The Opinion Section created the column “Argus Apps” to humanize the college process. Common App essays only ever exist within the framework of college admissions, alongside a list of accomplishments, extracurriculars, and test scores. With Argus Apps,” were revisiting old Common App essays written by Wesleyan students to think about where weve been and where were going. In this edition, we hear from Arts & Culture Editor Ben Togut 23. 

Revisiting my college essay has been a strange experience. As a senior in college, I am so distant from the person I was when I wrote it, yet in many ways so little has changed. I feel the pain my 18-year-old-self must have felt grappling with their identity and the struggles that arise from being different. I also see how much I have matured in the last four and a half years. Not only have I become more comfortable in my own skin, but I’ve also grown as a writer. While I still think my essay is well-written, there are definitely edits I would make to improve the flow of my writing and make my argument stronger.

I would also challenge my younger self to rethink what they hope their writing should achieve. In my essay, I mention wanting to highlight the struggles of marginalized people in my writing. Although this is a noble pursuit, I now realize such a goal has its limits. As much as I strive to be an advocate, I can only speak to my own experiences. While my younger self had good intentions, I would urge them to take a backseat and let those who have faced true adversity tell their own stories.

Despite how much I would change about it, I’m glad I got the opportunity to revisit my college essay. I’m proud of my younger self for having the courage to be vulnerable and tell their story. No matter how corny how it sounds, reflecting on my essay has allowed me to recognize how much I’ve grown since coming to Wesleyan. I’m no longer the ultra-shy, insecure teenager I used to be. I’m more sure of myself—sure of where I’ve been and where I’m going. Recognizing how my past struggles have molded me into who I am today, I feel ready to begin the next chapter of my life as I near graduation next month.

Coming Into My Own

When I was younger, I struggled to fit the mold of what a boy my age should be. I traded a basketball for an impossibly droopy sunhat, combing my grandmother’s wildflowers for butterflies. While my brother memorized the names and models of old cars, I memorized every horse breed I came across in my picture books. I was a palomino, cantering through the autumn breeze without a care in the world.

My parents grasped blindly for a way to get me, their non-athletic, “AmericanIdol” obsessed son, to fit in with the hyper-masculine crowd of boys around me. I was thrown into sports, which only exacerbated how truly out of place I was. Though tall for my age, I was awkward as a basketball player, often sprinting to the wrong end of the court to score a basket; whether this was a result of my naiveté or a genuine fear for my life, I will never know. Later, at sports camp, counselors worriedly called my mother with the news that I spent most of the day indoors reading instead of playing outside.

I found solace in the theater, where I could be myself unapologetically by stepping into someone else’s skin. Even in this accepting community, I was cast in roles that highlighted how tall and awkward I was, donning platform shoes two years in a row to play giants at theater camp. I felt pigeonholed, forced into a narrative I couldn’t control. As a freshman, a drama teacher told me that she didn’t see me as an Argonaut for a play she was casting. She pointed out that my height and red hair would limit my future roles, dancing around the true reason I might not be cast as a 6’ 4” effeminate teenager. It was made clear to me that the stage wasn’t a place for someone who defied the norms of masculinity. Mine was a story others were not ready to tell. I felt shunned from a place that was once my haven. 

My exclusion from the theater was a painful experience, but also a transformative one. Tired of being constrained by expectations, I decided to write my own story, leading to a process of creative self-discovery where my differences informed the art I made rather than detracted from it. This enabled me to dig deeper into my “otherness” and find my voice as an artist, which involved creating on my own terms. Reading in the park one day, I was inspired to write a play after overhearing two girls making cutting remarks about their classmates. Toward the end of my play, the lens of technology exposes who the girls really are, provoking one of them to change for the better. Subconsciously, perhaps this is what I desired, to be seen and heard for who I am rather than being judged.

Through my writing, I strive to illuminate the struggles of marginalized people. Although I am fortunate to have grown up in an accepting environment and recognize my privilege, I have felt stereotyped and confined by how others perceive me. As a result, I hope to reach people who have truly been discriminated against for their race, gender expression, and religion by writing a piece that resonates with them. After watching a video about a teenager disowned for being gay, the first verse and melody of a song began to take root in my mind. These musings would become “Ocean of Pain,” a gospel-infused song preaching acceptance of those ostracized by their communities for their differences. Recently, I was asked to perform “Ocean of Pain” at a school showcase. On stage, I felt myself becoming part of a broader conversation, one that acknowledges the struggles of the oppressed and those who cannot freely express their identities. At last, on the very stage I had been rejected from, I felt at home.

Ben Togut can be reached at

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