A College Application: Revisted

Four years later, an annotated version of my actual film school college essay:


When I first read the prompt for this essay I saw “describe something you are passionate about,” and I knew I could only write about one thing: Storytelling.[1] And then I read the rest… and things became more complicated. How could I share my passion of storytelling through storytelling? There was probably a way, but the answers I came up with were not satisfying. So I dug deeper.[2]

Growing up I spent hours in front of the TV. After school I’d run home, kick off my shoes, throw my backpack on the floor, get yelled at for kicking off my shoes and throwing my backpack on the floor, and then go right to watching Will Smith sit on his throne as the prince of Bel-Air.[3] I consumed stories ravenously, tearing through the pages of books, absorbing hours of television, and getting hand cramps from playing videogames. I grew to prefer those stories to going out and doing things.[4]

Looking back, I understand why I was able to do that. Storytelling, like everything worth doing, is about people and characters – they are the nucleus which all other elements of the story whirl around.[5] So I didn’t search for that connection when I was a kid because I had it in the stories I read, saw, and experienced. Of course, I know now how important real relationships are, and I’ve managed to translate my passion for characters into an appreciation of all people.[6]

So people are what I’m passionate about. Real or fake, all ethnicities, all genders – all people.[7] I think if anyone searched for the heart of what motivates or inspires him or her they’d have the same answer. The love of a spouse. The future of their children. For myself and likely many college applicants, the expectations and hopes of parents. The relationships and bonds I create are everything, memories are infinitely sweeter when shared with close friends, and my future is written through my relationships.[8]

There are two ways I can express this passion. One is by creating characters that breathe and speak with life, who can explore the unmapped areas of humanity, working like metaphysical literature-drones flying out into the vastness of the human experience to collect data – revealing truth and aiding in my understanding.[9] The other way is less self-seeking, building stories with characters who can have real relationships with an audience.[10]

As for goals I can dream big; having millions of people tune in to watch (or more likely stream[11]) something I wrote is a nice fantasy. It’s all about connecting with an audience, the more people to share experiences and ideas with the better – but here’s my real dream: One of my favorite shows ever is a quirky “dramedy” about the lives of the doctors, nurses, medical interns, and janitors in a hospital, called Scrubs.[12] Having seen every episode of all 8 seasons (what 9th season?[13]) five or six times, I’ve grown to love the main characters of the show. I’ve witnessed their highs and lows, seen them at their best and worst, shared in their successes and failures. I can say to my friend, another Scrubs-lover, “remember when Turk stitched his initials in JD?[14]” and we laugh at the shared memory and we talk about Turk and his antics and it becomes harder and harder for an outsider to tell if Turk is real or fake.[15]

That moment right there is my life’s goal – to write characters and stories so engrossing and enjoyable that in the viewers’ memory they inhabit a place that blurs fact and fiction.[16]


1. When I first read the opening sentence of this essay, I knew it was going to desperately grasp for profundity.

2. The prompt was something like “describe your passion and how you’d share it through storytelling.” I didn’t choose storytelling to be clever. I was on a Joseph Campbell trip at the time. You know how that goes.

3. Only 90s kids will get this Only 90s Kids Will Get This Meme reference. On second thought, maybe I did choose “storytelling” to sound clever. Remember kids, it’s important to show the application reader that you’re ready for the bullshit solipsistic writing of the academic world. Keep circling until you have no idea what you’re saying!

4. An appeal to the reader’s sympathy for nerds.

5. But don’t be too nerdy. One trick is to demonstrate your lack of an understanding of basic chemistry concepts through half-assed metaphors. Elements are the colorful ones right?

6. Harry Potter Taught Me How To Appreciate Human Beings is one hundred percent a real headline that exists somewhere. I will not google it.

7. This is not a very comprehensive list of people. But your heart was in the right time-zone.

8. I wrote this just a few months before some big friendship break-ups. Still hold tight to the sentiment, though.

9. Why is my metaphor for creating  art also describe life in a fascist police state?  This is why you should never fall in love with the way a sentence sounds.

10. I’m still trying to figure this one out. How do you make things without being “self-seeking?”

11. I mean, I am a #millennial, after all.

12. My largest paragraph is gushing about Scrubs. That definitely checks out for high school me. I wonder how many film school students had a similar initial fan-based motivation to apply. Like, I love movies, I should make them. Maybe it’s a chicken-egg debate. Did I really have this reason for my passion, or did I make it up after I decided to apply?

13. HEYO.

14. Classic Turk.

15. All art should aspire to the complete destruction of the audience’s perceptions of reality.

16. Here’s the real behind the scenes of this whole piece: I had no friggin’ idea what I was actually passionate about, let alone how I’d express it in a story. It took me four years of college to figure it out.


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