When he sent the final draft of his winning college admissions essay to me, Julian confirmed my sense that good things are possible. I never know if the draft I give a standing ovation is definitely the one the student has submitted (2AM last minute changes are not unthinkable). But I was glad to see this one was.
Julian has natural writing talent which sometimes makes it even harder for a student to figure out what belongs in their admissions essays, because so much of draft is already of strong quality.
Julian faced this in his capacity to entertain the reader and find dark humor in his experience. Where to stop? What needed to be said, versus just sounded good on the page?
Ultimately, he was able to cut based on what aspect of his present self he most wanted to highlight and explain.
I hope you enjoy his essay as much as I (and seemingly everyone on the admissions committees) did.
Julian wrote: I’m proud to tell you that I have committed to Princeton! I actually got into roughly 90% of my top choices including Dartmouth, Columbia, USC, UCLA, Berkeley, Swarthmore, University of Notre Dame, UCSD and UCSB , and a few others.
Julian Jimenez, Personal statement (Princeton Class of 2024)
Here comes Satanás.
Behold his fiery, mischievous, defiant glory.
Watch him terrorize the innocent victims…of his first grade classroom.
Bored, he pinballs around the room, stopping only to implement his conniving get-out-of-school-quick strategy: rubbing his eyes bloodshot, then duping the school nurse into believing he has pink eye. Every day, after his parents spoke to another irritated teacher, he was met with a disappointed, “Aquí viene Satanás!” (Here comes Satan!) Was it his fault, though?
I was born to 16-year-old parents, kicked out of their homes for having me. My first memory consists of my mother silently sobbing while pushing my stroller along dark sidewalks late at night. I wondered why she was crying; I was scared it was my fault, but I knew I was too young to help. They were preoccupied with finishing high school, working, and making sure we had somewhere to live.
Without an outlet to release my fear and guilt, these attributes manifested themselves in misguided rebellion and unruliness. Many terrorizing years later, my 9th-grade teacher suspected I had more potential than my behavior initially indicated. She suggested I apply to the Fellowship Initiative(TFI).
I vividly remember arriving at the fellowship interview in my dad’s two-sizes-too-big suit, afraid and unable to answer the question: “Who are you?” Initially experiencing backlash from Satanás and an urge to rub my eyes, I got in. New fellows met on a weeklong backpacking challenge through the mountains. Picture walking seven hours a day carrying a 50-pound backpack, drinking bleached river water, lacking access to showers or comforts of home, all while living with 40 strangers. It was difficult, but this was a landmark.
I learned to foster Satanás’ energy into tenacity. To keep my group hiking in the scorching sun, I talked to the hikers who were struggling the most, trying to keep their minds off their fatigue. I added their gear to my pack to lighten their loads. Subdued by the peaceful wilderness and channeling his energy into helping others, Satanás was finally able to take a break. I prepared my mother’s mouth-watering arroz con leche and burritos when it was my turn to cook, bringing my culture along even when I was far from familiar surroundings. Despite having always played the rebel, I knew instinctively how to create a brotherhood.
However, Satanás did not leave without a fight. After the trip, fear and uncertainty still consumed me. Not only did I believe I wasn’t smart enough for college, I feared not meeting the expectations TFI set for me. It wasn’t until TFI started community service projects until I felt power, power to make change that was lacking that night in the stroller when I felt powerless to accomplish nothing but evil.
Like reverse Anakin Skywalker, Satanás transformed. He still lives within me, but I have tamed him; he is still energetic and rebellious, but he’s left the Dark Side and follows the way of the Force. Sometimes I still unleash Satanas purposely when I’m feeling tired after school, or when I need a burst of power, such as when I built sidewalks this past summer in blistering-hot Costa Rica. Thankfully, I didn’t need to abandon who I was in order to succeed; my energy, culture, and curiosity were all assets awaiting proper use.
My school awarded me for sharing Satanás’s story with others to remind them, “Your past doesn’t define you. It’s who you are today, and work hard to become tomorrow, that does.” Since Satanás arose from misdirection, I now run a mentorship club at my school. After being first in my family to graduate from college, I will return to my community and create programs that help youth discover their power and passion for good, like TFI did for me.
Once back however, like always, I expect to be met with the greeting… Here comes Satanás. Only this time, they will be smiling…
Your turn to write
Did this spark an idea? Want to get started journaling or freewriting about your experience, but stuck in inertia, freeze, or overwhelm?
- Choose a line from Julian’s essay, and write it on a fresh piece of paper. (We recommend doing this by hand). Set a timer for 10 minutes and write whatever comes out of your mind, spontaneously, in response to his words.
- Choose an experience from your early schooling that seemed to define you, but shouldn’t have. What was happening? What identity was forced on you– how were you labeled or boxed, and how did that impact your behavior, thoughts, feelings?
Contact us. That’s our favorite thing to do.
We also offer sliding scale rates to families facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 or structural oppression.