Winning Essays

The New York Times chose several college essays for publication that discussed the theme of money, class, and the economy.  Lyle Li, who attends a prestigious private high school in the city despite his humble roots, wrote a beautiful essay in which he questioned traditional notions of success.  He is profiled in this moving video:


(Click picture for video)

He says, “On certain nights, I would come home sweaty, dressed in a gold button blazer and colored pants, unmistakable evidence of socializing. In contrast, my mom appears physically and emotionally worn-out from work. But, she still asks me about my day. Consumed by guilt, I find it hard to answer her.

Moments such as those challenge my criteria of what constitutes true success. My mother, despite never going to college, still managed to make a difference in my life. Tomorrow, she will put on her uniform with just as much dignity as a businesswoman would her power suit. What is her secret? She wholeheartedly believes that her son’s future is worth the investment. The outcome of my education will be vindication of that belief.”

Full text of Lyle’s essay here

Winning aspects of Lyle’s essay:

1) He uses gripping imagery: “My parents’ room emits a smell from the restaurant uniforms they wear seven days a week, all year round.”

2) He begins by narrating an event: “While resting comfortably in my air-conditioned bedroom one hot summer night, I received a phone call from my mom. She asked me softly, “Lyle, can you come down and clean up the restaurant?”

3) He is honest: He admits to often feeling “annoyed” by his mother’s requests and “guilty” about the disparity in their lifestyles.  This creates a strong bond with the reader.



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