College Essays about $$$ Featured in the NYTimes
The NYTimes has rerun its application essay contest, Students and Money, and has published a few essays that they liked.
Read them here.
I have to say, they are all great. But my favorite line was the ending of the fourth one, about her mother's hands. That sentence is really quite lovely, and a surprise, both in terms of meaning and rhythm.
Because that essay was one of my favorites, I'll do an analysis of the entire essay's structure below and see if we can reveal the skeleton, which you can try to use as an exercise when writing your own. :) Notice especially, how tight the essay is, and how well the theme of "hands" is integrated frequently throughout.
Paragraph A: Introduction of Subject (Intro also serves as a small mirror of the larger essay's structure)
- Using synechdoche / figurative language to introduce the subject of the essay and also the subject's relationship/function to the writer.
- Another sentence full of sensory language that serves to further add detail about the subject that is relevant to moving along the essay's topic (the fact that the mother works in a kitchen hints at her labor-intensive work).
- A sentence that connects thematically to the paragraph (tears) but reveals the conflict/change to come.
Paragraph B: Introduction of Problem
- Reason for problem
- Restating problem in a different, also sensory way, using technique used in A1, via the theme of "hands" and the same figurative language technique.
- Sensory detail, extension of problem via hands imagery.
Paragraph C: Effect of the Problem - Conflict
- Effect of problem on writer (with a positive bent).
- Effect of problem on writer (with a different, more negative bent).
- Extension, with more detail - an example of why the writer was affected negatively.
- Another example.
- Larger view of the problem; rephrasing the problem as not a problem, viewing the situation with understanding and perspective.
Paragraph D: Restatement
- Summary of the effect of the problem - via theme of "hands."
- Larger analysis of the problem in relation to society / America.
Paragraph E: Crisis & Resolution
- Setting up the crisis with specifics of time/place. Introducing the problem.
- Continuance of the action - building tension. Expanding action signals its significance.
- Action, calling back to previous ideas (strong woman brought to weakness)
- Action, hint at the cause of the crisis (phone), another reference to the theme (fist/hands).
- Revelation of cause.
- Reaction to understanding the cause.
- Reaction to cause, marking growth and change both in time and in action. Appeals to emotions.
- Effect of reaction. Appeals to emotions.
- Summary of change that occurred.
- Summary of growth that inspired the change.
- Thematic understanding based on the problem, crisis, & resolution, stated through the imagery of the theme, hands.