Wrong again. If you’ve had such an experience and you feel it says something important about you, great. If you haven’t, just choose something that says something important about you. That’s all.
- When you’ve written a first draft, let it sit. Then go back to it another day. Ask people you trust for their feedback, but don’t let anyone else tell you how you should write it. This is your story, or some small but significant part of it, as told or reflected upon by you.
- When you’ve revised it to your heart’s content, proofread with care. Spellcheck isn’t always the most reliable friend, as I have learned on occasion with a quickly typed email that gets sent before it was proofread!
- Submit it, and treat yourself to something nice — like your favorite film, a run, quality time with your dog or whatever it is that you enjoy.
That’s it for tips. Now you should read the Essays that Worked, and be inspired by their example!